Wireshark is an open-source network protocol analyzer that allows users to capture packets and see protocols or web traffic on a network in detail to find out if there are anomalies or ongoing cyberattacks. Networking experts and software developers from different countries across the globe support the application as a go-to tool when investigating network traffic.

Launched by Gerald Combs in 1998, Wireshark provides a platform for practitioners to investigate network traffic and students to learn networking. It is designed for use in corporations, educational institutions, government agencies, and nonprofits.

Who should use Wireshark?

Wireshark allows a user to capture, inspect, and investigate network packets and troubleshoot better. An IT professional specializing in keeping network integrity and working in a government agency, large enterprise, small business, nonprofit, or university will find Wireshark a valuable tool. Students can also gain a better understanding of the subject by looking at the network traffic through the protocol analyzer.

How does Wireshark work?

Wireshark logs, tracks, and captures network traffic from local area network (LAN), ethernet, Bluetooth, and wireless connections. The tool identifies the applicable network protocols and provides information about the packets or network messages sent and received through those networks.

Wireshark monitors a comprehensive list of network connections that may be tracked. Using filters, users can select specific network packets to inspect and then start capturing them. The application displays the packets captured in real-time And once capture is complete, one can start analyzing the events in the network.

WireShark user interface.

Wireshark allows the user to see—at a very granular level—the details of the packets captured, including: number order of the captured packets, timestamp, the source or address system of the sender, packet destination, type of protocol (DNS, TCP, ARP, or DHCPv6), length of the packet, and packet content data.

With all the information in hand, IT can start tracing, identifying, or detecting specific cyberattacks on the network. This data provides valuable insights for security teams to build response strategies.

How does a business benefit from it?

As a powerful packet sniffer, Wireshark helps the IT team to keep the security of an organization’s network, ensuring a quick detection of threats and cyberattacks. Overall, it contributes to a company’s cybersecurity posture.

What are Wireshark’s features?

Wireshark offers several features, including protocol inspection, live capture, offline analysis, packet browser, display filter, VoIP analysis, and decryption support for different protocols (IPsec, ISAKMP, Kerberos, SNMPv3, SSL/TLS, WEP, and WPA/WPA2). It can run on multiple operating systems (OS), such as Windows, macOS, and Linux distributions.

Is Wireshark secure?

Like most packet sniffers, Wireshark’s security is as strong as the measures taken to protect a given network’s traffic.

What are alternatives to Wireshark?

Wireshark is designed as a professional tool for detecting anomalous network traffic, but students can also use the application to learn more about networking. There are also other alternatives to choose from, including SolarWinds, Network Performance Monitor, CloudShark, Sysdig, Colasoft, Mojo Packets, Omnipeek, SmartSniff, and Ettercap.

Kelvene Requiroso
Kelvene Requiroso is a writer and an enthusiast interested in the interplay between technology and everyday life. He writes for TechnologyAdvice, Baseline, eSecurity Planet, and Webopedia. Also a lover of science fiction and fantasy, he publishes an ongoing web novel series. He has previously worked with non-profits and non-government organizations in Manila, Philippines.

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