Sharing is caring, except when it's your internet connection

The SSID 'AllYouCanEatBuffetOfPr0n' might not help either


On Call Remember those halcyon days when grabbing some free Wi-Fi meant wandering down the street in search of an access point rather than making up a variant on bobuser@nospam.com for yet another interminable registration screen? Welcome to On Call.

Our story comes from Reg reader "Will" (not his name) and takes us to a time before Wi-Fi router makers realised that pre-loading passwords on their kit that were not blank or easily guessed was a good idea.

Will had put together a cable modem system for an apartment complex and, because no good deed goes unpunished in this world, "early on I had to answer some service calls."

As is so often the case, a customer found they were unable to perform their usual web surfing habits, despite the reassuring connectivity lights, and so placed a call to Will.

The caller wasn't belligerent or impatient so rather than adopt the levels of helpfulness found at many of today's ISP call centres, Will instead set out to actually solve the problem.

He connected to the customer's device and peered at its control panel. This particular model only permitted five connections, and all five showed a MAC (media access control) address. There was internet activity but the caller insisted there was no service. The issue, Will decided, must be on the LAN side of the modem.

He checked what the customer was using: just a laptop and Wi-Fi access point.

Aha – definitely not five devices then. Will had an idea where this was going but still, brave fellow that he was, talked the user through how to find the MAC addresses of their kit. Sure enough, the laptop's MAC did not appear on the magic list of five connections.

The next question was a bit tricky and we imagine went along the lines of:

"Do you have a password set for your SSID?"

"What is this 'password' of which you speak?"

Oh dear. Not all access points came out of the box with a tricky password already set. Users were expected to take care of such things themselves, probably with something like "p4ssw0rd" and, in this case, the user had either not bothered or simply not known what to do.

Will had to break the news to the user that their fellow building-dwellers were bandwidth snafflers: "Your neighbours are camped in your access point and blocking your own computer," he explained.

We dread to think what they were doing with someone else's internet connection. With luck it was merely uploading the parish newsletter (Comic Sans and Microsoft Publisher, of course) rather than torrenting themselves silly, downloading all manner of distressing videos, or something else that might attract the attention of the authorities.

Will patiently explained that a password needed to be set up and the access point reset to eject the freeloaders. While the customer did their part, Will killed the connections on the modem, remotely.

"Service restored."

The customer was delighted and complimented Will: "This is the first call that made sense."

What the neighbours made of their sudden disconnection is anyone's guess.

Ever managed to solve a problem and receive an actual thank you rather than a vague grunt of impatience? We've not, but maybe you did. Tell us about the call-out that worked out with an email to On Call. ®

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