Wireshark – Top Packet Sniffer

Packet Sniffer

In this article, we will learn about one of the most prevalent packet sniffers in the market today-Wireshark. At depth, we will examine this packet analyzer, state its strengths and limitations, then justify its current position and popularity in the market.

Brief Recap on What Packet Sniffers do

As the term suggests, Packet sniffers are hardware or software components installed in a network to intercept data in transit copy it. Once you install a Wireshark sniffer in your network, the Network Interface Card should be set to promiscuous mode. This way, all sorts of traffic in the network will be captured by the analyzer, and the network administrator would stand a better ground in enhancing security, performance, and bandwidth management.

Why choose Wireshark?

While there are numerous packet sniffers in the market-both paid and free, it can be challenging to pick one, especially if you are new to this field. 

Wireshark is a free, open-source, and promiscuous packet tracer. This means that it is easy to acquire, and it accepts all the packets it receives. The analyzer is currently available to various operating systems- Windows, Linux, macOS, Solaris, NetBSD, and FreeBSD and thus its popularity.

The Wireshark protocol analyzer is famous for its data capture abilities and analysis proficiencies.

Data Capture

 Wireshark analyzers can be instructed to capture data flow in only a limited scope of the network or the entire network. The dynamic set of filters capable of these analyzers will give a network administrator the option to narrow down sniffing to a specific data route instead of traversing through the entire network.

Additionally, Wireshark’s ability to follow a stream of data has successfully and advantageously set it apart from its competition. In case you wish to trail a stream of data, Wireshark lets you follow an entire conversation by following the TCP stream.

Data Analysis

Wireshark provides an in-depth analysis of all the packets you are concerned with. You can easily decode hundreds of protocols captured in real-time and displayed in a human-readable format. Wireshark uses color-coding schemes to sample individual packets and analyze them conspicuously. By default, light purple represents TCP traffic, light blue-UDP traffic, and black for erroneous packets. 

Other inbuilt features evident with Wireshark protocol analyzers include;

  • User-friendly GUI and command-line interfaces
  • Engaging community support
  • Gzip decompression and multi-protocol decryption support
  • Ability to capture live packets from ethernet sniffing
  • Analyzes VoIP data as well
  • Live capture and offline analysis

Limitations with Wireshark Packet Analyzers

Learning Curve

Unlike other packet analyzers, Wireshark is not as intuitive in parsing and filtering data. This makes its learning curve a little more hectic and intimidating, especially for beginners. To top that up, it is quite unfortunate the analyzer does not offer any demo or free trial to practice on. 

Data Collection

Wireshark analyzers will collect data only if it is on a server with a desktop installed. This requirement inhibits use by most users because desktops are not very common on servers. Therefore, system admins prefer to use tcpdump or windump to capture data in traffic, then transfer it to Wireshark for analysis.


Wireshark is the world’s most used network packet analyzer. Commercial agencies, non-profits, learning institutions, and even government agencies have used it. It is free to download and use, and its licenses are issued by the GNU General Public License version 2. 

As an open-source tool, Wireshark analyzers can face challenges in upgrading and configuration. However, it has remained a favorite among security engineers and network administrators for almost a decade now. Download Wireshark here.

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