Does your router store information? The answer is a resounding yes.
Routers store a small amount of history about the devices that are connected to them to assign IP addresses, route traffic, and more. Beyond that, however, things are murky.
While some routers will store verbose logs that detail incoming and outgoing connections, other routers are much more limited in the amount of information they keep. That said, home routers usually have a very limited amount of storage space, so they tend to store as little information as possible.
Best Thing To Do
If you’re concerned about information being stored by your router, the best thing to do is log into your router and poke around in the configuration pages to see what’s happening. You can access your router with a web browser by pointing it at your router’s local IP address and logging in with admin credentials. If you haven’t changed these, they’re usually available on Google or a sticker on your router. Once you’re in, you’ll get a sense of the type of information that your router collects and you’ll have access to configuration pages that will let you change how data is stored.
Most modern routers collect a small amount of technical information about your devices and your network and send that data to their manufacturers to improve future products. In other words, they’ll occasionally phone home and let their manufacturer know about how many phones they’re connected to or send information about a software snag that they’ve encountered.
Laws in many states toes (including the European Union and California) place strict limits on what kind of datTollected with what kind of consent. This means that you can often use options meant for residents of these places to disable data sharing on your router altogether.
What’s With Router Privacy Policies?
To accommodate for this bit of data sharing, privacy policies tend to have very vague and broad categories of things that you agree to.
This is to give the company a bit of legal wiggle room, not to collect personal data. Some companies even conflate their routers and their website when writing their privacy policies, meaning you’ll get a universal policy that talks about tracking pixels and other technology that have nothing to do with your router. This doesn’t mean that your router is tracking you.
It just means that the router company is bad at writing privacy policies.
What Information Does My Wifi Router Store?
Your router stores information that the manufacturer thinks is helpful to network administrators and security professionals who have physical access to the device. It stores:
- The software the router uses to operate
- The settings for that software
- Security information (including accounts) related to that software
- Routing protocols
- Routing Tables
- DNS information
- DHCP information
- VLAN settings
- Device addresses and connection histories
- A short history of incoming and outgoing connections, if you’ve chosen to set one up
How Do I Stop My Router From Storing Data?
Log Into Admin Panel
To access your router, you’ll need to point a web browser at its address on your network. To find this, open up a command prompt (windows + r, type “cmd” and hit enter) and then type “ipconifg” and let the program run. You should see a line of text that says “default gateway” and then has a few numbers.
Type those numbers into your web browser and you’ll pull up your router’s config panel. The default login information for your router can be found via google, via a sticker on your router itself, or by asking one of the people that installed and configured it.
Once you’re in, you should be able to find a page that lets you clear stored data, change what data is stored, and adjust other settings on your router to your liking.
Factory Reset Your Router
If you can’t get access to your router’s password, you might want to perform a factory reset. This will clear all currently stored data and reset any account information.
It won’t necessarily prevent your router from storing data in the future, however, so you should perform the process described above and turn off all data storage after you’ve performed a reset.
To reset your router, you’ll want to make sure the router is plugged in.
Next, look for a recessed button somewhere on the back, usually near the power port.
Use a paper clip, a pen, or another tool to press this button in and hold it down for at least 15 seconds.
Once you release it, your router will revert to its factory configuration.
Use a VPN to Protect Your Network
Even if your router is maliciously storing data, a VPN can help keep you safe. VPNs work by handling all of your web traffic for you, ensuring that your router, ISP, and other interested parties are blind to what you’re doing on the internet. Instead of talking to websites directly, you’ll just talk to your VPN.
As far as the website is concerned, the VPN, not you, is the visitor, while as far as your ISP is concerned you’re only exchanging information with your VPN. This makes it almost impossible to track some types of information back to you and ensures that your web activities are anonymous.
Why Should I Use A VPN Router?
Rather than use software on your computer or phone to connect to your VPN, a VPN router places the protections at the router level. This means that all web traffic to and from your router goes straight to the VPN. There are no pesky guest phones popping on your wifi and sharing information with your ISP.
Instead, your router will encrypt all traffic and route it appropriately.
Most routers that are compatible with DD-WRT firmware make excellent VPN routers. The Netgear R6400 (or the Netgear Nighthawk), the Asus AC5300, and the Linksys WRT3200ACM make excellent candidates.
You’ll have to configure the firmware in order to connect to your VPN, but it’ll be totally worth it when it comes to privacy and security.