Monitoring Wireless Networks through Log Checking

The easiest and most common way to Monitor who is on a wireless network is simply to check the logs.

On small networks with few access points, this is often achieved by simply logging into the wireless router itself.  Inside the Wireless Router, you can look at who is connected through a screen that often says “Wireless Client MAC List” or something similar. This usually gives you a list of all currently connected computer’s MAC Addresses and sometimes computer names or most recent IP as well.

If your Wireless Router is also acting as a DHCP server like it often is on smaller networks, then sometimes you’ll also see a list for “DHCP Clients Table”. This will usually gives you a list of computers that have connected within the past 24 hours.

If you’re in a larger organization, you can manually check this through the main Firewall that is often acting as the gateway, or you can run commands on the DHCP Server itself.

Monitoring a Network through Wireless Router and Switch logs is probably the most common way that people think of when they talk about identifying computers on their network.

However, it has several limitations.

#1.  Inconsistency – Checking the logs across each different device becomes complicated when there are multiple access points, switches, routers, or DHCP servers to check.  Suddenly, you have to remember how to check the logs across each device.  This usually leads to some access points being checked, while others remain unchecked.

#2.  Frequency – Because it’s a manual process, this is usually only done when someone thinks about it, or when something goes wrong.  Often it’s very slow or too late.

#3.  Loss of Information – Most switches, routers, and access points are optimized to do their job efficiently.  This usually means that they stop storing information usually after 24 hours.  If a device was on the network on a Saturday, and the problem is recognized on Monday, the information has often been removed from the networking equipment by the time the IT Professional or Business Owner has a chance to check the logs.

Return to Monitoring a Wireless Network.