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Can my spouse really read my IM conversations?

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
rather sad.

The short answer is: yes.

The longer answer involves both how, as well as some steps you can take to
avoid it.

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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
usage?.

Just consider whoever set up your internet access at home as an extension of
your ISP.

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.

“… anyone with access to your home network could conceivably snoop in
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
sensitive information.

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
information.

If that’s not in the cards, then partial solutions are similar to those
mentioned in the ISP
article
:

  • 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
    and forth.

  • 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
    displayed.

  • 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
    messages.

  • 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
quite possible.

And, as I said to start, quite sad.

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2 comments on “Can my spouse really read my IM conversations?”

  1. Hi Leo,
    I have the exact same problem, I know it’s sad but these situations are complicated and not the place to talk about it,anyways, I want to know something else that is more important to me.
    I found out a while ago that my husband can do all these stuff so whatever I wanna do I do on the computer at work. My only problem is that
    I’m not sure I am getting all my emails in my mailbox! becuase for what I understand you can put a spy on someone’s email anddress and you control whatever they get or send? so my question is How can I find out that if this is happening or not and how can I stop it or prevent it?
    This would really help me thanks
    Laleh

    Reply
  2. Hi Leo,
    I have the exact same problem, I know it’s sad but these situations are complicated and not the place to talk about it,anyways, I want to know something else that is more important to me.
    I found out a while ago that my husband can do all these stuff so whatever I wanna do I do on the computer at work. My only problem is that
    I’m not sure I am getting all my emails in my mailbox! becuase for what I understand you can put a spy on someone’s email anddress and you control whatever they get or send? so my question is How can I find out that if this is happening or not and how can I stop it or prevent it?
    This would really help me thanks

    Reply

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