Take the 2-minute tour ×
Information Security Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for Information security professionals. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I pay my neighbors to use their wifi. They have listed me as "guest" with a separate password from theirs. Is there any way to prevent them from seeing the sites I've visited? My browser history clears automatically. Since they're in charge of the router, can they always see in real time what I'm browsing as I'm browsing? i'm assuming they won't be able to see where I've been since my history clears.

share|improve this question
19  
Might be a silly question but did this become a partial trust scenario before or after you signed up to share internet? –  Gusdor Jun 16 at 10:35
    
Do you know what the model of their router is? If do do, someone could look up the manuals online and see if it has such a feature. –  Ilmari Karonen Jun 16 at 17:25
3  
I'd go for a VPN solution if getting your own WIFI isnt an option. PureVPN is pretty cheap for standard anonymised VPN. –  Chris McKee Jun 16 at 22:02
2  
Use https; then your neighbors can only tell what sites you're connecting to, but cannot eavesdrop on what's actually being transported between you and the sites. For instance they can know that you're using online banking, but not what you're doing in that session. –  Kaz Jun 19 at 1:19
2  
@Kaz They specifically asked for a way of preventing them from seeing which sites they've visited! –  Poldie Jun 20 at 14:07

12 Answers 12

Yes they can but unless your neighbor has the required technical expertise, its highly doubtful.

To view incoming and outgoing traffic you need specific software to monitor network packets and the tech knowledge to actually do it. Most routers only keep a syslog and unless they are using software like wireshark to monitor/capture your packets, they cannot view the sites you have visited.

So unless he is a geek or a hacker (however amateur) there is usually nothing by default that records your traffic.

*Side Note: Clearing your browsing history is completely restricted to your local system and if they can/are monitoring, it will do you no good.

Alternatively, if your neighbor does have the required software and skills to monitor your traffic, you can use a proxy. By doing so the monitoring software will only show a lot of outgoing and incoming connections between you and the proxy, so even though they will know you are using a proxy, they can't see what sites you visited.

EDIT: as lorenzog correctly mentioned in the comments, for true sense of security and privacy, one should use a SSL Proxy to encrypt data sent and also tunnel DNS queries (which can be monitored by the router administrator) through the SSL proxy.

share|improve this answer
1  
I understood that all traffic is saved in the router for a time. So, you're saying URL's aren't saved there? And, are you saying even if they logged in with my password under"guest" they cannot see what site I'm looking at? –  Pat Jun 16 at 4:43
2  
Most home routers don't log network traffic and even if they do, an average person cannot interpret them without the special software. How much tech skill doe you neighbor have? –  Abbas Javan Jafari Jun 16 at 4:48
3  
My old router used to log every site visited. Seeing it was as simple as going to 192.168.0.1 and typing in a password (it was all in a user friendly list). However my new router doesn't do this so it may not be typical cc @Pat –  Richard Tingle Jun 16 at 8:56
35  
I'm sorry to be picky but this answer is incorrect at best, and misleading at worst. First of all, suggesting a proxy does not improve the security because cleartext content will be sent to the proxy.. in cleartext. So the proxy should be a SSL proxy. Secondly, unless you tunnel DNS queries through the (SSL) proxy, the person in charge of the wifi can always see your DNS queries (which are sent in the clear). Thirdly, "special software" takes a few minutes to install. Fourthly, a false sense of security (because "usually this does not happen") is worse than no sense of security. –  lorenzog Jun 16 at 14:30
5  
The word to google is "VPN". Get a service like StrongVPN, it's the same kind of thing that you would use at an open wifi hotspot (in a coffee shop, etc) to protect your privacy and browsing history. –  Andrew Lewis Jun 16 at 14:37

If you get a VPN and use that for browsing, that will hide all your traffic from both your neighbour and their ISP.

share|improve this answer
3  
+1 this is the correct answer. –  R.. Jun 17 at 2:17
1  
...although he's clearly trying to save money by using his neighbor's wifi in the first place. –  Blazemonger Jun 18 at 16:09
1  
@Blazemonger then again, some VPNs are less than $10/month which is cheap compared to the potential $100+ some places pay for internet –  eric_lagergren Jun 18 at 18:23

What about using tor? Keep in mind that your speed will be affected*.

As other people said, using any private mode in your browser is not going to be of any help.

*EDIT: The slowdown heavily depends on the network topology, the number of nodes, how much traffic the nodes are handling and what you are downloading. Here you can find some explanations about tor performances. Although old, it may be interesting.

share|improve this answer
    
You might want to quantify how affected. I heard Tor was dail-up modem slow. –  Oxinabox Jun 16 at 11:50
2  
@Oxinabox Tor performance has improved a lot over the last couple of years. –  CodesInChaos Jun 16 at 13:06
1  
Keep in mind that the exist node can sniff all the (unencrypted) traffic. Tor only obscures the link to your original IP. –  CodesInChaos Jun 16 at 13:08
1  
@CodesInChaos the problem is the entry node in this case, so tor should do the trick. –  rookie coder Jun 16 at 13:11
    
@CodesInChaos: the exit node can sniff the traffic, but AFAIK it cannot know where it comes from. –  Burkhard Jun 17 at 11:27

Yes they can actually. What it boils down to is that they can see which websites you are running by looking at:

  • Clear HTTP traffic
  • DNS requests sent

One thing you could do is purchase an encrypted VPN and run all your internet traffic through the VPN. This way your neighbours will not be able to see what you are doing.

share|improve this answer
11  
On the other hand, whoever you've configured your VPN with will be able to see what you're doing. As with everything on the internet, it ultimately boils down to who you trust. –  Shadur Jun 16 at 8:55
    
@Shadur - if you're that worried, you could just set up your own VPN on a VPS; they're pretty cheap these days –  sapi Jun 16 at 23:57
4  
@sapi Then that assumes you're able to trust the VPS host! –  Bob Jun 17 at 5:38
4  
Maybe we should all just wear tin-foil hats and disconnect ourselves from the internet. –  Lucas Kauffman Jun 17 at 8:17
    
Note that some VPNs will still reveal which domains you visit. PrivateInternetAccess.com has a setting for "DNS Leak Protection‌​", which is defaulted to OFF on Windows. Even with a VPN, the practice of sharing WiFi is still risky since you're not behind a firewall (wrt your neighbors). –  David Englund Jun 17 at 19:54

When my laptop is using a network I don't control (basically anything that's not home) it wears pretty red socks to reroute all traffic into the SOCKS5 proxy built into OpenSSH and then to a server I rent anyways for my website to protect my traffic. You can use tor as well but I intensely dislike tor (for reasons off topic here).

This is the socks_up script:

socks_down
ssh  -o ControlMaster=yes -S /tmp/linode-socket -fCqND 8080 ssh@linode
sudo redsocks -c /usr/local/bin/redsocks.conf 
sudo iptables -t nat -N REDSOCKS
sudo iptables -t nat -A REDSOCKS -d 0.0.0.0/8 -j RETURN
sudo iptables -t nat -A REDSOCKS -d 10.0.0.0/8 -j RETURN
sudo iptables -t nat -A REDSOCKS -d 127.0.0.0/8 -j RETURN
sudo iptables -t nat -A REDSOCKS -d 169.254.0.0/16 -j RETURN
sudo iptables -t nat -A REDSOCKS -d 172.16.0.0/12 -j RETURN
sudo iptables -t nat -A REDSOCKS -d 192.168.0.0/16 -j RETURN
sudo iptables -t nat -A REDSOCKS -d 224.0.0.0/4 -j RETURN
sudo iptables -t nat -A REDSOCKS -d 240.0.0.0/4 -j RETURN
sudo iptables -t nat -A REDSOCKS -p tcp -o wlan0 -j DNAT --to 127.0.0.1:8081
sudo iptables -t nat -A REDSOCKS -p tcp -o eth0 -j DNAT --to 127.0.0.1:8081
sudo iptables -t nat -A OUTPUT -p tcp -j REDSOCKS
sudo iptables -t nat -I REDSOCKS -d 1.2.3.4 -j RETURN

You need to change the 1.2.3.4 to your server IP and ssh@linode to your server and user.

This is the socks_down script:

#!/bin/bash
sudo iptables -F
sudo iptables -X 
sudo iptables -Z
sudo iptables -t nat -F
sudo iptables -t nat -X
sudo iptables -t nat -Z
sudo killall redsocks
ssh -o ControlMaster=no -S /tmp/linode-socket -O exit localhost

This is the redsocks.conf file:

base{log_debug = off; log_info = off;
   daemon = on; redirector = iptables;}
   redsocks { 
     local_ip = 127.0.0.1; local_port = 8081;
     ip = 127.0.0.1; port = 8080;
     type = socks5;
   }

(and I know it shouldn't live in a bin directory. Oh well.)

share|improve this answer

In practice, it depends on the router they're using (and, specifically, on the firmware it's running). Basically all home WiFi routers have the technical ability to log visited URLs, as long as their firmware includes such a feature (and it's not exactly a complicated one). The main questions are:

  1. whether the router firmware supports such a logging feature, and
  2. whether the router's normal admin interface exposes it, e.g. as a "parental monitoring" function.

If you happened to know the manufacturer and model of your neighbors' WiFi router (which you might be able to determine just by typing its IP address — often 192.168.0.1 or 10.0.0.1 — into your browser's address bar), it should be possible to find its manual online and see if it provides such features. Otherwise, we can only guess.

(Note that, if your neighbors are using a separate DSL / Cable router and WiFi access point, either of those could be logging your web browsing habits. Also, if they wanted to, and had the necessary technical skills, they could route any traffic between the DSL and WiFi boxes through an ordinary computer that could certainly log any and all traffic passing through it. However, the most common home WiFi setup these days tends to involve a single integrated DSL+WiFi router, which would make it the only part of the connection between you and the ISP under your neighbors' control.)

As for hiding your web browsing habits from nosy neighbors, you'd basically have to tunnel it through the router in such a manner that the router can't see it. Some options for this include:

  • running a VPN client that connects to a server outside your neighbors' control;
  • configuring your browser to pass all web requests through a proxy server (which itself should be using HTTPS, otherwise your neighbors can still see all the traffic between your browser and the proxy);
  • setting up an SSH tunnel to a server you have SSH access to, and configuring your browser to use it as a SOCKS proxy;
  • configuring your browser to use the Tor anonymizing network (or using the Tor Browser Bundle).

Note that, with all of these options, whoever runs the VPN / SSH / proxy server you're connecting to could still see which sites you visit and, if you're not also using HTTPS, any content you're posting / accessing. This is even true for Tor, although, in that case, the server that actually sees your web traffic will be a random Tor exit node that should not, because of the "onion routing" design, have any idea who you are (unless, of course, the content of your web traffic itself reveals it).

Also note that simply using HTTPS as much as possible (e.g. with the help of HTTPS Everywhere), even without a VPN / proxy, will help your privacy somewhat: even with HTTPS, your neighbors can still see which sites you visit, but not the specific URLs or content of the pages you access on each site (at least as long as you don't accept any bogus certificates).

Finally, even if your HTTP(S) traffic is transmitted securely through a VPN or a proxy, your browser could still be leaking information about the sites you visit through DNS requests. A decent VPN client should take care of this for you, but if you're using a proxy server or an SSH tunnel, you may need to configure your browser correctly to prevent such DNS leaks. Fortunately, I've never actually seen a home WiFi router that would log DNS requests (or, at least, that would expose such logging through the normal admin tools), so monitoring those would require some extra tech skills from your neighbors.

Ps. If your neighbors aren't too tech savvy, there's always the possibility that they might've left their WiFi router's admin password at its default value. If so, and you're feeling unscrupulous enough, you could just look it up and try to log in with it to see if they have monitoring enabled (and, potentially, to monitor their web usage) — not to say that I'd condone doing any such thing, or that it would even be legal. Besides, if they've left the password unchanged, they'll probably have left the WiFi network unsecured too, in which case anyone else nearby with a WiFi-enabled computer could do the same. If that's the case, it might be more in your interests to carefully hint that they really ought to secure their network better, even if it'll cut down your (illegitimate) access too.

share|improve this answer

They could view/log any traffic that is sent in plaintext (not encrypted) over their network. Clearing your browser history only affects your local computer, and has no impact on what has occurred on the network.

share|improve this answer
    
So, to elaborate on that, what information can be strongly encrypted by what means? Assuming the neighbor is sniffing packets, what would be needed to hide not only your bank account information, but also the IP addresses you're going to, and other "envelope information", etc.? Proxy? VPN? –  Phil Perry Jun 16 at 17:53

Unless you use a VPN to tunnel through their network, they can see your activity and the destination of your traffic, just like your ISP could. (They are effectively your ISP.)

If you want to avoid them being able to see everything you are doing, you must encrypt your communications across their network. If you use a VPN, they will be able to tell you are using a VPN, but all of your requests to the VPN will be protected and you will actually access the sites you are going to from the VPN end point which is outside your neighbor's network.

share|improve this answer

The only way to make it impossible for them to know what browsing you are doing is to use either a VPN or an SSL Proxy (things like Tor are a fancy form of proxy). Otherwise, they could potentially sniff the traffic as it passes through their router, and identify at least the hostnames you are connecting to, and (if it is not HTTPS) the actual URLs.

Of course, whether they have the technical knowledge or inclination to do this is another matter. Most routers will not include this sort of feature.

I'd say that, if you suspect them this much, and want to keep your usage secret, get your own Internet connection.

share|improve this answer

As an alternative to VPN's and bundled secure proxying solutions, you can assemble a solution using just Secure Shell (SSH) and a HTTP proxy.

  1. Initiate an SSH session to a remote server where you have an account.
  2. As part of the SSH session, configure port forwarding: forward a local port on your machine to the address:port of some HTTP proxy which is reachable from the remote machine.
  3. Use the local port as your HTTP proxy for browsing.

Thus all you need is a remote machine with a shell account reachable by SSH, and a proxy somewhere (perhaps on that machine itself).

In Firefox, proxy settings are found on the "Advanced" configuration panel in the "Network" tab, under "Connection" ("Configure how Firefox connects to the Internet").

share|improve this answer

Use uProxy to encrypt your traffic and proxy it through a trusted machine elsewhere, owned by yourself or a friend.

This is probably safer than Tor, because there's less chance of malicious exit nodes, and less chance the destination will block your traffic. And there's zero cost, unlike a commercial VPN.

share|improve this answer

Here are the specific steps to get a simple, DIY setup running that will provide you 1) a solid approach that uses an SSL proxy and 2) will also tunnel DNS queries through the SSL proxy as well.

Bonus, you don't need to ask your neighbor to do anything (provided they're not actively blocking against this, which I'd doubt in your situation).

Here are the steps:

  1. Get a Shell Account - Sign up for a shell account (there are many good & cheap ones, I pay $5 a month for mine) and a many free ones with a wide range of quality (http://shells.red-pill.eu/). IMHO, you get what you pay for with free hosts, but YMMV. Nutshell, all you need is a username, password, and shell access to server. Keep in mind you also might already have one, through school, work, web hosting, etc.

  2. Get an SSH Client - On your computer, you'll need an ssh client. I use the one available on the command line of Mac OS X and Ubuntu. If you're using Windows, use Cygwin to install ssh. Either way, it's the same command and syntax:

    ssh -l username yourshellaccount.com -D 8080 -N

    (Note: 8080 is a port number, you can change this to something else if you need. Which ever number you choose, you'll need it for Step 3).

  3. Get FoxyProxy - Get FoxyProxy for FireFox (free plugin). The steps to configure FoxyProxy are pretty simple and headache free. When configuring the plugin, you'll need to reference the details from Step 2 above. Nutshell here, you're telling FireFox to route it's requests through the ssh tunnel you created in Step #2. FoxyProxy also has a checkbox that allows you to "[x] Perform remote DNS lookups". Check this box to perform the DNS lookups on the remote server.

That's it. You can have all of this up and running within a matter of minutes. All traffic is encrypted between your system and the remote server, when browsing the web through FireFox. The remote server is now the one making all HTTP requests, DNS lookups, etc.

Note: I said it already, but worth highlighting, that only your Firefox web browsing is tunneled. It's not doing anything else. This, IMHO, is a benefit of this approach given what you're trying to accomplish. If you're curious about what this is doing and how it works, use this wikipedia article to get started.

share|improve this answer

protected by AviD Jun 20 at 14:48

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.