What Is Packet Sniffing? Understanding The Invisible Threat

How’d you react if someone else was monitoring all your online activities? Despite how thrilling browsing on the Internet seems, your privacy and security are constantly under threat. While you might be tip-toeing from cyberattacks, attacks like packet sniffing are a lingering yet, avoidable threat. Has this already got you curious about “What is packet sniffing?”

What is Packet Sniffing

To dive deeper, let’s learn about packet sniffing and how it can be prevented. Keep reading!

Pressed for Time? Here’s the Gist!

  • Packet sniffing monitors data packets for accuracy and security.
  • Tracks IP addresses, divides and reassembles packets.
  • Active sniffing overloads networks to bypass restrictions.
  • Passive sniffing covertly observes data flow.
  • Hackers gather sensitive data; detect it with network monitoring.
  • Applications include troubleshooting and detecting malicious codes.
  • Preventive measures: Trusted VPNs, HTTPS sites, strong antivirus.
  • Sniffing for gain is a hacker attack; unauthorized sniffing is illegal.
  • Sniffer is also a packet analyzer; it detects unusual traffic.
  • Balance network analysis with risks, use VPNs and practice online safety.

What Is Packet Sniffing?

This is the process of monitoring, gathering, and logging network packets through network traffic inspection via a packet sniffer (packet analyzer). These packet sniffers are in both – hardware and software forms.

This tool mainly detects and monitors the information traveling through a network. It helps network administrators ensure that the data moving in the network is correct and safe. They can use it for tasks related to networking and also for making sure the network is secure from cyber threats.

While a packet analyzer can be a valuable tool for network analysis and troubleshooting, it is essential to be aware of its potential misuse. In the wrong hands, it could be used to gain access to sensitive information such as your name, address, and banking credentials.

How Does Packet Sniffing Work?

A packet sniffer recognizes and monitors the information going through a network. It helps network administrators ensure that the data moving in the network is correct and safe. They can use it for tasks related to networking and also for making sure the network is secure from cyber threats.

When browsing online, our information travels via the network and gets divided into smaller pieces, known as data packets. These packets contain various information about their origins, including their IP addresses, the requests they make, and other information.

With the aid of this configuration, the packets are guided to their intended destinations, where the receiver may assemble them and ascertain their contents.

Types of Packet Sniffing Attacks

Having a look into the working of it, a packet sniffing attack can be of 2 types:

  • Active Sniffing

This method is used in networks with switches so that a packet’s designated recipient is the only one who can view its contents. However, hackers might attempt to bypass this restriction by flooding the network with excessive activity.

  • Passive Sniffing

While over 37% of cell phones globally have been a target of eavesdropping – imagine this as a covert form of electronic eavesdropping or spying. And detecting this packet sniffing type can be challenging. A hacker might join and covertly watch the data flowing via this central point when many devices connect to your Local Area Network (LAN) or wireless arrangement.

How Do Hackers Use Packet Sniffing? Can Packet Sniffing Be Detected?

Hackers can use packet sniffing to covertly monitor a network and gather essential data being carried inside it. They can access passwords and other sensitive information if the data packets are not encrypted, which they might use to launch further assaults.

Speaking of that, 80% of all data breaches in 2019 were attributable to weak passwords, resulting in considerable monetary losses for individuals and organizations.

For a better understanding, let’s take an example of a packet sniffing attack. A hacker penetrates a corporation’s network through packet sniffing techniques. Through this, the hacker can easily steal the data of potential employees and access their accounts.

With this unauthorized access, the hacker could adopt the identity of the compromised employee, reaching out to coworkers under false pretenses and gradually gaining escalated privileges.

Following this, the situation could escalate and pave the way for a sophisticated phishing campaign. Wherein the hacker crafts convincing messages resembling legitimate communication from the compromised employee.

In these deceptive messages, they might request colleagues to share confidential information or manipulate them into interacting with malicious links.

What Does Packet Sniffing Do? Packet Sniffer Examples

A packet sniffing could be used for both – network problem diagnosis and malicious activities.

Here are the use cases of packet sniffing:

  • Accessing personal data (banking details, passwords, or login credentials).
  • Network specialists use it to spot network issues and check incoming network data for malicious codes.
  • Administrators may use the application to monitor how their staff uses the network and to alert them if any potentially harmful programs or URLs are encountered.
  • Monitoring business activities and fetching confidential data.
  • Internet service providers can sniff packets to observe customers’ activity and limit bandwidth usage.

How to Prevent Packet Sniffing?

The prevalence of packet sniffing and other forms of cyberattacks has only led to the perception of the Internet not being a safe space anymore. But that’s not it. Despite a soaring bar of online malicious practices, you can mitigate these threats in numerous ways. To mention a few, here’s how you can prevent packet sniffing:

  • Use a Trusted VPN

All communication within a virtual private network (VPN), both incoming and outgoing, is encrypted. And by adding an extra layer of security through data encryption, attackers are forced to decode the data before it can be used, which is difficult.

Especially if you invest in a trusted VPN, like FastestVPN – you’re guaranteed to stay clear from attempts of malicious activities.

It becomes difficult for any potential attacker attempting to intercept data to view the visited websites or the information being transmitted and received.

  • Visit Websites With an HTTPS Protocol

When browsing online, you’ll interact with two types of website protocols, HTTP and HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure). The latter only signals a safe user interaction with an online site. Simply put, all engagements on an HTTPS site guarantees complete data encryption.

On the other hand, sites with HTTP protocol don’t ensure the same level of security and data protection. Making you an apparent victim to packet sniffing.

  • Ensure Endpoint Protection

When computers, laptops, and mobile devices are connected to networks, security threats like packet sniffers, which may quickly enter an organization’s network, become a threat.

As the percentage of connected devices increases, the prevalence of Internet of Things malware has risen to an unprecedented high of 112.3 million instances in 2022, an increase of 87% from the year before.

Employing a powerful antivirus program that can combat malware by identifying unwanted computer components, such as a sniffer, is essential as a preventative precaution.

FAQs - What is Packet Sniffing?

Is packet sniffing a hacker attack?

Packet sniffing can be used for various purposes; however, if the goal is to collect private information for malicious gains - it’s a hacker attack.

Is it illegal to packet sniff?

Packet sniffing without permission is illegal. For example, if a hacker steals personal information for personal gains, such as stealing banking credentials is purely illegal.

A packet sniffer is also called what?

A packet sniffer is also called a packet analyzer. It’s a piece of software or hardware that monitors a network’s traffic.

Can packet sniffing be detected?

Yes, packet sniffing can be detected through various methods and technologies. For example, you can detect this sniffing by witnessing unusual traffic on your network or receiving emails from unknown users.

Final Note

Packet sniffing is crucial for detecting and analyzing network trends. Also, it can resolve certain security weak spots that need to be resolved. However, if used by hackers, sniffing can threaten your personal information.

To mitigate this attack, ensure using a trusted VPN, like FastestVPN, and connect to a server that helps you disguise your original location.

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