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What is PacketHound?

By Ken Black
Updated May 17, 2024
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PacketHound is a software tool that seeks out, monitors and regulates traffic on the Internet, especially certain types of traffic. The goal of PacketHound is to ensure network traffic, whether over the Internet or a local area network (LAN) continues to run smoothly. PacketHound is an especially useful tool for networks that become bogged down through the downloading of large files.

PacketHound, while perhaps being in a niche market, fills a rather large niche market. Some universities are especially attracted to what the software package has to offer. One of the things PacketHound was designed to do is monitor, and perhaps limit if the software owner so chooses, the downloading of mp3 files. College students are among the heaviest downloaders of mp3 files, especially in the form of digital music, thus explaining why colleges find it so appealing.

These downloads not only slow the traffic down but also open up the university to other costly liability issues. For example, if a university student uses the college's network to illegally download copyrighted files, the university runs the risk of being named in a lawsuit, along with the student. Usually, the greater risk is for the university simply because the students often have very little money. The lawyers are more likely to see the benefit in going after the provider who made the download possible than after the person who actually did the downloading.

PacketHound is different than normal firewall protection, which uses a port-blocking strategy to block unwanted sites. A port, in this instance, is an address connected to a program on a computer. With relatively little skill, ports can be changed by those who have the knowledge to do so and thus firewalls can be averted. PacketHound uses a different strategy that is not to easy to fool.

Exactly how PacketHound works is something of a mystery. The developers of the software have refused to say how it is able to identify some types of software downloads, though it is known the software is able to get information from the request and response flow on the network. Maintaining that mystery also makes it more difficult to skirt around.

If PacketHound detects a software packet that is prohibited, it will block that packet from going to the requester. Instead, it will send the packet back to the computer it originally came from. The user receives an error message that says, "Connection reset by host." Because PacketHound works on the network servers and not personal workstations, users without network administration capabilities have a very limited ability to subvert the software.

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