IT Security Outsourced IT

Packet Sniffing

What is Packet Sniffing?

When data has to be transmitted over the computer network, it is broken down into smaller units at the called data packets and reassembled on the receiver’s end in its original format. This data packet (aka- block, segment, datagram, cell) is the smallest unit of communication over a computer network. The act of capturing data packets across the computer network is called packet sniffing. Packet sniffing is similar to wire-tapping a telephone network. If data packets are not encrypted, a cyberattacker could extract password information and other details which could then be used to launch further attacks. While this tactic is mostly used by cyberattackers to collect information, illegally, about networks, it also is used by ISPs, advertisers, and governments. Packet sniffing is used in the following ways:

  • Cyberattackers use packet sniffing to steal credentials, data, or to inject malicious codes.
  • ISPs use packet sniffing to monitor their customers’ traffic, initiate bandwidth throttling, and to  track activities such as:
    • Email recipients
    • Email contents
    • Downloads
    • Websites visited
    • Content viewed on websites
    • Downloads form websites
    • Streaming activities
  • Advertising agencies or internet advertising agencies are paid according to the number of ads shown by them and the number of clicks on their ads, also called pay per click (PPC). In order to achieve their advertising objectives, agencies use packet sniffing to inject advertisements into the flowing packets.
  • Government agencies use packet sniffing to ensure security of data over the network and to track an organization’s unencrypted data.

Protect yourself from packet sniffing by doing the following:

Avoiding public Wi-Fi. Cyberattackers can set up their own routers and monitor all the network traffic that passes through them, which can include your login credentials and other sensitive information.

Using a secure HTTPS protocol. Use (safe and reliable) extensions that can turn HTTP into HTTPS.

Updating security software. Always keep your security software up to date by promptly applying patches and avoiding the use of legacy software that is no longer supported by the developer.

Avoiding clicking on links or messages. Clicking on links or messages, even those that appear safe, may allow cyberattackers to infect you with malware which hackers use for attacks.

Using a VPN service. A virtual private network (VPN) will encrypt your traffic and hide your IP, so no one will be able to inspect it and see what you do online.