Have you heard of packet sniffers? Packets are the basis on which computers and devices communicate on a network. Networks are governed by protocols, the most common of which is Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). All computers and devices on the network must follow the “rules” of HTTP. This ensures that they can communicate with each other, assuming they are connected to the same network. There are packet sniffers, however, that can intercept their communications.

The Basics of Packet Sniffers

Packet sniffers are tools used to detect and analyze data sent over a network. Also known as protocol analyzers, they are commonly in cyber attacks. A nefarious individual may use a packet sniffer to see what data you send and receive over a network. You may assume that your data is private, only for the packet sniffer to capture it.

Packet sniffers aren’t used exclusively for cyber attacks, though; they are commonly used for troubleshooting as well. If there’s a problem with your business’s network, you may want to use a packet sniffer to troubleshoot it. The packet sniffer will record information about the way in which computers and devices communicate with each other. Among other things, the packet sniffer may reveal the destination addresses, payload and control information. You can use this information to troubleshoot the problem with your business’s network.

How Packet Sniffers Work

You can operate a packet sniffer in passive or active mode. The former involves the packet sniffer passively analyzing network traffic. In other words, the packet sniffer will sit back while listening to the traffic on the network.

In active mode, on the other hand, the packet sniffer will listen to the network traffic while also sending its own packets. The packet sniffer will essentially try to communicate with the computers and devices on the network by sending them packets. Upon receiving these packets, the computers and devices will respond with their own packets.

Legitimate uses for packet sniffers include troubleshooting and performance optimization. According to Cybersecurity Insights, 42% of respondents have used a packet sniffer to optimize their network’s performance. If your business’s network has been slower than usual, you may want to try a packet sniffer yourself.

Packet Sniffer Attacks

There are legitimate applications for packet sniffers, and there are nefarious applications for them. As previously mentioned, packet sniffers are used in cyber attacks.

Hackers may use a packet sniffer to capture data sent on your business’s network. The packet sniffer will read the contents of the data packet, allowing the hacker behind the attack to view certain types of data.