What Is a Sniffer and How Can You Prevent It?

WHAT ARE SNIFFING ATTACKS AND THEIR TYPES?

Sniffing is the process of monitoring and capturing all data packets that pass through a computer network using packet sniffers. Packet sniffers are used by network administrators to track data traffic passing through their network. These are called network protocol analyzers. Likewise, malicious attackers use these packet sniffing tools to capture data packets in a network.

Data packets captured from a network are used to extract and steal sensitive information such as passwords, usernames, credit card information, etc. The attackers install these sniffers in the system in the form of software or hardware. There are different types of sniffer tools used and they include Wireshark, Ettercap, BetterCAP, Tcpdump, WinDump, etc.

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There are two main types of packet sniffers:

Hardware Packet Sniffers

A hardware packet sniffer is designed to plug into a network and examine it. A hardware packet sniffer is especially useful when trying to see traffic for a specific network segment. By connecting directly to the physical network at the correct location, a hardware packet sniffer can ensure that no packets are lost due to filtering, routing, or other deliberate or inadvertent causes. A hardware packet sniffer stores the collected packets or forwards them to a collector which records the data collected by the hardware packet sniffer for further analysis.

Software Packet Sniffers

Most packet sniffers these days are of the software type. While any network interface connected to a network can receive every bit of network traffic that flows, most are configured not to. A software packet sniffer changes this configuration so that the network interface passes all network traffic up the stack. This configuration is known as promiscuous mode for most network adapters. Once in promiscuous mode, the functionality of a packet sniffer becomes a matter of separating, reassembling, and logging all software packets that pass the interface, regardless of their destination addresses. Software packet sniffers collect all traffic that passes through the physical network interface. This traffic is then logged and used according to the software’s packet detection requirements.

How does packet sniffing work?

When you travel on the network, our data is divided into small packets. The packets contain a lot of data about the sender, such as IP addresses, the nature of the request, and other content. This helps the packets reach their intended destinations and allows the recipient to identify and assemble them.

Authors can get hold of the packages and inspect them during their trip. Using packet sniffing software, they convert packet data into readable form. In a way, it sounds like wiretapping, where stalkers install a buggy chip in your phone to hear your conversations. With packet sniffing, this is done by setting up a virtual equivalent of a wiretap and analyzing the data piece by piece.

What are example uses for network sniffers?

For example, a network sniffer can monitor network usage and find someone using excessive bandwidth at a university or business organization. You can also use them to find Security holes in your environment. These are all legitimate uses of a network sniffer.

However, a common use for them today is black hat hacking. In the wrong hands, network sniffing tools can enable anyone with little or no hacking skills to monitor network traffic on insecure WiFi networks in order to steal passwords and other private information. This can give network discovery tools a bad reputation; however, there are still many legitimate uses for network sniffers.

Network packet sniffing can help improve your security, by performing network penetration tests by monitoring data and making sure it is encrypted. Other positive uses of network sniffers include:

  • Track down network traffic bottlenecks
  • Testing firewalls for network security effectiveness
  • Acquire statistical data on network bandwidth, availability, etc.

How to Prevent Sniffing Attacks

Untrusted networks: Users should avoid connecting to unsecured networks, which include free public Wi-Fi. These insecure networks are dangerous because an attacker can deploy a packet sniffer capable of sniffing the entire network. An attacker can also detect network traffic by creating his own dummy and free public Wi-Fi network.

Encryption: Encryption is the process of converting plain text into gibberish in order to protect the message from attackers. Before leaving the network, information must be encrypted to protect it from hackers sniffing into networks. This is achieved through the use of a virtual private network (VPN).

Network scanning and monitoring: Network administrators should scan and monitor their networks for suspicious traffic. This can be achieved through bandwidth monitoring or device auditing.

This article covers the answers to some of your frequently asked questions:

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