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A landlord could conceivably see the websites you go to if you use a shared internet connection. But there are ways to stay safe.

I just moved into an apartment with free internet and it included a router. I don't feel safe online like that, so I changed to my own router - still on their internet feed. Is my landlord able to see the websites I go to?

In this excerpt from Answercast #72, I look at the possibilities that a landlord who offers a shared internet connection could be snooping in on the connection.

Seeing the websites you go to

The short answer is very probably yes.

The fact that you changed your router probably didn't change much of anything. It's possible that if your landlord were particularly malicious, that the router (the one he provided) may have had some settings that made it easier for him - but the fact is, in a sense, your landlord is your ISP - and ultimately, your ISP can see everything you do.

Open hotspot safety

The best thing to do, the safest way to treat a situation like this is, if you do not trust your landlord (which apparently you don't), you should treat that internet connection as if it were an open Wi-Fi hotspot.

That means making sure you're using https as much as possible.

In extreme cases, it means that you should set up a VPN for your internet access. That provides an encrypted tunnel between you and the VPN service that your landlord will not be able to peek into. That's the way to keep what you're doing private from your landlord.

We're not that interesting...

Now, I will say in general it's hard for me to say that a landlord is or isn't going to take the time to snoop on what you're doing. Typically, like I've said many times before, we're just not that interesting - but I'll assume that you have reason to be concerned.

In a case like that, treating it like an open Wi-Fi hotspot, with all of the vulnerabilities that are associated with that, is definitely the safest and best way to go.

There are definitely clear ways to use that connection that will keep you safe.

Next from Answercast 72 - "Is it safe to donate or give away RAM?"

Article C6060 - November 22, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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2 Comments
A Richter
November 22, 2012 2:34 PM

A good testing point: If it is not possible to set up VPN due to your ISP (landlord) limitations, it would certainly signal that the traffic is being watched. It need not be for nefarious purposes at all, but still.

Dan
November 23, 2012 11:01 AM

You could also ask who the service is provided by. I have "free" internet where I rent and I have a comcast email address. The building management simply contracts with comcast to provide the service. Another place had low cost internet with a buildingname.com email address. This was ran off of a domain on speakeasy.net. It both cases it was not a matter of the building running its own server.

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