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It is also known as a packet analyzer, network analyzer or protocol analyzer. It is a computer software or computer hardware which intercepts and logs traffic passing over a digital network or part of a network. As data streams flow across the network, the sniffer captures each packet and ultimately decodes and analyzes its content according to the appropriate RFC or other specifications. A packet sniffer is used to:

  • Analyze network problems
  • Detect network intrusion attempts
  • Gain information for effecting a network intrusion
  • Monitor network usage
  • Gather and report network statistics
  • Filter suspect content from network traffic
  • Spy on other network users and collect sensitive information such as passwords
  • Reverse engineer proprietary protocols used over the network
  • Debug client/server communications
  • Debug network protocol implementations