There has been a lot of discussion in the news recently about web monitoring from everyone from the government to your ISP. What there is less talk about, is monitoring on a local level.
In this article we will discuss whether or not it is possible for someone to see the websites you are visiting while using their wifi.
Can Someone See What Websites I Visit On Their Wifi?
When you are using someone else’s wifi, they absolutely could, if they were very dedicated, see the websites that you visit. However, before you get too worried, you should realize that it would take someone a lot of effort and may be beyond the skills of most people.
The easiest way someone could do this would be if you were using a computer that the person who owns the network has access to. If this was the case, a simple check of the browser history would show up what you had been browsing (assuming you didn’t clear the browsing history).
If you are on your own, separate device, they would have to set up some kind of monitoring software (for example, a 'packet sniffer' - like Wireshark...we'll come to that later) that would intercept all traffic between the device and the router (or 'behind' the router), or alternatively, a log on the router.
However, it is worth noting that it is not a particularly easy thing for them to do and therefore quite unlikely that if you were using the wifi of a friend or relative.
Of course, if you are on an unsecured network, or using wifi from a person or place you don’t trust, then it is possible that they could have the motivation to see what websites you visit. Unsecured wifi can be monitored or 'sniffed' pretty easily, with free software.
As well as this, a hacker on an unsecured network or simply someone who has set up a network for malicious gains could potentially use sniffing software to try to get valuable details such as passwords or credit card information.
It is worth noting that many websites nowadays use HTTPS which will encrypt all information sent between your computer and the website you are using making it much harder for anyone snooping to get your private and personal details.
In a nutshell: Tracking the websites you have browsed while on someone else’s wifi is possible but difficult task. Unless you think the person has a reason and/or the knowhow to do it, it is unlikely that they will be able to see the websites you have visited.
What About Monitoring Someone Using My Wifi?
As we have just discussed, checking the sites someone is browsing is no easy task. It is also quite morally questionable, especially if the person doesn’t know you are checking their browsing and even potentially illegal if you are looking for sensitive information such as bank details.
If you are simply trying to check that people on your network aren’t browsing inappropriate sites, perhaps the best thing to do would be simply to set up a strong parental control lock on your network.
Parental controls can do everything from blocking certain types of content and IP addresses to blocking off all internet access except for certain sites. While you may not be able to see what people are browsing it will certainly be an easier way to restrict browsing on your network.
In order to see what people have browsed using your wifi, some routers keep logs of the IP addresses that have been visited.
If this is the case, then you should be able to log into your router to find a list of IP address. Of course, once you have this, you may still have to match the IP addresses with actual websites. Note however, that a lot of sites these days use CDNs, which mask the real IP of the site, with the IP of the CDN. So this trick wouldn't work here...CDNs are designed to help sites 'run' faster, as well as add some security against malicious attacks.
If your router doesn’t keep logs and you are willing to change your router’s firmware, then installing Tomato or DD-WRT on your router can allow you to keep logs.
To install Tomato, you will simply have to go to the web usage page which tracks websites visited and also any search terms that have been used by people on the network.
If you install DD-WRT, checking logs is less simple although still possible by installing the software on your router.
A final option could be to use packet capture software such as Wireshark. This will allow you to monitor all aspects of how people use your network. The only issue with Wireshark is that it is actually quite hard to set up (for most people), which means that it would be hard for someone who isn’t technically minded. If you are technical, Wireshark is very powerful. There are courses to take and certifications that you can achieve, if you're really keen!
We hope you enjoyed the article! Comment below if you have any questions...