My husband says he can download a program to his machine that will enable
him to read my MSN Messenger conversations. I use a separate laptop with the
log history turned off, but he says he can put something onto the router that
will record all the conversations, and email. Is this true, and if so, how can
I stop it, or prevent him from reading my messages?
I have to admit that it’s actually somewhat depressing how often I get
questions of this nature; spouses wanting to snoop on each other, or like this
one, spouses afraid of being snooped on. All technical issues aside, I find it
The short answer is: yes.
The longer answer involves both how, as well as some steps you can take to
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I think that everyone really needs to realize that whomever sets up your
network and provides your access to the internet can do pretty much anything
they want. I spoke to this in some detail in an earlier article Can my ISP monitor my internet
Just consider whoever set up your internet access at home as an extension of
A great example is my own. As you might imagine I have a bit of a home
network that’s used by my wife, my assistant, and even any visitors if they
happen to bring along a computer. In a very real sense I’m their internet
service provider; they’re connecting to my network. As a result, should I feel
so inclined, I have access to all the networking and other equipment here in my
home to do whatever I might want.
on your conversations or worse.”
I could snoop on anyone connected to my network if I were so inclined.
The same or something similar is probably true in your own home.
But it gets worse.
We’ve often talked about software that can be used in wireless hotspots to
snoop on people’s internet traffic and potentially steal passwords or other
That same technique works quite well on many wired networks as well. That
means that anyone with access to your home network could conceivably snoop in
on your conversations or worse.
Needless to say, that probably includes your spouse.
So what’s a person to do?
Well, the ultimate answer is that if you can’t trust your spouse or whomever
it is that is providing your internet connection then you shouldn’t use it.
Period. That’s really the only truly guaranteed way of protecting your
If that’s not in the cards, then partial solutions are similar to those
mentioned in the ISP
Secure connections – any connection that begins with
https instead of http is an encrypted connection. Your spouse
can see which sites you are visiting, but not the actual data being sent back
Anonymous Web Surfing – Your spouse can tell if you’re
using services like Anonymizer,
Tor or others, but that’s all; he or she
won’t be able to tell where you’re surfing, or what’s being said or
Encrypted Email – there are several ways to send encrypted email. Your
spouse will be able to see who you’re emailing, but won’t be able to read the
VPN Services – There are services available that will allow
you to set up a “Virtual Private Network” connection to their services which
then connect you to the internet. Once again, it’s obvious that you’re using
the service, but your spouse can’t see what it is your doing beyond that.
So it really all boils down to your level of concern compared with the
amount of effort you’re willing to put into it.
Unlike the ISP scenario, where I don’t believe there’s typically a credible threat,
based on the questions I get I can totally understand that this situation is
And, as I said to start, quite sad.