Most modern Web Browsers lets you delete browsing history or users can also use private, or “incognito,” modes that don’t store browsing history information. However, some special Routers and your ISP may still be able to see what people are doing on your WiFi, based on your DNS queries.
There are times when you would like to monitor Internet activity on your router. For instance,
- You are a parent and wants to monitor your children activity on the Internet
- You are sharing WiFi with your flatmates and would like to know if they can see your browsing session
- You just want to know how this is done, to keep yourself safe
So here are three ways to monitor Internet activity on your router. However, none of these methods is foolproof, i.e. they all have their pros and cons. And it goes without saying you should test these methods on your own network and not on others WiFi. Because that’s not just unethical but can also put you in legal problems.
How to See What People Are Doing on Your Wifi
All the following methods work on the same principle i.e. when the devices on your network connect to the internet, the data packets are broadcast over the air, and could technically be picked up by any host with the right tool. The following are some tools that let you monitor network packets. That said, let’s see how it works.
Wireshark is a popular packet capturing tool, design especially to see what people are browsing on a network in real-time.
Once you start the software, it shows the IP address of all the devices on your network. Simply select the one – you want to monitor and launch the packet capture session. And that’s it. Within seconds, you will see incoming and outgoing data packets from the target.
Although this might sounds easy, it is technically difficult. For instance, the data you contain IP address and a lot of garbage information, and you need to make sense of that dump. A popular YouTube channel, TheNewBoston has a series of tutorials on how to use Wireshark for beginners. Check that out.
While capturing packets from other devices, make sure to turn ON promiscuous mode and set the filter for HTTP requests. You can find these settings under the options menu on the start screen.
Pros: With this tool, you can dig a lot of useful information and provides an excellent tool for network administrators.
Cons: You will have to buy a separate WiFi adapter (like this) to use Wireshark in promiscuous mode (i.e. monitor other devices traffic). This is because most device manufacturers lock packet capturing at the hardware level, to avoid misuse.
Platform – Windows, macOS, Linux
Check out Wireshark (free)
If you find Wireshark complicated, OpenDNS is for you. The logic behind OpenDNS working is simple. While trying to connect to the Internet, all your network traffic goes through the router, which then makes it go through your DNS provider to translate the domain name to its equivalent IP address. Right?
So if you replace your default DNS server provided (usually provided by your ISP) to that of OpenDNS, you can easily monitor your network traffic using OpenDNS’s control panel. This will give you a brief idea of what kind of sites people are browsing on your network. And not just that, you can even block certain content like adult websites, gambling, etc.
To get started with OpenDNS, all you have to do is ask your router to use open DNS servers IP (188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206) and then create a free account on OpenDNS website. Once you log in, you need to link your router to your OpenDNS account, and that’s it. Now, you will be able to monitor your network from the OpenDNS dashboard. Our favorite site, HowToGeek, has an in-depth guide here.
Pros: Works like a charm and easy to set up, even for a non-technical person. And that’s not all; one can also block websites or even services like WhatsApp on the entire network.
Cons: You can not see real-time traffic, though. It shows data after 24 hours and also does not identify which computer on your network has open a particular website. So you have to guess it, based on time and date.
Platform – Web, works on all platform
Check out OpenDNS (free)
3. zANTI (Android App)
If you are looking for how to check WiFi history on Android, zANTI is the answer. It’s like Wireshark Alternatives for Android. Though, I find it quite user-friendly than Wireshark and the best part is, since your Android’s network card is capable of capturing Wi-Fi packets (unlike most PCs), you don’t have to buy additional network gear to capture data of other people on your Network.
All you need to do is install this app on an Android device and run it. The app will scan the network and show you the list of connected devices. Select the one you want to monitor and start the man in the middle attack.
zANTI captures all the HTTP traffic from the target device in real-time. However, if you want to see HTTPS traffic then turn on SSL strip, this will avoid websites to open in a secure protocol.
Pros: Simple and easy to use. Works right out the box and can capture data packets along with many other features. It can even intercept the username and password from some less secure websites.
Cons: Requires root and does not work all the time. So not 100 percent reliable.
Platform – Android only
Check out zANTI (free, require email address)
Stop People From Seeing What you Are Doing on Your WiFi
If you don’t want people to see your browsing activity. There are 3 things you need to do
1. When it comes to sensitive matters, don’t use the site that doesn’t have https. Thankfully, most sites on the Internet support https by default. When you are browsing sites that have https like Reddit, people who are spying on you or even your ISP, may be able to see that you connected to reddit server’s IP address, but he cannot see the traffic that you’re communicating.
If the site doesn’t enforce https by default but still has https as an option, then you can install HTTPS Everywhere. It’s a browser extension for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera, that encrypts your communications with many major websites. This will not make the HTTP site to HTTPS, but for some sites that don’t enforce https or have partial https on the checkout page, this extension will enforce it the on entire site.
2. Use a VPN. A VPN will bypass router level logging. If you are not sure which VPN to use, here our list of best free VPN apps we recommend at TechWiser
3. Use other sources of the Internet for sensitive web search like creating a hotspot from your smartphone. For an extra layer of protection, you even share VPN connection from your Android.
There are other ways to monitor your network traffic such as setting up a new firewall, but this could be costly and mostly used by enterprises.