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November 2, 2005 6:36 PM   Subscribe

ComputerNetworkFilter: Poor student steals bandwidth from neighbors to check email and read articles. How come it's very reliable during the day but I can't make a connection at night?

I always thought reception was supposed to be better at night. For those who care I have one of these attached to my desktop.
posted by slapshot57 to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
 
They're probably downloading stuff at night, i.e. when nobody in the apartment needs the network for surfing.
posted by afroblanca at 6:38 PM on November 2, 2005


Maybe they shut the entire system down, including WAP, with a power strip, when they go to bed at night? Maybe that puts you on weaker WAPs or none at all. Would be useful to see if it's just one WAP that shuts down or all of them.
posted by rolypolyman at 6:39 PM on November 2, 2005


one more detail. I can still connect to the networks but at night it will say "you are connected but the local internet cannot be found"
posted by slapshot57 at 6:51 PM on November 2, 2005


If you're able to ping the router, but can't ping things on the internet - then it's possible their cable modem is getting turned off.
posted by odinsdream at 7:06 PM on November 2, 2005


Judging by slapshot57's followup post, he/she probably doesn't have a clue what do with "ping the router".

Try this: open up a command prompt (Windows, I presume) and run this command:

tracert 216.109.118.77

The number doesn't matter much, but go ahead and use that number. If it's a Mac, and you know how to open the terminal / command prompt, run "traceroute 216.109.118.77" instead.

After it's given you about a dozen lines of responses, type Control-C to stop it (if it doesn't stop by itself). Now just look at it and see if you can figure out what this command is doing. Just stare at it for a while. Hint: "trace route".

Now that you understand it, sort of, run that command during the day and during the night and compare. That'll probably tell you if something's getting turned off next door.

By the way, reception being better at night only applies to lower frequency radio, like shortwave and AM and other bands that operate below 2 MHz. Wireless networking operates at 2400 MHz and higher. Day and night performance should be the same, at least as far as wireless signal transmission is concerned.
posted by intermod at 7:26 PM on November 2, 2005


Cordless phones

They operate on the same frequencies as wireless ethernet and people tend to talk more when they get home.

I work in a big lab building, and everytime some chatty soul wanders by yakking on their cordless phone, my connection goes to crap.
posted by Mercaptan at 7:44 PM on November 2, 2005


My cable internet provider, for a long time, would get really crappy at night. It was consistent. Every night between 12 and 1am, there would be dropouts lasting anywhere between 10 seconds and several hours. They've improved recently, and I hate them much less now. (Cox) Just a possibility...
posted by knave at 7:58 PM on November 2, 2005


Although it probably wont matter to you, rain and fog definately affects a wireless signal. Why don't you get a stronger antenna, or even a cantenna? I'm sure you know someone who eats pringles.

(ps dont lie.. we know you download occasional things on their connection. I used to wardrive and change peoples SSID's to "secureme")
posted by Dean Keaton at 8:04 PM on November 2, 2005


I would guess that they use it for downloading OR the ISP has overnight-service outages planned.

But if the network user was clever/courteous enough to save the downloading for later in the evening/overnight, the user would probably also have a secure WAP.
posted by vkxmai at 8:12 PM on November 2, 2005


Perhaps this is a stupid question, but I have always left my wireless network open on purpose (I like to share). Why exacly shouldn't I do this if I don't mind lost bandwidth, I don't send sensitive data in clear text, and I feel good about the security of my computer?
posted by lucasks at 10:07 PM on November 2, 2005


lucasks, if Dean could change the SSID, that meant they were using a default password. Change the password, at the very least, and not to something in plaintext either.

Open to traffic is not the same as insecure.
posted by dhartung at 10:26 PM on November 2, 2005


lucasks: Aren't you concerned about what others might be looking at / downloading via your open network & account?
posted by d-no at 11:54 PM on November 2, 2005


lucasks: Me too. In fact, the CS students next door are using it until they get ADSL sorted out, and I'm really not bothered (though stealthing a network inside my network was a bit cheeky).

But basically, you have to be prepared for the authorities to come knocking and say "this [bad thing] was downloaded by you". Ok, you've got plausible deniability (the open AP), but they're not going to take your word for it. At the very least you can expect all your hardware and data to be hauled off as "evidence".
posted by Leon at 2:21 AM on November 3, 2005


Why exacly shouldn't I do this if I don't mind lost bandwidth, I don't send sensitive data in clear text, and I feel good about the security of my computer?

Besides the whole "other people using your network to perform criminal acts" thing others have mentioned, there's another problem: man in the middle attacks. You say you don't send sensitive data in clear text, but a script kiddy with a copy of Ettercap and a connection to your wlan could still screw with you by:

-stealing your passwords by sending you a fake security certificate so you think you're transferring data using SSL when you aren't

-changing the content of websites (say, stock quotes) or instant messages or emails using packet injection

-spying on your net traffic to get blackmail material

-cracking your VNC password if you happen to remotely access any of your computers

-setting up a mock access point with the same SSID as yours but a stronger signal strength, so that you connect to it instead. when the connection doesn't work, you will of course try to go to the router's webpage and enter your administrator password...at which point the script kiddy can go own your real router, set up some port forwarding rules, and start attacking your LAN over the internet proper.

So there are dangers. But don't listen to me...I still leave my wap open.
posted by jbrjake at 7:22 AM on November 3, 2005


When using an open access point (or one secured only with the easily-broken WEP rather than the more secure WPA) I ssh to my home machine, then tunnnel my browser traffic through that. Probably a good idea to do something similar.
posted by kindall at 11:52 AM on November 3, 2005


-stealing your passwords by sending you a fake security certificate so you think you're transferring data using SSL when you aren't
That would only be an issue if you ignore the large warning that the browser would be screaming at you that the certificate was not signed by a trusted CA. That is precisely the kind of thing that SSL is designed to prevent.
-changing the content of websites (say, stock quotes) or instant messages or emails using packet injection
This is why you tunnel anything even remotely sensitive over ssh, or use secure protocols (https/pop3s/imaps/smtp-with-TLS). Either way, a malicous third party can snoop and inject all they want but it will have no effect on you -- again unless you do something stupid like ignore the warning that a certificate's signature is invalid.
-cracking your VNC password if you happen to remotely access any of your computers
VNC is a good example because the protocol itself has very little encryption, and the authors refuse to add it. So if you use naked VNC over an untrusted link you are asking for all kinds of nastiness; however, a ssh tunnel works wonders.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:37 PM on November 4, 2005


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