What is a Packet sniffer? How does it work?

What is a Packet sniffer?

A packet sniffer or packet analyzer is a computer program that allows data traffic on a network or network segment to be viewed and analyzed. Computer’s data transmitted over an IP network travels through that network in the form of packages. Each computer in a network has a unique address, IP address. Data packets are addressed so that the package can be redirected to the correct destination(s). Also, a package contains the address of the computer that sent it.

If a computer is equipped with a packet sniffer between the controlling and receiving system, all packets can be read. Other systems will not notice anything, the packet sniffer only listens. The incoming packages often save the packet sniffer into a file so that viewing and analyzing it becomes possible. Packet sniffers often offer extensive possibilities here.

How does packet sniffing work?

Encryption is a hot topic in today’s market.Encryption is used to prevent packet-sniffing attacks. As said earlier, packet sniffing enables the attacker to look at transmitted content and may disclose passwords and secret data.

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To use sniffing software, a hacker must have a promiscuous network card and specific packet driver software must be connected to the network section they want to sniff and must use sniffer software. By default, a network interface card (NIC) in a machine will regularly drop any traffic not destined for it. By placing the NIC in promiscuous mode, it will see any packet passing by it on the network wire. In order for a sniffer to gain traffic, it must physically be capable of capturing it. On switched networks, where each network drop is its own collision domain, packet sniffing by attackers can be more complex, but not impossible.

Packet-sniffing attacks are more popular in areas where several machine hosts share the same collision domain (such as a local LAN shared over an Ethernet hub) or over the Internet where the attacker might include a sniffer in between the source and destination traffic. For example, on a LAN, a limited privileged user may sniff traffic starting from an administrative account, hoping to get the password.

There are many open source sniffing tools, including tcpdump (or WinDump, the Windows version) and the easier-to-use Ethereal (www.ethereal.com).