Sometimes, an abuser might add new devices to a wireless network in order to monitor or harass their victim. For example, cameras, microphones, and connected-home devices are relatively easy to conceal and may be used to listen in on conversations.
In many cases, those devices are connected to the home’s wifi network, which meant they can be discovered by logging into the router. This guide will discuss how to do that.
Please note: logging into the router as the administrator will leave a record. It will show that someone logged in, but won’t show who.
if possible, you should look for connected devices any time you’re concerned that your conversations may be monitored. At the very least, you should do look for any connected devices left behind if your abusive partner leaves the home permanently.
Option 1: Using Your Router’s Web Interface
Your router is the device, often provided by your internet service provider, that connects you to the internet. It’s normally a black or silver box with network ports on the back, status lights on the front, and it probably has an antenna or two on it. If you’re having trouble finding it, you can call your ISP and they’ll tell you what to look for.
The router has a a web interface that can be accessed by the user in order to make basic configuration changes. The instructions for doing this may have been provided with the documents provided by your ISP. If not, you’ll first need to know the IP address or URL to access it.
If you’re having trouble finding the address, here’s a quick way to do that in Windows:
- 1. open up a command prompt by typing “CMD” in your computer’s run or search windows bar, and select “Command Prompt”
- 2. In the black box that appears, type “ipconfig” without the quotes
- 3. This will bring up a list of information about your network connections. Note the one that says “Default Gateway.” It will probably start with a 10 or a 192
Once you have the interface address, type that number into the browser’s address bar, where you would normally type in a website address. This will take you to the web interface login screen. The username and password, if it hasn’t been changed, will be found in the documentation provided with the router. If it’s been changed or if you don’t know that information, contact your ISP and they’ll help you recover the information. You might also find the default login information online by searching “default login” and your router model number.
The specific location for this information may vary depending on the model and brand of router, but it will generally be under a link, tab, or button called “attached devices,” “connected devices,” or “DHCP clients.” You’ll probably find this on the wifi configuration page or on the status page. This may also be on the main screen for some devices.
On may D-Link brand routers, this can be found by clicking Status, then Wireless.
For Many Netgear routers, this is under the Attached Devices tab in the sidebar
On many Linksys routers, you’ll find this option under Status > Local Network > DHCP Clients Table.
On Comcast Xfinity routers, you’ll find the list under Connected Devices in the sidebar.
The list can be hard to understand, but it will show you what devices are connected to the network. Note that if you’re only looking at the “DHCP” devices, you might not see everything. Make sure to look at anything that shows connected devices. If you’re not sure, refer to the device documentation or contact your ISP.
Looking at this list will give you an idea of what devices are connected to your network. Look for anything unusual or that you don’t recognize. If you see a hostname that looks suspicious, search the web for the recognizable parts of the name to try to get an idea of what it might be. Note that if you have a home surveillance system, you may see entries related to that.
This is a good basic step to take, but it’s not the most secure. Device names can be changed or faked to look legitimate. If possible, additional steps should be taken to make sure you know exactly what’s on your network.
Option 2: Change the WiFi Password
Hopefully, you’re using the strongest encryption available on your device, which is probably WPA2-PSK encryption, although WPA3 will be available soon. But at a minimum, you should be using WPA2 if available. If that’s not available, contact your ISP for a new router! This can be checked in the password settings page.
If you change your password here, it will kick all devices off the network until the correct passphrase is given. This will remove any unauthorized devices from the network, and is a good way to ensure that only authorized devices are connected. This step should definitely be done once you have the opportunity to do so, especially since WiFi can often reach well outside the home. We’ll just say it again: change your WiFi password as soon as you can.
Refer to your system documentation for any wireless devices that will need to be reauthorized, such as smart TVs, cell phones, home surveillance systems, etc.
Option 3: Ask Your Service Provider for Help
If you’re not comfortable or are having trouble logging into the router, contact your service provider and explain to them that you’re concerned about unauthorized devices and unauthorized access. They also have an interest in making sure that no one can use your network without your permission, so they will be able to assist you. They may send out a technician that will help confirm your settings and identify any rogue devices.
Option 4: Reset Your Router
If you’re not able to access your router’s web interface, you can reset it to the default settings. This will re-enable the default passwords as well, which will be noted in the device documentation, affixed to the router itself, of may be found online.
The process for each device may vary, and can be found in the device documentation or online. In most cases, there’s a small hole on the back of the router that says “reset.” Unplug the device. A small pin or paperclip can be used to press the button inside the hole; hold it down for 30 seconds, then remove the pin. Plug in the device again, and it should be reset to its default configuration.
Note that any custom configurations or passwords, including for WiFi access, will be removed and will have to be re-added.