Grand theft bandwidth

A while ago we got a wireless router to set up a small home network. It turned out that the wireless part worked pretty badly, so I ended up connecting all the computers with Ethernet cables anyway.

Now... I've complained about our abysmal satellite internet provider before, but the last few days it was especially bad. Web pages, IM... nothing stayed connected for very long, if there was a connection at all.

So today I decided to take a look at it. The HughesNet router was happily flashing, especially the "transmit" and "receive" lights, indicating a lot of traffic. Where did it come from, or go to? My work computer was connected via dialup, so that could not be it. I then turned off my iBook. Lights still flashing. I looked at the "family PC"... kids tend to download up a storm... but it didn't even have any programs open. To be sure, I disconnected it from the network. Lights still flashing.

So I took a look around on the network, and lo and behold, I spotted a strange computer name in the "mshome" group... ominously called "leet (n99b)". A look at the router settings and logs revealed that somebody had wireless access to our network, and probably had had it for a while.

So I locked that sucker out. (And promptly, the flashing stopped.) But what I am wondering is... how did they get access in the first place? I mean, our wireless connection is so bad that a computer *in the next room* barely gets access... and we don't have houses real close to us... so how did they manage to get a signal at all? And where are they located?

(Maybe it's not all rednecks surrounding us, after all. :-/)