Lets Learn What Is A Packet Sniffer?

Nope, packet sniffing has nothing to do with sniffing packets of your favourite muffins, coffee or food options. Trust me, it is not. Packet sniffing is a process in computer networks carried out with packet sniffers or analyzers.let us know about that the Lets Learn What Is A Packet Sniffer?

Lets Learn What Is A Packet Sniffer?

A packet sniffer is a computer component, either hardware or program, that can intercept and record traffic passing through a computer network. They are also referred to as network analyzers. Sniffing a network is quite straightforward, except that it is not. In simpler terms, as data flows through a network, the profiler captures these data, logs them, and in some cases, decodes them revealing values of the different existing fields. It can also arrange these contents according to various specifications.

Lets Learn What Is A Packet Sniffer? Packet sniffers also simply just monitor traffics on a network. They cross-examine data streams between networks, computers and even the internet. In ideal situations, packet sniffing is specific for certain machine types. However, unethical hackers use these capacities to monitor any packet irrespective of its intended destination.

Specific Capabilities of Packet Sniffing

Packet sniffing can occur in different connection types. It happens on both wired and wireless networks. The wired network allows sniffers to monitor and access all connected machines on the network. The placement of switches can help reduce the access of these sniffers. While on wireless connections, channels can be accessed by individual scans, which can only be increased by expanding the interface.

In clearer terms, a sniffer can have direct access to almost any information about a user by sniffing their network. This is a grey area on the issue of network security because, in the hands of promiscuous sniffers, this access could be a threat. Unethical hackers with access like these to a user’s network can open such a user to high-level risks as sensitive information can be monitored illegally. Sensitive data like passwords sites visited and bank details can be obtained through sniffing, making it an illegal practice when done unethically.

Organisations too can be affected when illegal packet sniffers are installed on their networks and used to record data transmission. However, packet sniffing as a practice is used specifically for purposes such as limiting network infection, speeding up network operations and also cleaning up traffic on a network connection.

Some specific use of Packet Sniffing

As already stated, packet sniffing can be used for very different operations. From monitoring data operations to cleaning network traffic, packet sniffing has a lot of uses. Below, we list out some of the specific functions of packet analyzers and how they can be useful to individuals and organizations. Packet sniffers can;

  • Help users gather to report and statistical reports about a specific analysed network. 
  • They are usually the primary source of data needed for the monitoring, control and management of a network connection 
  • They help in verification of the effectiveness of an organisation’s control system like the firewall, spam filters, access controls, etc. 
  • They help to identify suspicious content on a network 
  • The packet sniffers identify data sharing across a network. This is important, especially for management to have organizational control, security and improved privacy. 
  • They also help in troubleshooting and analyzing network problems
  • They are also used to spy on network users and access their private information, and other available sensitive information depending on the level of network encryption present. 
  • Also useful for debugging client communications 
  • Packet sniffing is also important for analyzing traffic types and evaluating the different network flows. This is very relevant for information sourcing or categorization. 
  • Packet sniffers also monitor intrusion attempts and misuse of the network by users. 
  • One other use of the packet analyzer is in monitoring WAN; the bandwidth, the utilization and the endpoint security status. 

Just as the positive use of packet sniffing is highlighted above, it is essential to note that hackers and fraudsters can leverage the packet sniffing capacity and attempt to bypass network protocols to fish out private data. They collect packets of network traffic and transmissions. Information such as the CSS and HTML of web pages visited can be obtained. 

Types of Packet Sniffers

Lets Learn What Is A Packet Sniffer? Packet sniffers are usually lumped into two broad categories; hardware packet sniffers and software sniffers. Both types perform similar activities. The difference is in the platforms used. Let’s take a close look at both types and compare their differences.

 Software Sniffers

With an increase in software, cloud and online data networks, software sniffing and sniffers have increased greatly. Software sniffers manipulate configurations of network interfaces so that they receive all the traffic passing through its track. Usually termed a promiscuous mode of traffic interface and is frowned upon by many network adapters. After this reconfiguration, the packet sniffer separates, reassembles and logs all packets that pass through the interface despite the destination.

 Physical Packet Sniffer

 This type of sniffing can only happen when packet sniffers are plugged into a network to analyze. When the sniffer is properly plugged into the physical network the hardware packet sniffer can then detect, monitor and log packets through filtering and routing. The physical packet sniffer can perform two actions when in operation; they either store the packets identified or forward them to a log collector which then assists in storing and analyzing these packets.

Meanwhile, sniffing, which refers to the monitoring, storing and capturing of the different data packets through a network, can also be grouped into two. It is the process of a sniffer in operation. The two types of sniffing are;

  • Active Sniffing

  • This process occurs in the switch. It occurs when an Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) is launched against a switch to capture data. The switch controls data flow between endpoints on a network. 
  • Passive Sniffing
  • This data sniffing method only records and logs data but has no interaction with the traffic. Unlike active sniffing which happens in the switch, passive sniffing occurs in the hub. It is referred to as passive because sniffers have no real interaction with the data traffic, they just wait for the data to be sent before capturing them. 

How to avoid packet sniffing?

Lets Learn What Is A Packet Sniffer? Packet sniffing can sometimes be done illegally by hackers. For most people, this can be a way to illegally obtain data and other private information of individuals without their consent. Therefore, it is important to have proper knowledge on how to protect one’s self and data from illegal sniffing.

  1. Use HTTPS protocol: People generally say HTTPS is an upgrade of the HTTP protocol. The HTTPS protocol offers a higher level of security and encryption making it ideal and safe when surfing the internet.
  1. Use a VPN service: VPNs are Virtual Private Networks. They are the next best thing after hot bread. They help in data encryption, and privacy protection and establishes a security guard between devices used for internet operations and their destination on the internet. A VPN is essential for protecting one’s identity online and is also useful in accessing certain restricted sites.
  1. Update your security networks regularly: An update a day, keeps the sniffer away — just kidding. But seriously, updating your security networks regularly is essential in protecting your data from being accessed illegally. This is possible because of the regular patches and updates released by software providers to guard against intrusion.
  1. Ensure you’re not stealing public WiFi: One way to prevent being sniffed online and illegally, is by ensuring you only connect to wifi sources that you trust. Public networks are a soft den for network sniffers to gain access to anyone connected.
  1. Practise Smart browsing: Another important rule is to practise safe and smart browsing. Don’t go opening any and every mail you are sent. Avoid suspicious emails and most importantly, stay away from websites that you do not trust. Be vigilant and guard against falling prey to fraudsters on the internet.
  2. Antivirus can be your best friend: Antiviruses can be important in preventing intruders from breaking into a network system. A credible antivirus software will efficiently help uncover sniffers present on a network and provide the option of deleting them


Lets Learn What Is A Packet Sniffer? Packet sniffing, like most practise out there, has its advantages and disadvantages. When utilized rightly, it can be hugely beneficial to organisations and individuals. It can help speed up network operations and guard against network intrusion. It also helps to monitor traffic flow in and out of a network. However, when negatively used, packet sniffing can be an illegal venture. In the hands of scammers and fraudsters, it gives unauthorized data access to cyber criminals which can be exploited for selfish purposes. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are some known examples of how packet sniffing can be carried out?


  • Hacking into wifi networks and breaking through the security protocol 
  • Password sniffing attacks. This is usually done using infected documents, and other methods to breakthrough computer vulnerability. 
  1. What are some of the best packet sniffers known?


There are tons of packet sniffers, some include;

  • SolarWinds Netwirk Performance Monitor 
  • WinDump 
  • Wireshark 
  • NETRESEC Network Miner
  • Colasoft Capsa 
  • ManageEngine Netflow Analyzer
  • dSniffer
  • SkyGrabber
  • Carnivore software
Lets Learn What Is A Packet Sniffer?

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