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What is Sniffing Software?

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  • Written By: H. Bliss
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2016
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Programs that tap into a computer network with the purpose of intercepting data traveling between two network machines are called sniffing software. This type of software program can be used to intercept and interpret data on a computer or network, including browser passwords, chat programs, user settings and network traffic. Sniffing software can also be known as a packet scanner, a packet analyzer or a network analyzer. Types of this software include Internet protocol (IP) sniffing software, hypertext markup language (HTML) sniffing software, port scanners, and packet sniffing programs. Software used for network sniffing is most often used legitimately by network administrators to identify the source of communication problems among different network machines.

When network traffic should be flowing but is not flowing properly, sniffing can help the person responsible for maintaining the network gather more information that can help solve the problem. Network problems can occur on the entire network, with specific servers, or when data transfers only among specific network machines. Using software made for network data analysis, the administrator can determine the nature of the problem, the machines affected by the problem and determine computer and network settings which could be contributing to network slowness.

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Sniffing can be done through a wireless connection, or it can be performed using software installed on a computer that is part of the wired network. Common programs used for sniffing include Carnivore ™, snoop™ and SkyGrabber™. Not all sniffing is done using sniffing software. Network administrators often have hardware scanners that perform network analysis. Hardware that analyzes network data includes Bluetooth™-based sniffing devices and analysis hardware that taps straight into a computer port.

Though sniffing software is usually used by networking professionals to analyze and troubleshoot network traffic, it can also be used for criminal purposes. Viruses embedded in downloaded software can include sniffing viruses that record and interpret data entered into the computer. Many data sniffing viruses are designed to glean passwords and financial information from computers that have been infected with data sniffing viruses.

Most people use the term "sniffer" to refer to any packet analyzing software, but the word Sniffer™ is trademarked by Network Associates, the maker of the Sniffer Network Analyzer. The term sniffer came into common use because a common non-trademarked slang term for the act of using packet analyzing software to listen in on network traffic is "sniffing," and when a user operates sniffing software to listen in on network traffic, he is said to be using the software to sniff the connection.

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Discuss this Article

Ghazali Amir
Post 5

Based on this article/information about the definition of "Sniffing Software", is there any internet connection that can guarantee a "really secured connection"?

anon211467
Post 4

How do I know if someone is using sniffing software to look at my computer's sent information?

Is there any software that can be used to counter this information grab?

For things like banking and online shopping, are there encryption programs enough to keep your information safe, or can this be easily looked at as well?

I send a lot of important information from my home, is this secure if I use a password?

How to use a very secured connection? Is there any organization that really used a completely secured connection?

Finally is there any "really secured connection"?

manykitties2
Post 3

How do you know if someone is using sniffing software to look at your computer's sent information? Is there any software that can be used to counter this information grab?

I don't feel comfortable knowing that my data can be so easily read when sending it between computers.

For things like banking and online shopping, are there encryption programs enough to keep your information safe, or can this be easily looked at as well?

I know that there is a lot of worry about data theft these days, and I would like to avoid becoming a victim. I send a lot of important information from my home, is this secure if I use a password?

animegal
Post 2

If you use WiFi to access the Internet make sure you are running through a secure connection. You will now it is secure if it asks for a password and there is a lock by the WiFi connection name.

Sniffing software is easy for anyone to use and download and if you are at a WiFi Internet cafe, the chance of someone having a program like this running is pretty high.

Good sniffing software can pick out passwords and things like credit card number.

Whenever you are on an open WiFi signal, never do anything you wouldn't want other people to see or give information you wouldn't want everyone to know.

anon87505
Post 1

Great post! Network sniffer is one of the most important tools that a network administrator must have. Capsa Network Sniffer is what I'm using for network management. It is really good.

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