How Do Network Sniffer Software Tools Work?

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Network sniffers, as their name suggests, work by "sniffing" at the bundles of data — which are what make up the internet traffic that comes from everyday online browsing and other activities online — that flow along a network of computers. The process, however, involves more than "sniffing"; network sniffers intercept, capture and analyze the data that are traveling to their destination in packets.

The sniffer then interprets the captured packets of data and consolidates them into information that humans can comprehend. The process is akin to eavesdropping on a conversation, but instead of sounds and words, sniffers are listening in on the streams of data. Also known as packet, wireless and Ethernet sniffers; packet analyzers; network probes; and snoops, sniffers are usually software tools but may also come in the form of hardware devices. Learn more about how they work to better understand how the internet works as a whole.