We stand with Ukraine to help keep people safe. Join us

Tags Data Protection

What is Packet Sniffing?

Sniffing is a technique that can help users detect the traffic flow through their network and capture all the data flowing to and from your computer. Although this doesn’t sound harmful on a first read, it can also be abused for the purposes of eavesdropping. Protect your privacy online with Clario VPN. Navigate the internet and avoid any nosey spies trying to watch in on what you are doing.

Table of contents

What is network sniffing software used for?

On their conception, sniffers were created for legitimate purposes and had good intentions. While they can still be used in this way, it is common for this helpful tool to be manipulated for wrongdoings. Take a look below at the good and the bad uses for sniffers:

The good

  • Network engineers can use sniffers to analyze the traffic on their network and restructure their platform for optimum speed and efficiency.
  • Employers may deploy sniffers to monitor their employees at work. This is an easy way for them to determine whether employees are spending sufficient time on their work or if they are too busy googling cats.
  • Security support teams can detect unusual amounts of traffic or irregular types of traffic which can identify possible threats. Hackers will often be detected by security teams by the irregularity of traffic when the hacker is present.
  • System administrators can use sniffers as troubleshooters. By identifying where the traffic is most slowed down, it can help them highlight issues that need solving in the chain.
  • White Hat Hackers can be hired by companies to hack their own networks in order to test their network security systems currently in place and discover potential gaps or flaws in their security systems.

The bad

  • Cybercriminals will exploit online sniffers to gain access to private and confidential information. Since sniffers can detect all the traffic going to and from your device, hackers can gain access to any important credentials shared over email and instant messages.


Criminals will try to get you to download their malicious sniffers by sending potential targets to infected websites, or by using phishing scams to penetrate your device. Once criminals have gained access to your personal data it can lead to you being doxxed or held at ransom.

How does packet sniffing work

There are two main of sniffing techniques that can be used. Which one is used all depends of the type of network attempting to be sniffed.

Passive sniffing

Passive sniffing is the simplest form of sniffing. It is deployed on network hubs which connect multiple different devices together under one network. As the hub ensures all devices receive all types of traffic, sniffers do not need to be advanced to be deployed into this network as they will receive all the data being shared between receivers.

Active sniffing

The more devices connected to a hub can slow down the performance due to the increased levels of traffic. Network switches can be installed to ensure that each device is only receiving the intended data. Active sniffing will need to breach these switches by sending increased levels of traffic into the network. While this is a more aggressive process it makes it much easier to identify the presence of a sniffer due to the spike in traffic levels that can be easily detected.

How to detect a packet sniffer

While sniffers can be tricky to detect, there are a few signs to keep an eye out for which can help you figure out if a sniffer is present on your network.


  • Sudden loss of storage space: While sniffers rely on stealth, they often have to store their data they are collecting somewhere - this makes them easier to identify, as if you see your storage space has depleted much more significantly than it should have, you might have found yourself a sniffer.
  • Unexplainable processes: Sniffers will often leach onto your user account on your PC to begin operating. A good thing to help you identify a sniffer is if you can see unexpected processors operating on your account.

How to prevent network sniffing

Preventing sniffing can be tricky but it is not impossible. Below are some of the most helpful tips and tricks to keep you safe from potential harmful sniffers:


  • Install security software. The easiest way to defend against online hackers is by reinforcing your security. Finding a reputable provider who can back you up against the dangers of the internet can be the most reliable way to try and fend off the pesky scammers.
  • Encrypt your data using a VPN. Encrypting your data is the wisest solution to ensure any attacks that do breach your security systems will be in vain. Data with an encryption is useless to online scammers which makes it a handy way to protect your private information.
  • Don’t visit unencrypted domains. Keep an eye out for the padlock in the URL of websites you are visiting online. This symbol shows that the domain is protected and you won’t need to worry about information being leaked when using the website — alternatively the HTTPS URLs also indicate that the website has been verified and secured from data leaks.
  • Don’t use public Wi-Fi. As tempting as it can be to connect to the shopping malls free public access Wi-Fi network, this can often be a hotbed for potential sniffer attacks seeing as the amount of potential targets that may access this network on a daily basis. The best way to keep your data safe is staying off Wi-Fi networks which don’t require a password.
  • Stay away from unencrypted messaging apps. Stick to the well known messenger apps on your phone such as Telegram, WhatsApp, and Viber to make sure the information your are sending to your friends and family is 100% secure.


Keep yourself and your data safe online with a trusted security provider like Clario. Not only do you gain access to top-of-the-line antivirus software designed to identify any potential threats before they become a problem, but with Clario’s VPN you can rest easy knowing as your online browsing session is protected and your data is encrypted. Clario’s built-in browsing protection will safeguard you on your online sessions and keep you safe from potential phishing scams, and let you know when any websites have been infected or any attachments are too suspicious to download.


Keep sniffers away from your valuable data and gain access to a dedicated support team of experts, ready to assist you 24/7.

Keep reading