Ask Leo: Just how easy is it to sniff network traffic?


By Leo Notenboom

I have read many articles on strangers/others sniffing on our network traffic or whatever we call it; in fact, it often appears in your newsletters. But what does it take to sniff on others network usage? How do people really do it? Do we need hacker tools or should we be a network geek or is it so simple that any Tom, Dick and Harry can do it? Somehow, I’m not able to understand how can others see what we are browsing on the internet right now. What does it mean when you say the ‘unprotected data’ is available for others to read it? I am not going to do anything illegal, I am just very curious!

It’s very easy

There’s at least one tool that makes it easy to take over someone’s social media connection if they happen to be logged in unprotected in an open WiFi hotspot.

Did I mention that it’s easy? It’s a Firefox browser add-on. If you can add an add-on, you can do this.

Other tools are typically fairly geeky, but they are well known and typically also free.

So with your laptop and free software, you too can start sniffing network traffic.


You know I’m going to start this with a big old disclaimer: I am not advocating that you use these tools to do anything illegal or immoral. And, depending on where you are, simply firing up these tools and looking at data flying by might be considered illegal. You’re totally on your own to understand the laws and implications in your area.

That being said, there are often very legitimate uses for what are called “packet sniffers” and as such, these tools are well known. While I’ll definitely be vague about some of the the how-to steps, even if I went into it in detail, I wouldn’t be revealing anything that isn’t publicly available elsewhere.

Should you decide to do or learn more, please remember to use your skills for good, not evil.

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This post is excerpted with Leo’s permission from his blog.

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