Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for my weekly newsletter, "Confident Computing", for more solutions you can use to make your life easier. Click here.

Can Everything I Do Online Be Monitored at My Router?

//
A few days ago around the dinner table, my family was talking about how police can monitor everything you do on the web and track you. Because he is registered as the owner of the router, my father says that he can view everything I do as it passes through the router. Is this true? And if so, how can I bypass this?

Yes, it’s true.

But before you focus on it too much, there are two things to keep in mind:

  • First, it’s not really easy for the average consumer.
  • Second, there are easier alternatives to monitoring than your router.

Let me explain what I mean and what you can do to protect yourself — if, indeed, you can protect yourself at all.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

Summary

  • Your ISP has the technology to see all traffic on your connection.
  • Monitoring traffic at home is conceptually easy but technically difficult.
  • Encryption is your best defense against monitoring.
  • Physical access allows for easier monitoring.
  • The police have access, but generally only with appropriate cause and documentation.

Your ISP can see everything you do

Your ISP’s equipment is at one end of your connection, and your home router is at the other. We’re talking about the data flowing between the two.

The path to the internet from your computer(s)
The path to the internet from your computer(s).

Whoever controls or has access to the equipment at either end of that connection can monitor it.

I’ve written about this before specifically talking about your ISP. They have the equipment to monitor the data flowing over the connection.

But just like your ISP at the far end of your connection, anyone with access to your router at home can also monitor your internet traffic.

It’s just not particularly easy.

Monitoring traffic at home

ISPs have equipment that make monitoring internet traffic fairly easy. They usually don’t do it, because you and I just aren’t that interesting. Only when law enforcement arrives with a warrant might they start to pay closer attention.

Most home or small business routers don’t have full monitoring functionality. That’s not what they’re built for. Some might be able to expose what websites and internet services have been visited, but not the data exchanged as part of those visits.

However, with some cheap equipment, free software, and access to the connections going into your router, direct monitoring is possible.

It’s pretty simple physically. Someone inserts a hub into the connection between, say, the router and your computer. They connect another computer to that same hub and run free, open-source packet-sniffing software to monitor all the traffic between your computer and the router.

The path to the internet from your computer(s) with a packet sniffing monitor inserted
The path to the internet from your computer(s), with a packet-sniffing monitor inserted.

It’s not difficult to connect; the hard part is analyzing the data. Packet-sniffing software is designed for folks very familiar with networking.

If your dad is a computer geek or network engineer, this may be no problem for him. On the other hand, if his expertise is elsewhere, this may be pragmatically impossible.

But Dad has easier alternatives that I’ll speak to in a moment.

Protecting yourself from sniffing

Everything I’ve described so far should be very, very familiar. It’s exactly the same type of sniffing that can be done at an open WiFi hotspot.

As a result, all the steps you take to protect yourself in an open WiFi hotspot apply here.

  • Turn on your computer’s firewall.
  • If you use a desktop email program, make sure its connections are encrypted via SSL or TLS.
  • If you use web-based email, make sure that it’s via https, and only https.
  • Make sure any sensitive website you visit uses https, and only https.
  • Consider using a VPN.

A VPN will protect you more or less completely. Anyone monitoring will know you’re using a VPN, but that’s all; they won’t be able to see what sites you visit, connections you make, or data you exchange.

Without a VPN, it’ll still be possible to see what sites you visit and servers you connect to.

Without https or SSL, all data going back and forth is visible to anyone watching.

Physical access trumps everything

If someone has physical access to your PC, they can do whatever they like when you’re not looking. That’s often much easier than playing around with your home network to set up some kind of monitoring.

All they need do is install spyware. It might even go by the name “parental monitoring software”.

To be clear, while it’s aimed at parents monitoring their children’s internet usage, you don’t need to be a parent to use it, and you don’t need to be a child to be monitored. There are assorted packages readily available for this type of monitoring, and they’re easy to use.

About the police…

In your dinner conversation, you said, “Police can monitor everything that you do on the web and can track you.”

Taken at face value, that sounds a little paranoid, and I want to address that.

Literally, it’s true. They can.

Perhaps in some countries and jurisdictions, they do.

But in most of the world, they don’t. In most countries, the police can’t just “monitor everything you do” on a whim. They must get a court order or warrant first. Only then can they compel the ISP or other services to provide the monitoring data.

The police have better, more important things to do with their very limited resources than monitor us. As I’ve said many times, we’re just not that interesting.

Well, we’re not that interesting to the authorities.

How interesting you are to your dad might be another matter.

Podcast audio

Play

Video Narration

122 comments on “Can Everything I Do Online Be Monitored at My Router?”

  1. You do a little disservice when you state the police don’t monitor service/traffic on a whim. In fact, the Wall Street Journal and a number of other reputable publications have shown law enforcement tapping peoples phones for data, voice, and location without warrants. The Supreme Court is reviewing whether warrants are required under the law enforcements interpretation of the law, but it’s comments that “the police won’t do that or need warrants” that continues misconceptions that the police aren’t doing this on a regular basis.

    In addition, I just received a change to my privacy policy from VerizonWireless stating they would have the option to review all internet traffic via cellphone use for marketing and other purposes. So cops and companies do readily review all of this information and until people start complaining or even believe it is occurring it won’t stop.

    Reply
  2. Leo is too nice to mention that as long as your Dad is paying for the web service you use, you should respect his wishes as regards what content you view. Remember, he is actually liable if you view or download illegal content. When you move out and pay your own bills, then you get to make the rules. Until then, respect is in order.

    Reply
    • Audrey, you say that because you must be a nosy bugger too. No-one has a right to invade another’s privacy, if they want to know what a relatives interests are, then they should do what any decent person would do, and ask them. The internet can be very personal, way too personal for a relative, loved one, or a friend to just go and invade another’s privacy like that. Especially when the person being monitored, believes that they have their privacy. Nobody give me all that about a parent only caring about keeping their child safe in the online word, that’s not what this is. This is a young adult with their right to privacy being threatened, and Audrey thinking she would have that right because she’d be the mother.

      The reason I am in here is because we had a modem that we got from our internet provider. Then out of the blue, the room we were keeping it in, the person from that room, up and decided to buy a better modem one day. It got me curious, I wanted to know if someone could abuse that situation. We are grown adults in this situation but you can never tell with this type of stuff, some people could be tempted to invade another’s privacy. Personally, I would never check another’s browser history, but I know some people do that, without thinking that it’s creepy, ikr.

      I’m not very clever with computer related stuff, so it does worry me. I read that there are certain modems/routers which give people more freedom with this kind of stuff. I wanted to find an answer that would protect my privacy, without having to pay for a VPN. Especially seeing as I’m using a home network, I don’t feel like I should have to do anything of the sort.

      Reply
      • Your minor children are your responsibility and it’s your responsibility to watch out for them. It’s your internet connection and you also have a responsibility to make sure they aren’t doing anything wrong as much as humanly possible. You also have the responsibility to assure that users of your internet connection don’t use it for illegal purposes for which you are ultimately responsible. A friend of our children who visited downloaded a movie illegally at my house and I was sued for $1000 by Warner Brothers. Luckily, I was able to get her to take responsibility for the download and she took care of it. In my opinion, it’s irresponsible not to be aware of what goes on in your house.

        Reply
  3. You wrote, “…your ISP. Because they provide your internet connection, they have the equipment to monitor all of the data that is flowing up and down your internet connection.”

    So – erm – why do they not suppress spam ?

    I’m sure they do. But whatever technique they use spammers are constantly trying to get around. “Spam” is subjective – some are obvious, but still at the fringes one persons spam is another persons very important message.

    Leo
    23-Nov-2011
    Reply
  4. @Robin
    In fact, your ISP probably has very robust spam controls in place, to such a degree that they would block you should you decide to send out a hundred Christmas emails at one time.

    Unfortunately, spam is a relatively subjective term, and that’s the problem with it. One man’s spam is another man’s important information.

    Leo has some good articles on spam. This one is my favorite:
    How do I get rid of all this spam?.

    Reply
  5. My cousin got a bad computer virus, I was able to fix. She now will not allow her 30+ daughter to use the computer, why because I found out where she went simply by checking the history. Some people actually do not realize that there is a history.

    Reply
  6. @John: I think the pertinent issue was ‘on a whim’.
    Most law enforcement folks do not have the time to look at your data — unless there is a good reason to do so. Interpretation of what constitutes that reason is why the courts get involved.

    Some folks also don’t realize that what you ‘delete’ isn’t “gone”.
    Case in point: female relative brought her laptop over after she “lost” some of her files. [pictures and such] First place I looked was the “recycle bin”. Suffice it to say I had to explain to her that photos of you that you DO NOT want your relatives to see do not disappear when placed there.

    Reply
    • Well that’s what actually GOVT AGENCIES do all the time “snoop all our data”. It doesn’t matter to them whether it will be relevant or not. They collect all and analyse each and every one of them and thats what they r actually paid for.

      Reply
  7. Sure glad my ISP knows I’m not the only one using this computer. The places some of my friends go. lol. When I’m using the computer I assume somebody is watching and I don’t care if they know where I go. The only time I even think about it is when I do my banking. If a person isn’t doing anything illegal who cares if they snoop? I did at one time but realized that there is no way to stop them because they will break the rules anyway. There is no such thing as privacy any more so learn to ignore it or it will drive you nuts.

    Reply
  8. Everything that John said above is and has always been true, very much so.

    As for the “pre-internet” era, the same held for the telephone traffic, as it does today. I remember even an article published in the early 1980s in The US World Report magazine, which reported the established NSA-spooks-run computerized statistically randomized monitoring of __all__ (!) the telephone calls in the U.S. (yes, including yours to your dear aunt, Leo), hunting for “suspicious key words and phrases” – presence of which would automatically trigger taping the rest of that conversation!

    And now, add the truly horrible “Patriot Act”, whereby the “powers that be” – on any level (!!!) – can do any spying on any private citizens they please – without _any_ warrant!

    Reply
  9. Very interesting and informative. I really get a lot of helpful information explained in a straightforward way from Mr Notenboom, long may it continue!

    Reply
  10. I recall a recent ad for Open DNS celebrating 42 billion ops per month (I believe it was per month… doesn’t really matter).
    Police or anyone else, monitoring the web is like monitoring the Earth from orbit.
    Unless you become a “person of interest” you are just one of billions of users and all of the agents of all of the security institutions combined would just be overwhelmed trying to monitor us.
    This is the reality of all human intercourse.
    Dad would probably do better investing in parental control software.

    Reply
  11. i think you can use ultrasurf or Tor browser or even VPN in this way even police won’t be able to follow you unless the police connect to the VPN company and request privileges in there network.

    Reply
  12. Hey, kidlet — one word: Encryption. Learn it. Use it. And don’t abuse it.

    TrueCrypt should help immensely: http://www.truecrypt.org

    Good luck! 🙂

    To be clear, while encryption is the answer, TrucCrypt does not encrypt your communications, only data stored on disks.

    Leo
    26-Nov-2011
    Reply
  13. Seriously? You’re telling a kid how to get around his father’s monitoring of the family’s home network?

    *sigh*

    Yep. And I’m also telling all the fathers out there that it’s possible. (There really is no perfect solution and parents need to know that.)

    Leo
    26-Nov-2011
    Reply
  14. Sounds like he’s trying to make you feel worried about looking at certain stuff online.

    The only difference between the stuff you’re looking at online and what your dad was looking at when he was your age is that yours is on screen and his was in paper magazines hidden under the bed.

    Reply
  15. For David:

    Not to be painfully naive — but they are probably still  in magazines hidden under his Dad’s bed, LOL!

    (You really think that adults actually outgrow  that sort of thing…? “Bah! Humbug!”, as a certain famous fictional character was wont to say.)

    Indeed, as far as online habits go, I’d be very surprised if the father wasn’t engaged in the very same activities as his kid! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, after all — where does this man think the sexual impulse comes from, anyway? It’s inherited. To my mind, there can be no question of “supressing” or “hiding” or “shielding” a kid from such things — that simply is not possible, and to think otherwise is merely to shove one’s noggin below the subsoil. The real question is teaching the kid how to respond  and deal with, both emotionally, and in terms of responsibility, to and with the materials he inevitably finds Out There.

    Reply
    • When I was a teenager, I & most friends couldn’t buy those magazines — so we actually got them from under Dad’s bed. As long as you left the top one and took one from the bottom, it was pretty unlikely to be noticed..

      Reply
  16. Is there a way to mask the usage of your VPN? In other words, prevent “dad” from knowing that you’re using a VPN altogether?

    Reply
  17. If the data usage is being sent by the ISP how do I remove my history from it ?? Will the data usage sheet sent by the ISP reflect my browsing data? How do I keep myself safe?

    Reply
    • I don’t know what you mean by “sent by the ISP”. Your ISP can see everything you do, period. That’s the nature of the service your ISP provides. The only way to avoid that is to use a VPN, but then … the VPN service can see everything you do instead.

      Reply
  18. Sooooo, when I am using private browsing, does the router track that?

    I did not notice that particular thing being discussed in the above.

    Reply
  19. Hello, I was just wondering if it’s possible for someone to check my browsing history from another computer? For example my boyfriend or friends? Can they check my browsing history from their pc? The reason why i wonder this is becouse i stumpled upon this page {link removed} which kind of looks fishy to me….and when i check my browsing history from this sites there were some pages i never visited . I ask of you kindly if you could answer my question. Thank you in advance.

    Reply
  20. One time i gave my boyfriend my laptop so he could formate it, he probably connected my laptop to his router at that time. Is it possible for me now to see his browsing history from my laptop because of that? I am not using his router anymore but my own.

    Reply
    • well i am sure he didn’t install some kind of spying software and no i can’t connect to his network anymore cuz we are far from each other and i am far from his router. I know if we were to use same network i would be able to see it if i wanted but since i am not using it anymore i was wondering if i still can.

      Reply
  21. Hello, I just wanted to ask if I am using for example the Twitter application on my phone and I am constantly clearing my searches, does my router/ISP know what I am specifically searching, or it only stores Twitter related data?

    Reply
  22. So if someone had access to your computer and might have installed spyware that enables them to see what we do online, how do we protect our computers then? Will your tips to protect from sniffing be enough to combat the spyware?

    Reply
    • If they’ve installed spyware then there’s NOTHING you can do. When you machine has malware on it it’s not your machine any more. Clear the malware FIRST – by a clean reinstall if needed.

      Reply
  23. Okay but what if you’re using an application that you downloaded online like the “ummy video downloader” to download videos, can my internet provider see that iam using this app to download videos?

    Reply
  24. I Iive in a small town and the ISP for the whole town (800 people) is the same person. He is most certainly working for a bigger ISP himself, but he is the one starting and stopping connections and collecting the bills.
    I am connected to my neighbour’s wifi. Can the ISP see the adresses I access? Or would that priviledge be reserved for the bigger company that allows our ISP to put internet connections in town?

    Reply
      • But will he know which computer accessed those addresses? I mean, the router is in a different house and there are many devices using the wifi. Can the ISP see which devices accessed which addresses?
        And if he eventually could know that there are different devices using the wifi, can he know which device belongs to whom?

        Reply
        • Actually, anything you do online appears as if it’s coming from your neighbor’s network because it is. So if you are doing anything you shouldn’t, you might be getting your neighbor in trouble.

          Reply
        • It’s complex. The only answer I can give you is “maybe”, which means you need to assume “yes”. It depends a tremendous amount on exactly what kind of data is being transmitted, and how detailed your ISP’s analysis of that data. The simple TCP/IP data does not include enough to get into specific devices on the other end of a NAT router, but other data being transmitted may.

          Reply
  25. Do apps work the same way as browser history, in terms of what my dad can see? I’m not doing anything wrong or unsafe, it’s just that I’m out online but not irl (since online I don’t use my real name).

    Can he see for example which blogs I follow/visit, or what I search for on tumblr? And if so how do I protect myself?

    Reply
    • It’s very easy to find out which sites you visit by looking at the browser history. It’s much more difficult, but not impossible, to get this information from other apps or after you clear your browsing history. It all depends on his computer skills.

      Reply
  26. Hi Leo.

    I am a great follower of your blog since past 10 years.

    Quick question. Does ISP like Comcast , AT&T can also record what data we transfer? Like if what video call I am doing or what text messages I send over home wifi? Or they just able to track or monitor the websites visited?

    What if police asks them to monitor then do they have facility by changing the router and then they can exactly record all videos being transmitted over any IM client etc?

    Please advise.

    Reply
    • I would assume that they can. The question is, why would they? It’s a lot of work and generally you and I just aren’t that interesting. It also depends on what software you use. Some is encrypted, and would not be able to be monitored.

      Reply
  27. Is it possible for someone to use their equipment to defame someone or if a person can use their power to get even if they dont like someone. Because that is what is happening to me right now, who are the people that could help and are experts on this kind of situation.

    Reply
  28. Hello. I am wondering, is there a website that, when your computer is hooked up to the Wi-Fi, will allow you to see what website you went on, and securely? If so, what website is it? If there are multiple, what websites would you recommend?

    Reply
  29. The Patriot Act allows the ‘government’ to examine anything they believe is relevant to national security.
    Section 215 allows the government to obtain a secret court order requiring third parties, such as telephone companies, to hand over any records or other “tangible thing” if deemed “relevant” to an international terrorism, Page 2 2 counterespionage, or foreign intelligence investigation.
    Needless to say, there have been many instances where the court order was deemed “too obtrusive” and therefore, bypassed altogether. Ask Mr. Snowden about the number of times the court order wasn’t even considered. Oh, wait. You can’t as he had to apply for asylum in Russia!
    Asylum in Russia…of all places. He had to seek asylum from a country that claims freedom as it’s foundation. Ahahahaha!!!
    Now, all the the true patriots will attack this with the claim he performed a criminal act, because he exposed the government performing criminal action against it’s citizens. Yep, freedom.

    Reply
  30. Leo, I personally donate to Wikipedia, Thunderbird, Firefox & two others. The amount is a pittance from my retired budget, but I believe it helps. Your Newsletter is one of the items that I consider valuable. Valuable enough that I desire to contribute my potential, pittance, performance to you because of the increased knowledge you garner to my brain. Please email my method to donate that will insure the small amount is to be received by You.
    Thanks for all that you do, Jim B.

    Reply
  31. twicebitten thasme: And don’t forget our good friends in the free country of the United Kingdom. As of last year, the signed Investigatory Powers Bill *requires* (not just permits) all UK ISPs to keep records of all users’ web activity for a year. If ‘the man’ wants to know what you’ve been doing, all they need to do is ask the ISP. No judge order to start surveillance, it’s already done. For everybody.

    Reply
  32. Sometimes I look up porn on the Internet cuz I have to have some way to entertain myself…I’m at a friends house and I’m using their internet,…can they see that I’m looking this up???

    Reply
  33. I have some questions to ask:
    A) I use wifi using my android phone to pay online billing which is non https, can the router detects it?
    B) I have a router but how do I see the history search feature.

    Reply
    • Are you sure the billpay website is not https? A non https connection is open to be snatched out of the airwaves. Not something I’d risk.
      How much your router retains and how to obtain any of that information is different with each router You’d have to get that kind of information from the manufacturer’s website. I wouldn’t expect the router to store entire streams of data, something more like IP logging and things like that.

      Reply
  34. So I’ve read the article and all the comments and the responses. Correct me if I’m wrong but the conclusion here is that if you’re on your parents network and your dad is a techie genius (mine is a former software engineer for a Fortune 500 company) then even VPN can’t hide the fact that you’re browsing things you probably shouldn’t be on your phone?

    Reply
    • If you’re connected to the wifi using his router**

      On that note, can he see what websites I visit if I use a VPN and use my 3G but not the router. Yes, he pays for my cell phone bill :/

      Reply
      • If you use a VPN, your father would need access to the phone to see which sites you are visiting, even if you access the internet through your home router, with a VPN, all internet traffic, including the the web addresses of the sites you visit are encrypted between your phone and the VPN. The cell service provider can’t see that either. They can only see that you are accessing the VPN.

        Reply
        • Hmmm that’s not the entire story, Whilst a VPN will obfuscate, your traffic it will not necessarily protect you from DNS leakage unless you specifically change your DNS. So even with a VPN if you have not taken care of DNS leaks your ISP will still be able to see where you have been and how long you stayed, they just won’t see what you have done.

          Reply
  35. I suspect someone is using wireshark to watch my traffic. From what I have read, using https makes this impossible (or hard) to actually see what’s going on. However (from what I have read) wireshark has a feature which can decrypt SSL etc but ONLY if the person watching has access to some decryption key. Am I understanding this right? How easy is it for this person to acquire this key? Is it impossible for them? I’m not very tech savvy but the person who is watching is. Also, I read Outlook.com webmail uses two types of encryption and of course is https. Are my emails then safe from spying? This is really important so any help is greatly appreciated. If I have to use a VPN I guess I will but I hate the idea of it slowing down my internet speeds…

    Reply
    • Hacking into https traffic is extremely difficult – that’s why we keep recommending it. Wireshark is not nearly enough. For all intents and purposes https can be considered safe.

      Reply
      • Thanks Leo. Numerous sources say Wireshark can indeed take a look at encrypted traffic IF they can get access to the decryption key. Would that key by local on my machine? Would they need access to my computer to get it? if so then this isn’t a problem.

        Thanks very much for your help. Links like the ones below contain more related info.

        https://support.citrix.com/article/CTX116557

        https://security.stackexchange.com/questions/152241/can-wireshark-capture-https-request

        Reply
        • HTTPS uses very strong encryption. If it were possible to snatch it with Wireshark and decrypt it, you would be seeing dozens of article of stolen data and passwords. Things like online banking would be too risky to even consider using.

          Reply
          • I suppose that’s true (though I keep reading it’s possible to do if someone has the decryption key which I assume belongs to the website). Above however, Leo says your ISP can see EVERYTHING you do. Does that include everything using HTTPS? How can they see what you’re doing if everything between your browser and the website is encrypted? That’s where Leo’s article confuses me. Do they have the ability to see right through the security? If so, then does that also mean they can see the content of my email? Outlook webmail uses 2 types of encryption/HTTPS…

            Thanks for your help (again)

          • Of course, if someone had the decryption key, they would be able to decode the data. If proper security is in place, that decryption key would be next to impossible to obtain. Your ISP can see everything you do, but with HTTPS, all they would see is the encrypted data which would appear as gibberish to them.

          • Ok thanks, one more question if that’s ok (just to be crystal clear). Again, I use Outlook webmail which uses TLS/SSL/HTTPS encryption. What you are saying is someone with Wireshark won’t be able to the look at the content of my emails or the data contained when I visit websites, right? HOWEVER, are they still able to see the outgoing email (regardless of the fact they don’t know what it says) and who it’s going to? Can they see the sites I visit?

            Thank you very much

          • If encryption is used then your ISP can see THAT you are sending and receiving email, and what service provider you are connecting to, but they CANNOT see the contents of the emails. Same for the web pages you browse.

          • Leo I’m more concerned about the person using Wireshark at my house on my network. My only question is can THEY see my outgoing email and who it’s being sent to? I know they cant’ see the contents of it, but can ‘Dad’ see that I’m sending an email and can they see who it’s going to. Same with websites. They can see the site you go to, but just not the data transmitted. IS this correct? OR can ‘Dad’ not even see who my email is going to (like my friend ‘Mike) as an example). Nevermind the ISP, don’t care about them anymore. Sorry for all the questions, thank you. I’d be willing to make a donation for your help 😉

          • If you reread Leo’s answer, you’ll see that he can see which email service provider you are connected to, but he can’t see who you are sending the email to.

          • Same answer: they can see THAT you are sending email, and they can see what email SERVICE you are connecting to. They cannot see your email.

          • No I’m afraid I don’t see that Mark but thank you for answering my question. Leo said they can’t see the contents of the emails but my question was (despite that fact) if they can see who the email is going to (unless Leo was including that as something that would be under ‘contents’). Also he was talking about your ISP (not someone using Wireshark) unless of course it’s the same thing either way. In terms of websites however, they can still see the sites you are visiting (just not the data transmitted like logins and passwords etc). Thanks very much for all your help guys. I appreciate it. You guys should have donate button somewhere (unless you do).

          • “are they still able to see the outgoing email (regardless of the fact they don’t know what it says) and who it’s going to? Can they see the sites I visit?”

            With Wireshark yes; using filters you should be able to obtain any Meta data, including the receivers address, but not the contents if it is encrypted.

            Unrelated to Wireshark specifically, but if someone is on your network and sniffing packets then you have bigger fish to fry than packet sniffing. Man if i was on your network trying to snoop i wouldn’t just be using Wireshark.

  36. Ok everyone; to recap (in regards to someone sniffing on my network)…

    With websites using HTTPS (as I understand it from various sources) you can see the sites I visit but not the contents (passwords etc). Right?

    With webmail like Outlook.com (which uses HTTPS/SSL/TLS encryption) you won’t see contents of my email but MIGHT see who I’m sending emails to (if you know what you’re doing according to 2989). Additionally, Outlook.com also now supports Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) encryption specifically for mail transiting between different email providers. A different encryption key is used for each connection, thus making it more difficult to intercept (if that makes any difference).

    2989 – How much worse can it get then (if you were going beyond just Wireshark?). At this point I suspect I was wrong about the snooping on my network but I would still like to know.

    Thank you

    Reply
  37. Leo, please tell me if it’s true or not whether or not hackers can hack into your “wifi” system and actually see/tell you what you are watching via your fire stick. Can this be done? Has “hacking” gotten this vicious?

    Zoe

    Reply
    • If you have WPS2 encryption on your router (almost all recent ones do) and a strong WiFi password, at least 14 characters (more is better), you should be safe.

      Reply
  38. Thanks Mark, for such speedy recovery!
    One final question regarding this “Fire stick” topic i.e. is it possible to monitor or know what someone is watching, via fire stick, on a apartment’s building wifi network–??? (I’m trying to trust my 13yr old son)

    Reply
  39. Hi,
    I have a wi-fi router connected to my home/work computer registered with a big and famous ISP. After reading the whole article and almost all comments, I understand that ISP can see anything we do online, which you’ve clearly and repetitively mentioned in this article. Now, I’m not worried about that big ISP as I’m probably not that interested for them, but my concern is about the person who provides internet service in my neighborhood, who have installed cable and wi-fi router at my home, who collects bill for internet and who has all the connections in his office (may be only wires or may be some high-tech gadget). I don’t know whether its called hub, switch or anything else, but would that person be able to see the web addresses I use? as some of those are related to my profession and I definitely don’t want to leak those to him.

    Please forgive me if I use any wrong or misspelled term or asked anything silly as I’m not that tech-savvy in networking, etc.

    Reply
    • If your Internet traffic flows through his equipment then yes. If you connect directly to the ISP and he is only a billing agent for then then, no. A VPN can protect you against that but the VPN can see all your traffic. But like an ISP, to most VPNs, you are just a client in whom they have no interest in snooping on.

      Reply
  40. Hello Leo, can you spy someone’s cellphone when they used their WiFi? My kids (15 and 8 yr of age) are overseas with their dad for the summer , and he doesn’t want for me to keep in touch with the kids because he didn’t want me to find out that he leaves them home a lone. My older child used her cellphone to keep in touch with me via data, that I pay so much$$$! But I don’t know if is safe for her to tx me or call me via WiFi.
    We used hangout, or 360 life to keep in touch. She also uses her laptop to do her online hw using his Wi-Fi.
    I’m concerned he might get aggressive with my kids and take her cellphone away. Also is WiFi calling safe? Can it be track the conversation via Wi-Fi? Tx messages or videos?

    Reply
    • There’s no simple answer here since there are many different ways of making calls over WiFi. I can’t say for certain that things couldn’t be identified, located, or tracked. It also depends on everyone’s technical savvy.

      Reply
  41. Hi Leo,
    Using Network on Windows, with network discovery turned on, and using Finder on macOS, I have been able to see other devices on the network the device is connected to. With proper permissions one can access files and folders on those other devices. The networks could be Ethernet or wireless.

    The fing app allows iOS and Android users to identify many (not all) devices on a WiFi network. Fingbox says you can secure and troubleshoot your home network. That’s a broad claim! How does it work?

    I guess the general topic here is using built in or readily available tools to inspect and at least partly secure a home network.

    Is there a new topic here? I have the feeling that I’m missing some things here.

    Is there a tool to watch traffic thru a router and automagically detect passwords in the clear? Some https web sites are misconfigured (see Qualys SSL server test at https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/).

    I am inFrance using hotel WiFi and my iPad and iPhone and NordVPN and avoiding any financial transactions…. but I’m still uncertain about how to protect my communications.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  42. hi, I have a problem that I have been asked the question about the data on the work phone, so my problem is I have been using it for hotspot connected it with my phone so I reset my phone to factory reset and deleted the name on the work phone. can I still be traced?

    Reply
  43. So lets say i want to check my twitter without my Dad (which is a IT nerd) knowing. I need to use a VPN. But will he see that im using a VPN. (for example VPNHUB

    Reply
  44. Hi everyone, this has been going on for a while and it keeps coming back, the reason being that there is always conflict with regards to privacy…So we could establish grey area where things get blurry and grey, leaving a margin of maneuver between the black and white. The white is that technically all that goes through your router and hits the internet is traceable an can be tracked, the black is that no body should be sticking noses into my world because it has a precious value for me, more than anything else and I want to keep it like that. Be aware that moving in the grey are is possible and sometimes even required to be safe, but stand up for your principles and always follow your guts.

    Reply
  45. is there a way to check to see what sites a cell phone using my modem / router ( It is ib my name and I pay the Bill ) is visiting certain sites and then using those sites to make masked calls

    I am 99.9999% sure someone in my house ( my step kids do not like me ) is doing this to make calls to my wife – she thinks its me – and it is causing huge problems – I am 45 and my step kids want to get me out The only way to settle this is for me to be able to show her kids are doing this

    Reply
    • You’ll need to learn and understand your router’s capabilities in terms of logging and monitoring. MOST consumer level routers have very weak capabilities in this area, so that means you’d need to upgrade the equipment to something more capable to enable the type of monitoring you’re looking for. But the router is where you start.

      Reply
  46. Hello,
    I live in a shared apartment and we have 1 router for us all living in the apartment. 1 person living in the apartment has access to the router and can block anyone using it if he needed to or change router password. One time he blocked my laptop saying that i was using a lot of bandwidth, so i wasn’t able to access the internet before telling him to unblock me.
    I want to know if that person can check what websites i visit or use or what i do on the internet because i feel that stuff is private and wouldn’t want someone seeing anything i do.
    Note: He never had my laptop or installed any spying software or anything on it.

    Reply
  47. I am on a mobile android device, and I was also wondering, can incognito mode be monitored, or in my case, ¨private browsing,¨ and if so, can it be worked around.

    Reply

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.