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What Is IP Sniffing?

By Adrem Siratt
Updated May 17, 2024
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Internet Protocol (IP) sniffing refers to analyzing the traffic on a network. This can be limited to analyzing the traffic coming from a single computer on the network or to every computer on the network. IP sniffing intercepts packets of information on the network. This method can be used for a variety of different things.

This process can be used to detect possible intrusions on the network. By analyzing the traffic on the network, a user can detect whether or not an unauthorized user has attempted to gain access. This method can also be used for determining if authorized users on the network have been violating the network terms of use.

Other uses for these programs involve filtering out certain types of content and connections from the network. This can be used to increase the security of a network or to limit users' access to certain types of content. Network administrators may use these programs to block connections to instant messaging services or specific websites.

IP sniffing can also be used by malicious users to steal information from other users. By intercepting network traffic, a malicious user can analyze the packets of information sent to websites. This can result in a user's account security being compromised.

The potential misuse of IP sniffing requires that users be cautious when using an insecure network. While many websites provide encrypted connections for user logins, some do not and others use antiquated encryption that can be cracked. This may result in a user's information being stolen by a malicious user.

In order to minimize the potential for malicious users to steal information, users should only log into websites on networks that are known to be secure. For 802.11 Wi-Fi users, networks that feature Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) or WPA2 encryption are generally thought to be secure. This type of encryption prevents the majority of the threat that comes from IP sniffing.

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are used by remote users to ensure that their connection to a network is secure. The use of this type of software can further reduce the potential danger of malicious users using IP sniffing programs. This type of software works by encrypting all of the information that is sent between the client computer and the server. This helps to ensure that no information passed through the connection can be used by a malicious user.

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Discussion Comments
By rjh — On Apr 29, 2011

That's a good point @lapsed. I know on my Macbook I can click the Airport symbol in the top corner and see three different networks in my area. One of them isn't encrypted.

There are two kinds of WPA2 encryption, Personal (may be listed in your router settings as WPA-PSK) and Enterprise (WPA-802.1x). For home use, Personal should suffice. Enterprise is typically used for business networks and requires a more complicated setup.

By lapsed — On Apr 26, 2011

If you've noticed your internet running slower than usual then make sure you do as suggested in the article and encrypt your network. Open networks are very easy for your neighbors or someone close by to access and use your internet. Some routers come with encryption already set up, but make sure to use a dynamic password because a lot of these have standard passwords like "admin" or "password" and internet savvy people know this leaving you wide open. Just something to consider.

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