My neighbors run an open wireless network and don't mind me using it so long as I don't hog bandwidth, which I don't do. I tend to stick to journaling sites with the ocassional loading of a few MB of small images here and there. I wait until the confirmed "free download period" in the early morning/late night before doing anything that might use a lot of bandwidth, and don't have any software set to automatically update because... I just don't like that setting, to be honest.
Anyway. They only have 250 MB of bandwidth per day. It's satellite internet, and the FAP reeks. But whatever. Scavengers can't be choosers, and it's what works for them so I have no place to complain. That isn't the problem, anyway. The problem is that something suspicious is going on that has me freaking out and feeling like a jerk.
It started when I attempted to play a song on my flash drive. VLC spazzed out for like two minutes, so I attempted to play it again and then it worked well. I don't know if this is actually relevant, but it did strike me as odd. Later that night, my pages started loading very slowly for an unknown reason that seemed odd, so I stopped everything using the internet... and witnessed continued data transfer both inbound and outbound. Significant transfer (as monitored through RainMeter). I disconnected, reconnected, and upon reconnect it spent about another minute with unexplained data transfer inbound and outbound before settling down.
Ever since then, I've been paranoid so I don't know if what I'm observing is just something that has always happened or is something new, but either way it is very suspicious and I need some urgent help with figuring out how to track down what's going on and making sure my system isn't compromised... with the least amount of downloads possible, since my poor hard drive is still on its last leg until I can find someone else to do the repairs for a price I can afford.
I will connect to the wireless network, and it will show 250/250 free bandwidth. This means nothing has been used. I'll get about two or three small pages (mobile Twitter, AOL inbox, insanejournal.com) loaded, then it will snake down to 249 free MB. I will keep browsing per usual, and it will only go down minimally every few pages. Nothing to really make me go "Hey, wait a minute!" until about an hour and a half to two hours in. Always an hour and a half to two hours, now. Then it will start dropping by multiple MB per page load even though I'm not loading anything that could have more than a few hundred KB per page. I'll stop loading anything, though sometimes with AIM still open in the background (AIM being open or closed seems to have no effect on this happening), but it will continue dropping for a long while by 2MB - 6MB. When I leave the FAP meter page open and watch it, each automatic refresh will show a 1MB decrease.
In today's case, which is very similar to every time I observe this now, it went from 210 free MB while I was doing nothing down all the way to 162 MB free. That's a whole bunch of space disappearing. I realize it could be that the neighbors are using the connection for a bit, but I find this a touch odd timing since it's happening every time after the suspicious network activity I observed earlier this week. (Or actually it might have been last weekend, I forget.)
It seems that whenever I'm using insanejournal - which is just a lighter livejournal clone with more icon slots that I use for co-writing stories and roleplaying - this is more likely to happen, and it evens out when I've browsed away. In this case, I browsed away to this site. I still have insanejournal tabs open, though, so I don't think my friend's suggestion that it might be ads loading even though adblock won't let me see them is accurate. (Good guess, though. Glad I have helpful friends.)
Once it evens out at a ridiculously low number, almost always in the low 160's (in this case, 162 free MB bandwidth), it stays there for a few minutes then climbs back up a few MB. Right now, for example, it has gone up to 167 MB slowly but steadily - even while I actively use AIM in the background. I'm a little worried to try using the internet (beyond this) again right now, as I've been the last time I tested it, because if it keeps plummeting then I'm afraid I'll tank out the neighbor's bandwidth. Which would make me feel like a jerk and go in violation of the trust they bestowed upon me to not excessively use their bandwidth.
I'm just wondering what in the world could be causing this. Could my cache be broken, and therefore causing unseen usage to insanejournal, or the file sizes to register incorrectly with the ISP? I haven't tried clearing cache, since that would require more reloading of stuff and use more bandwidth. Could it be that the usage is really down that low and the meter takes a long time to catch up with itself and stop telling me that there's full bandwidth available? If so, that would be a new development; it has never had a lag time before.
The thing is, while I do see random brief bursts of inbound and outbound activity when I'm not actively doing anything, it's maybe a few KB at a time, for under a second. Not massive amounts of data that would be required to lower the meter as much as has been happening. But still, what's the likelihood I've caught some kind of virus? Is it possible there's something running amok on the network that isn't even related to my system?
I know that's a lot of questions, but I just need answers right now, so that I know if there's something I need to do in order to hopefully fix this or if it's some sort of common occurrence that I just haven't noticed before.
I did use IE - ugh - to load insanejournal when my Firefox was acting stupid last week. I didn't even realize until then that IJ had ads, so my system has unfortunately been exposed to banner ads via IE. There are also roughly 120 MB of TEMP files on my system, according to CCleaner. I'm hesitant to delete them, though, because of the hard drive issues. And of course, in using AIM I am exposed to one little ad running in the background on the buddy list, which I keep closed 99% of the time I have the program open. Also, in the off chance it's relevant, I did sign up for, allow via NoScript, and start using the 8tracks online 'radio' service last week. But I only used it once when it wasn't during free download period, and haven't used it in at least six days - most likely seven or eight nor have I visited the site at all in that time frame.
NOTE: As I typed the ending of this, I noticed that the free bandwidth went all the way up to 168 MB. I noticed a slight influx of the unexplained small data transfer of a few KB for under a second each, but roughly five times. Make that seven now. Now the free bandwidth is back down to 166 MB.
I just... don't know where to start with attempting to figure this out, and deciding whether it's something I should just leave alone or pursue. I just have the feeling that something is very, very wrong. So any and all advice and help would be appreciated.
Thanks in advance, and while I do respect that it takes time to read all this (sorry it's so wordy!) and everyone here is a volunteer, please respond as quickly as you can. I want to figure this out before anything has a chance to go terribly wrong.
Edited by Golden Butterflies, 13 November 2011 - 10:09 AM.