So you want to know what others are browsing on your network. But why? Well, there are a few practical reasons. Like–
- You are a parent and wants to monitor your children activity on the Internet
- You are sharing WiFi with your neighbours 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 find out what others are browsing on your Wi-Fi. 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 Check Browsing History on Wi-Fi
All the following methods works on same principal 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 right tool. Following are some tool that let’s 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.
That said, if you don’t have a networking background, it’s hard to get started with Wireshark. A popular YouTube channel, TheNewBoston has a series of tutorial on how to use Wireshark for beginners. Check that out.
While capturing packets from other devices, make sure turn ON promiscuous mode and set the filter for HTTP request. You can find these setting under options menu on the start screen.
The good: With this tool, you can dig a lot of useful information and provides an excellent tool for network administrators.
The bad: 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 make 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 website, gambling etc.
To get started with openDNS, all you have to do is ask your router to use open DNS servers IP (22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199) 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 OpenDNS dashboard. Our favourte site, HowToGeek, has an in depth guide here.
The good: Works like a charm and easy to setup, even for a non-technical person. And that’s not all; one can also block websites or even service like WhatsApp on the entire network.
The bad: 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)
zANTI is kind of Wireshark Alternatives for Android. Though, I found it quite user-friendly than Wireshark and it works right out the box. The best part is, since your Android’s network card is capable of capturing Wi-Fi packets, 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.
The good: 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.
The bad: Requires root and do not work all the time. So not 100 percent reliable.
Platform – Android only
Check out zANTI (free, require email address)
How to protect yourself?
If you don’t want people to see you browsing activity. There are 3 things you need to do
1. When it comes to sensitive matter, don’t use the site that doesn’t have https.
2. If it’s necessary, then use a VPN. A VPN will bypass router level logging.
3. Install HTTPS Everywhere. It’s a browser extension for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension that encrypts your communications with many major websites. This will no make the HTTP site to HTTPS, but for some sites that don’t enforce https or have partial https on the checkout page (like Amazon India) then this extension will enforce it the on entire site.
There are other ways to monitor you network traffic such as setting up a new firewall, but this could be costly and mostly used by enterprises.