Guests downloading content illegally using WiFi

Level 1
Flagstaff, AZ

Guests downloading content illegally using WiFi

I have received a notice from my provider, Suddenlink about illegal use of my home Internet.  I have freely given my server and password information to guests to use - but no more!  My service provider has issued a warning and offered 2 specific dates where illegal copies of movies (not pornographic, unless you consider Kung Fu Panda pornographic!!) were downloaded when 2 different guests stayed in my Airbnb room.


Beginning today, I will add a warning to my House Rules and posted in the room, but I also have one other idea.  I think I will not offer the WiFi password until guests confirm they understand the house policy.  I am NOT a fan of many restrictions on my guests and doing anything that could be construed as negative, but I am very concerned about the illegal use of my home Internet.


Please share your thoughts on this and your experience!  Thanks all you wonderful hosts out there!

19 Replies 19
Level 3
Hamburg, Germany


Thank you for sharing your experience. This is what I do and it is proven effective. I strongly recommend setting up VPN and Guest network as many business do when they offer their wifi. Airbnb hosts should do the same!

1. Say it in the House Rules

Your house, your rules. Before booking, the guests are asked to read and agree to follow your House Rules. You can cancel the reservation if the guests violate them. I put in a section of the House Rules like this.

The guests are made aware of the regulation and consequences.

Peer-to-peer (for example bit torrent) and downloads of copyrighted material are strictly forbidden by German law and lawyers actively monitor these activities in Germany. Guests are fully responsible for any illegal uploading or downloading of content and for other illegal activities. By agreeing to the House Rules, you agree to not perform any illegal activities using my internet connection. Any copyright infringement by guest is subject to release of guests information to copyright holder.

2. Say it Again

People might not remember what they agreed on the House Rules anymore when they arrive. It’s a good idea to gently remind your guests again. I have a Welcome Sheet in the room giving my guests information about my home as well as reminding them about the House Rules. Another good way to remind them is when they are about the use your WiFi. Why not set up your WiFi password as a reminder to not download illegally? Something like IWilln8vrDownloadM0vies#$% has enough length as strong password, easy to enter, and serves as a reminder to the guests. 

Maybe you can paint the room all over with “Do not download movies,” though I wouldn’t suggest it. Be creative!

3. Secure your Network

To be rather safe than sorry, I take one step further and set up VPN and guest networks.

VPN act as a privacy protector of your network so even when there is illegal downloading on your network without your consent, it’s hard to trace. That’s right. No one would know what your guests or you are doing on your network, but please don’t download illegally just because people can’t see it. VPN is completely legal and it’s actually a good thing to have whether you are doing it for Airbnb or not. The benefits of VPN is beyond the scope of this topic and you can find lots of information about it with a simple search.

Guest networks are WiFi just for the Airbnb guests. Not for your or your friends. Having guest-only networks is a stronger proof that you are not involved in the activities in the guest networks. While it does not directly stop people from downloading, it allows you to turn on/off guest networks and decide how much speed they can have from your network. On top of that, the guests don’t have access to your router’s admin page so it also makes your network safer.

To secure your network like this you need a good router and VPN service. A good router will probably cost you around €120 one time and VPN is about €3.5 per month. You don’t have to worry about illegal downloads and it’s totally worth the effort and money. Check out How to set up Guest Network and VPN. It’s written for every host with minimum knowledge about network and technology to set up with ease.


This is from a blog I wrote. The full blog is here.

Level 2
New York, NY

Thank you for sharing that information.   I was just hit with a €1000 fine for my guest downloading some stupid Harry Potter movie which I've never seen one of them in my life, And I was not even in Berlin at the time but my IP address of my server at home is all over the place on this lawsuit that I'm receiving.

Level 7
Branson, MO

Interesting. Suddenlink seems to be particularly harsh with this topic, much more so than the law actually requires (or suggests, since it's a murky law at best).


Some info from Suddenlink itself:


And some anecdotal reports from other SL customers about what happened to them:


I came to this topic because I was getting a "Walled Garden Error Code 5" and could not reset it like I have in the past by turning the modem/router off for 10 minutes, and so I called Suddenlink tech support and the rep told me a DMCA report had been filed against my account. They were able to provide me the date, and the guest who was here at the time admitted that his son downloaded something. All's been reset now and is OK, but SL's "three strikes" policy has me a little nervous because if this continues to happen, I may find myself blacklisted from Suddenlink for 6 months. (And then my only fallback option is CenturyLink's slow-as-molasses 10mbps connection...) The tech told me that if I get "Walled Garden Error Code 10," that's when I'll be on the 6-month suspension. I guess if that happens I'll try to appeal, but for now, I'll just have to cross my fingers and hope my future guests are more law-abiding (or at least use private torrent sites that the movie studios don't monitor...).


I'm definitely going to add something to the House Rules and maybe even post a sign on the wall with some verbiage prohibiting illegal torrenting. I found some suggested verbiage at


Although the monthly price is higher, I wonder if a business account has more lenient rules on this topic since businesses like hotels and coffee shops and things probably have this kind of thing happen frequently. I work in IT and I have professional-grade (Mikrotik) routers in my properties and could probably set them up to at least log torrenting activity, though I don't know what benefit that would have unless I actually receive a lawsuit and need to defend myself in court. Outright blocking torrenting is really not feasible, since modern torrenting clients are pretty resilient against blocked ports and things, but I'll investigate that.

Level 2
Jacksonville, FL

I also received a notice from my internet provider (AT&T) that copyright infringement may have taken place on my Internet.  I used to freely provide my wifi password; i wonder now if that is wise.  Maybe I will be more selective in my hosting.  

@Melissa298, in the USA, courts have been reluctant to blame the account holder for the actions of other people on the account holder's home network. Of course you should add rules about behaving properly on your home network, but other than the trouble of dealing with the warnings and such, there has not been a lot of financial liability placed on account holders if one can show the activity was not theirs.

Level 10
Placencia, Belize

That stands to reason @Matthew285, especially considering how easily people share passwords once they know them.

Level 2
Prague, Czech Republic


I'm from Belarus and now I'm studying and live in the Czech Republic and want to use airbnb to rent my place to guests. So I'm very concerned about the illegal usage of the internet I don't want to be responsible for the crime that someone else did. Here, in the Czech Republic I contacted a bunch of internet providers asking how I can protect myself from the illegal usage of the internet by the guest. And each provider knows nothing about it. How about adding internet terms of use to the House Rules? something like (By accepting and/or making a confirmed booking to stay in .... u accept the next terms for using the internet: u are responsible for every cost/damage caused by your usage of the internet and u are prohibited to violate any law etc.) or maybe message a guest before he books a place and ask him to message (I agree) back to u. May it help? Something like all the restaurants and hotels have - u should accept the internet terms before using the internet. 

Level 2
Bainbridge Island, WA

I too just experienced guests downloading illegal cable tv shows and violating copyright laws via BIT Torrent over my internet/wifi in my guest house.  This can carry a financial fine/penalty and I assume that I would be liable.


I am adding this to my house rules, as well as putting a notice in my house binder that I keep on the premises.  


My guest house wifi is separate from my home wifi, and I can turn it off if they violate this rule.



Level 10
Dennis, MA

@Kim285 How can you tell if they are misusing the WIFI?

Level 2
Bainbridge Island, WA

 When I had to guests who illegally downloaded content, I was notified within hours by my Internet provider. I then spoke directly with the guests and ask them to stop.   I then tightened the controls on my Internet, as well as updated my house rules. 

Level 1
Victoria, Australia

Hi all, I'm a bit late to the game but for anyone still looking for a solution its worth using OpenDNS, and its free. It will block all the illegal and nasty stuff 🙂



Level 10
Mount Barker, Australia

@Mary172 @Linda108 @Andrea9......Mary I can't speak for the United States but here in Australia torrent sites have been blocked and if you try to access a torrent site here you will be re-directed to a gambling site or similar.

Having said that I think we are possibly a bit more fortunate here with our providers. I am on a $60.00 per month plan which gives me unlimited monthly download access plus totally free home phone and calls to anywhere in the world through a VoIP service. That combined with out 2 mobiles phones mean our combined internet/communication bill comes to less than $100.00au per month.


Most guests these days would consider it to be the end of the civilised world if WiFi access was not available so I freely give the password to incoming guests....and I must admit I did have concerns about pirate movie downloads but now that Torrent sites have been blocked I feel much more comfortable.

I have heard that it happens but I find it incredible that an internet provider will single you out with a specific date and download for a 'roasting'!!

I am ignorant about these things so don't chastise me for something that may be obvious but, is it possible for you to set up an allowance limit with your provider per 15 minutes or something like that so that illegal downloading can be nipped in the bud!


Level 2
California, United States

got rid if Wi-Fi now I only offer internet and a computer to use I'm not going to get a $300 to $130,000 fine for guests. I was told there's no other way plus guests come from other countries don't care about breaking the rules or inky stay one night some do this for a living make slot of money. Or charge a fee to guests daily for Wi-Fi. I pay around $200 a month business account.
Level 3
Phoenix, AZ

I personally feel this NEED for FREE WIFI EVERYWHERE you venture is getting out of hand.  Sure, paying your bills is easier, however..

Millennials do not know how to unplug, unwind without a phone or laptop attached to their extremity...or sit together, but while staring at their phones. Sorry, rant over. 

Level 3
Santa Clara, CA



We take a similar precaution - we have a warning in the House Rules section of our properties and NEVER give out passwords.  I think you are wise to do similar.




Level 10
La Quinta, CA

When you say you never give out passwords, does that mean you don't offer Wifi access?

Level 10
Amsterdam, Netherlands



This seems to be an unpleasant issue for hosts occasionally.

I don't have any experience with it myself but remember there recently having been a thread with tips and comments on this theme as well as some in the past.

I used the search function on the community and got these posts that you might want to take the time to look at:

Level 2
Washington, DC

There's probably someone out in the community who can help you put a "whitelist" of sites on your routers that won't allow torrents, etc through.  It's not me, but I believe this sort of filter exists.  Maybe under "parental controls"?  You may be able to limit the sites, or limit the amount those users can download (also known as throttling), which would deter them.  Sorry I don't have more concrete advice, just ideas.

Level 1
Flagstaff, AZ

Hey thanks so much!  I would love to find more information on this and will seek this out!

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