Simple Network Scanning With Free Wireless Network Watcher

imageIn this age of connected devices, and the proliferation of Wi-Fi, the number of “open networks” has jumped considerably.

While it’s true that wireless routers are supplied with encryption software -  working through the manual is often a frustrating experience for less technically inclined users. As a result, it’s not unusual for users to continue to use (widely known) default network names and passwords.

In a study commissioned by  the Wi-Fi Alliance in August of last year, it was discovered that only 59 percent of users have implemented wireless passwords, or encryption methods, that meet the basic criteria for strength and privacy.

In addition, the survey revealed that while “eighty-five percent of survey respondents understood that their Wi-Fi devices should not be set for automatic sharing, …. only 62 percent actually had auto-sharing turned off.” It’s easy to conclude then, that piggybacking on an unprotected wireless access point is perhaps more common than many might imagine.

So, how would you know if your wireless signal is piggyback capable, and is perhaps being used as the neighborhood access point? You could of course, install any one of the comprehensive open source network monitoring packages widely available for download. Provided, that is, you’re prepared to dig into a host of complex instructions and procedures.

A much simpler, but very basic solution, is offered by NirSoft’s Wireless Network Watcher. This free utility “scans your wireless network and displays the list of all computers and devices that are currently connected to your network.”

As you can see in the following screen capture (click to expand)  – the following connected device information is displayed: IP address, MAC address, the network card manufacturer, and optionally, the computer name.

Wireless Network Watcher

Better yet, you can set the utility to continuously monitor so that it will notify you of any new devices connecting to your network (with an audible signal if you like) – as illustrated in the following screen shot.

Wireless Network Watcher 2

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, Server 2008, Win 7.

Download at: NirSoft (you’ll need to skip down the page to locate the download link).

Bonus feature – you can also use Wireless Network Watcher to scan a small wired network.

Wireless Network Watcher may not be jam packed with features – but, it does what it’s designed to do, and it does it very well. Additionally, the advanced options menu will allow you to scan selected IP address ranges, choose which adapter to scan from, and save the results to html.

More information about Wi-Fi security, including innovations that make setting up security easier, is available at www.wi-fi.org/security. Users can test their own security knowledge with a quick online quiz, watch animations about home Wi-Fi security, and download white papers with detailed information.

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10 Comments

Filed under Connected Devices, downloads, Freeware, Network Tools, Software, Utilities

10 responses to “Simple Network Scanning With Free Wireless Network Watcher

  1. Pingback: Simple Network Scanning With Free Wireless Network Watcher | Bill … | Network Monitoring Software

  2. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for this. I’m pretty sure I’m protected but a bit of reassurance won’t hurt.

    Kind regards
    John

    • Exactly John. A simple check every so often is always a good thing. Especially, as in this case, it can be done so quickly and so easily.

      Best,

      Bill

  3. pmshah

    I have been using a number of freeware utilities made available by Nir Sopher for a while now. This one detects all kinds of wireless signals to which one may connect. It is one of the ways I test for signal strength and connectivity.

    I however have yet not been able to setup my wifi for any version of wpa security although the router and pc hardware user specifications claim to be compliant. The provided wifi.org link does little to sort out possible configuration problems or suggestions to resolve the issue. I am left with no other option but to resort to the older wpe password / encryption method.

    If someone has suggestion on more resources for reading about the issue these would be most welcome.

  4. pmshah

    Further to my previous comment I need to make some additions.

    What I have been using is another and completely different utility named Wireless Net View from the same source. This is the one that shows ALL available wireless networks, signal strength and connectivity. Pretty useful for finding hotspots and open / unprotected networks.

  5. Don

    Nice find Bill! I had this capability when I was with Comcast and had to buy my own router (Point Cast by Zone Alarm). I missed not seeing just who was on my network etc etc. This does a nice job in letting me see things once again. Although not as much info is available, it’s enough to put my mind at ease. Thanks for sharing!
    Don

    • Hi Don,

      Same here. Just a simple little tool to keep me in the loop as to the connections on the network.

      As you point out – not a whole lot of info – but, just enough to keep the paranoia at bay. :)

      Best,

      Bill

  6. Thank you for your great article on Wirelessnetwork. I really appreciate your work on that one. Cheers, Manuela.