Wi-Fi router logging: What it is, the risks, and how to clear it

Tips & tricks
4 mins
Wi-Fi symbol with an eye.

When we talk about people tracking your browsing, we often talk about your internet service provider or Big Tech companies like Google. But there is a closer, more personal threat to your online privacy: Your router. The Wi-Fi router in your home, a friend’s home, your school, your office, or your favorite cafe can record every site you visit while using that network—and someone could easily look those up simply by logging in to the router.

And no, incognito or private mode does nothing to keep your web activity off the router.

What is a router log?

Router logs are also known as router history. Routers will examine all network traffic and keep a record of activity, accessible by the Wi-Fi owner (or Wi-Fi admin) through the admin panel. This means the Wi-Fi owner can access information like your IP address, connected devices, websites you’ve accessed, and even the time you spent online. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) also has access to these logs.

How to access router logs

The easiest way to access a router’s log is through a web browser. Here’s how.

  1. Locate your router’s IP address. Typically, you can find it on the back of your router.
  2. Enter the router’s IP address in your browser’s search bar.
  3. Sign in to your router.
  4. Find the admin panel in the settings to access your router logs.

Read more: How to delete your Google search history

Risks of router logging

You might think that a router logging your web activity is no big deal. Once you consider how much we use the internet, how much data a router is storing, and the number of Wi-Fi networks that have captured our data—the reach becomes overwhelming. And yes, this includes your incognito browsing history.

Suddenly, the risk of identifiable information being sold, misused, and falling into the hands of malicious actors becomes a real risk.

Router admins, or Wi-Fi admins, are the people who manage your Wi-Fi. Depending on where you connect to a Wi-Fi network, the people who have access to your web activity can include family members at home (parents, kids, spouses), the IT manager of your school or office, and even the cafe owner whose open network you connected to.

Did you know that routers are essentially computers? Routers run on their own operating system and are not immune to vulnerabilities and cyberattacks. Malicious actors can use a compromised router to spy on you and even stage a man-in-the-middle attack.

What does a router log?

Your router keeps a log of your connected devices, the websites you visit, the time you spend on each site, and even web traffic if it’s not encrypted. So, yes. Someone can find your search history through a router log. 

A router doesn’t log information the same way as your browser; instead it primarily relies on logging IP addresses. It takes a little investigative work to identify each website visited, but something as simple as a Google search can do the job. Users are also identified by IP address, which is easier if there are only a small number of users on a Wi-Fi network.

Connecting your phone to a Wi-Fi network could log even more identifiable and private information on the router. If you use Wi-Fi calling or send messages using an app without end-to-end encryption, the router can keep a log of all the calls and messages you’ve made. Also, your app usage is logged, just like how it logs website visits.

Can a VPN hide your web activity from a router?

A VPN app is the easiest way to hide your web activity from being logged by a router. VPNs channel your traffic through an encrypted tunnel established between you and the VPN server, and only the VPN can decrypt the data. A VPN also hides your IP address, and your traffic is mixed with that of other users, making it harder to identify you. 

When connected to a VPN, the router logs the encrypted data packet but cannot read the data. A VPN will also safeguard you from compromised routers, rendering attempts to spy on you fruitless as your data is made indecipherable.

Read more: How to delete your hard drive browsing history

How to clear your Wi-Fi router history

If you’re worried about someone spying on your activity via your router, you can clear your Wi-Fi router logs by following these steps.

  1. Locate your router’s IP address. Typically, you can find it on the back of your router.
  2. Enter the router’s IP address in your browser’s search bar.
  3. Sign in to your router. The default username and password are on your router.
  4. Find the admin panel in the settings to access your router logs.
  5. Click on the “Clear Logs” button to delete your Wi-Fi history.

You can only clear the Wi-Fi history of the router you’re an admin of. You cannot delete the Wi-Fi history from public routers. That’s why it’s best to use a VPN to hide your browsing activity.

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