Packet Sniffer

Network Protocol Analyzer

Network Protocol Analyzer, what is it and what can it do for you? In this article, we will be talking about what these devices can do when it comes to system communication.


An established set of rules or laws put in place to determine the operation and transmission mode of data between numerous devices in a given network is defined as a network protocol. A network protocol essentially provides room for communication between each device in the system, irrespective of their difference in structure or design. Network protocols play a vital role in the luxury of individuals communicating with one another across the whole world, thereby playing a non-negligible role in the modernization of digital communication. 

Software tools used to capture digital activities and analyze the data gotten from a networks’ data traffic is identified as a Network Protocol Analyzer. It is the duty of network protocol analyzers to develop the network’s graphic map and likewise generate warnings in the form of alarms when the number of packets rises above a certain level or when unfamiliar packets types in the network activities. The use of network protocol analyzers in intercepting traffic and analyzing network traffic from their application is popular among developers, who mostly do this for HTTP protocol traffic. The volume and diversity of functions are dependent on the complexity of the Network Protocol Analyzer. However, it is compulsory for all analyzers and packet sniffers to have the ability to capture filter and analyze network packets data. Some network protocol analyzers are capable of displaying data that shows how the network is being utilized, as well as the rate of usage and visible errors, at the same time alerting the user to unusual activities. The main functions of a network protocol analyzer include; Packet capture from LAN and WiFi adapters, creation of network maps, option to program alerts according to preference, Filtering, Error rates on display, save data to a disk, anomaly alerts, in-built HTTP protocol analyzer, and decode SSL packets. 

Almost all network analyzers and sniffers follow a similar mode of operation and display an identical group of information; the difference that exists between sophisticated and straightforward network sniffers is that the former intercepts network traffic and data at the network driver level while the later switches the network card into a state referred to as the ‘promiscuous mode.’ This provides network sniffers and analyzers irrespective of the level of advancement to decode and intercept the SSL traffic. An excellent example of a network protocol analyzer for windows known for catching network traffic at the driver level and also giving the option of decoding the SSL traffic.

Network Protocols

Numerous types of protocols are dedicated to significant roles in communication with a variety of devices through the network. The protocols include:

  • The transmission control protocol (TCP): in the execution of communication over a specific network, TCP is a commonly utilized protocol. Messages are divided into strata of packets, sending them from source to destination, and finally reassembling them at the final destination. 
  • Internet Protocol: This protocol is specifically designed as an addressing protocol. Popularly used alongside TCP, the IP addresses in packets are responsible for routing the packets through different channels in a network until arrival at the destination system. The most popular protocol used in connecting networks is TCP/IP. 
  • User Datagram Protocol (UDP): in the absence of the Transmission Control Protocol, UDP is seen as a substitute when the goal is to create a link between different applications, one that is loss-tolerant and has a low level of latency. 
  • HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP): this was created to enable the transfer of hypertext between numerous systems. When creating the links in an HTTP, HTML tags are used. These links take the form of texts and images. HTTP, on client-server principles, is designed to allow the client system to establish a connection with the server machine, based on a request made. The petition initiated by the client is acknowledged by the server, and a proportional response is provided. 
  • HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS): this is a standard protocol dedicated to the security of communication between more than one computer, where the browser is designated to one computer, and the other fetches data from the webserver. HTTPS is mostly similar to HTTP; the only distinctive difference that exists is the secure and encrypted data format adopted by HTTPS. It is, therefore, say to say that https gives hackers a though time at interpretation or alteration of data during packet data transfers. 

Common Network Protocol Analyzers

When the aim is to troubleshoot secure, analyze, as well as maintain productivity and effective networking infrastructures, network protocol analyzers are the best tool of choice. Without network protocol analysis, network communication will be a total mess. To discover the cause or reason for a network device functionality or mal-functionality, a protocol analyzer is used to crawl through and expose the data and protocols that pass through the network. 

Some efficient and accessible network protocol analyzers in the tech industry include:

  • Wireshark
  • Tcpdump
  • Windump
  • Microsoft Message Analyzer
  • Ettercap
  • Nirsoft Smartsniff

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