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What Does a Network Sniffer Do?

A network sniffer is either a pre-programmed hardware device or an independent software program that monitors data as it travels over a network. Network sniffers are also called Network probes or snoops. The function of a network sniffer is to take snapshots of network traffic without modifying or redirecting it. Network sniffers work with different configurations and protocols including TCP/IP and Ethernet.

Traditionally, Network sniffers were considered to be sensitive tools, in use by network engineers. However, they have found more widespread use among Internet hackers, for network analysis. As a result, sniffer applications are much more accessible and available on the wider Internet for instant download.

Key Aspects of Building Network Sniffer

A network sniffer is built around a number of considerations. The type and number of network protocols supported by the network sniffer and presentation of results to users are all part of enabling users with access to information that matters to them.

Network Sniffer

Network sniffers must be able to effectively capture data snapshots and save it to designated locations as files. Lastly, the operating system for deploying the network sniffer is a major factor.

What are Some Well-Known Network Sniffer Tools?

Network sniffer software applications that have been in the market for some years include GlassWire, CloudShark, WireShark, tcpdump, and Microsoft Message Analyzer for Windows. However, some former network sniffers such as Microsoft Network Monitor or Bloodhound have become obsolete. In fact, Microsoft Network Monitor has been replaced by Microsoft Message Analyzer.

What is the Most Popular Network Sniffer Available?

Wireshark is the most widely accepted network sniffer. Formerly known as Ethereal, it is an open source application software and displays color-coded traffic performance data. The graphical representation consists of valuable information about the underlying protocol.

WireShark displays a numbered list of Ethernet frames with color coding to specify packet protocols including UDP, TCP or some other protocol. Messages streams are groups to enable message transfer between different sources and destinations. Message streams can also be mixed with network traffic.

Wireshark supports traffic capture functions through a single button push. It also supports filtering mechanisms to display only relevant data. Filtering mechanisms keep captured traffic free from control messages.

What Type of Issues Might You Come Across with Network Sniffers?

A network sniffer quickly demonstrates how network protocols work. However, certain ethical considerations are important when accessing private information such as passwords when employing a network sniffer. Accessing external networks through network sniffers must be ideally preceded with the permission of the network owner or administrator.

Some restrictions are also attached to network sniffers. For example, they only have access to data that belongs to networks consisting of the host computer. In particular cases, network sniffers are capable of capturing traffic addressed to a network interface. However, Ethernet network interfaces in the promiscuous mode pick all traffic passing over a network.

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