Packet sniffing refers to the use of an appliance or program (known as a “packet analyzer”) to capture data packets or data units that cross a network. A network packet contains information about the user, its source and destination, and its user’s browser version, among others. Packet sniffing decodes the content of these packets for later inspection, but it cannot change it.
Through this mechanism, security engineers can analyze and monitor network traffic and determine if the packets are formatted as per Internet standards. By doing so, they can ensure that the packet contents are not forged or malicious.
Packet sniffing also ensures that a network is functioning correctly. It allows engineers to troubleshoot network latency or speed. It also assists in identifying the network’s traffic pattern or how traffic travels from one node to another.
Interestingly, nefarious actors also employ packet sniffing to steal user data. However, they can only accomplish this if security vulnerabilities exist in your network or if you use weak credentials for your accounts.