Packet Sniffers – Why Do We Use Them?


Packet sniffers are also called packet analyzers. Hackers use packet sniffers, but so do IT security professionals in various corporations.  Sniffing involves capturing, decoding, inspecting and interpreting information inside of a network packet, (I am sure we all can agree with that).  The hacker’s purpose here is to steal information. Usually it is the user IDs, passwords, network details, credit card information, etc.  Sniffing generally is a passive type of attack, where the attacker can be silent on the network.  It makes it difficult to detect, and hence it is very dangerous.  The sniffing process is used by hackers to either get information directly or map the technical details of that company’s network he or she is trying to create further attacks on.  What they are doing at this point is just gathering information. You can use a packet sniffer available from Wireshark (a widely-used, free open-source tool) to look at packets to see what information is trying to be captured, or you can use it for routing network issues.  As you can see, there is a good and bad side of packet sniffing.  I have used Wireshark a few times at home, just to mess with my wife and pick on her on what she is viewing when she is on her phone, and yes, it can grab wireless traffic as well.  I was sitting in the kitchen one day at the bar top and I would look over at her as she is on her phone. I ask, “What are you buying now on QVC?”  She would ask, “How do you know being over there in the kitchen that I am buying something on QVC?”  As you can see, it comes in handy sometimes.  Come back we will discuss ethical and unethical usage of a packet sniffer.

William Maree,
Capella ACM Student Chapter Vice Chair
Blog Contributor
Web Development Team Member

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