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Packet Sniffing – Most of us might have heard this term either from a crazy hack-fiction movie or some report on malicious network attacks.

Well, judging by the name, it’s quite natural that we relate packet sniffing to something malicious but it’s not quite right when you understand it deeply.

A packet sniffing tool is a common accessory for network experts, security advisors to analyze the network and diagnose any network related issues or malicious breaches in the network.

While some of the malicious hackers use packet sniffers for analyzing someone else’s traffic and collecting sensitive information like passwords from your network bridge.

In this article, I won’t be covering how to attack your neighbor with these packet sniffing tools but will give you some basic intro on how these tools work and some free packet sniffing tools for Windows PC.

So, How Does Packet Sniffing Tools Work? A Packet sniffer can view and analyze a wide variety of information that is being transmitted over the network and it’s connected nodes. The packet sniffer can either be a software or hardware depending on the network infrastructure and can analyze sensitive information like usernames & passwords.

They scan both inbound and outbound traffic for all the information transmitted over the network. When the data passes through the system, it captures and stores it in memory to analyze it later.

The analyzed data is then converted to a human readable format so that the network experts can analyze the faults in their network. In layman terms, a packet analyzer is powerful enough to analyze all computers connected to a network and retrieve information like email contacts, messages, download history, browsing history and all audio/video activity on the network.

There are many types of packet sniffing like ARP sniffing, IP sniffing, MAC sniffing etc… So, technically, you can view and monitor all that is happening on your network. It’s pretty good to see who in your network is consuming more network traffic and what websites they’re visiting. Let’s see some free packet sniffing tools for Windows PC which are pretty powerful for home networks.

Wireshark is the most popular free packet sniffing tool for Windows and comes as both freeware and premium software with annual subscriptions. This tool is quite popular for its accuracy and flexibility and will give you an ability to see what’s happening on your network at a microscopic level.

Here are some of its popular features.

• Deep inspection of hundreds of protocols, with more being added all the time, thanks to the huge developer community.

• Live capture and offline analysis.

• Standard three-pane packet browser.

• Multi-Platform support. Apart from Windows, this tool can run on other operating systems such as Linux, OS X, Solaris, FreeBSD, NetBSD, and many other platforms.

• Captured network data can be browsed via a GUI, or via the TTY-mode TShark utility.

• Rich VoIP analysis.

• Decryption support for many protocols, including IPsec, ISAKMP, Kerberos, SNMPv3, SSL/TLS, WEP, and WPA/WPA2.

• Coloring rules can be applied to the packet list for quick, intuitive analysis.

• Output can be exported to XML, PostScript®, CSV, or plain text.

You can download this awesome tool from the official website – wireshark.org