Man on laptop using password sniffing techniques

Password Sniffing in Ethical Hacking and Its Types Explained

December 23, 2022
| Ryan Clancy |
Ethical Hacking
Sniffing is capturing data packets as they are transmitted across a network. Using a sniffer tool, you can capture sensitive information such as passwords and credit card numbers. Here we will discuss the different types of sniffing and the tools used for each type before discussing some tips for protecting yourself against sniffers.

What is Sniffing?

Sniffing is a process of capturing packets of data being sent across a network. The data can be captured on either a wired or wireless network. The most common type of sniffing is done with a packet analyzer, which is a software program that can capture and decode the data.

Wireless sniffing is especially difficult to detect, as it can be done from a distance and does not require attackers to physically connect their computers to the network (Cybersecurity Exchange, 2022).

What is Password Sniffing?

Password sniffing is a type of network attack in which an attacker intercepts data packets that include passwords. The attacker then uses a password-cracking program to obtain the actual passwords from the intercepted data.

Password sniffing can be used to obtain passwords for any type of account, including email, social media, and financial accounts. It is one of the most common types of attacks on both home and business networks.

What Is a Sniffing Attack?

Sniffing attacks are a type of network attack in which an attacker intercepts data packets as they travel across a network. Sniffing attacks can steal sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card numbers, or eavesdrop on communications.

Sniffing attacks are possible because most networks use shared media, such as Ethernet cables or wireless networks. This means that every computer can see all data packets sent across the network on the network. Using a packet sniffer, an attacker can see all the data passing through the network, including any unencrypted passwords or other sensitive information.

How Do Hackers Use Packet Sniffers?

Hackers use packet sniffers to steal information or login credentials through sniffing attacks. Attackers can use them to intercept passwords, email messages, and other sensitive data. Packet sniffers can also monitor internet activity and collect user data without their knowledge or consent.

There are several ways hackers can use packet sniffers. One common method is ARP poisoning, which allows hackers to intercept traffic meant for another computer on the same network. By redirecting this traffic, hackers can eavesdrop on conversations or collect passwords (Lifewire, 2022).

What is Active Sniffing vs. Passive Sniffing?

Active sniffing involves an attacker sending packets onto the network to disrupt or intercept communications. This can be done by flooding the network with traffic or targeting a particular user or device. Because active sniffing requires the attacker to generate traffic, it is more easily detected than passive sniffing.

On the other hand, passive password sniffing does not involve the attacker generating any traffic. Instead, they eavesdrop on existing traffic passing through the network. Attackers can do this by placing a device in promiscuous mode, which allows it to listen to all traffic on the network, or by using port mirroring to duplicate traffic and send it to the attacker. Because passive password sniffing does not generate traffic, it is more difficult to detect.

Types of Sniffing

When it comes to ethical hacking, sniffing refers to capturing network traffic to gain information that can be used to exploit vulnerabilities. There are various ways to perform sniffing, each with advantages and disadvantages.

  • Web Password Sniffing – Web password sniffing captures passwords sent over a network. By sniffing the traffic, an ethical hacker can see how passwords are transmitted and what information is being exchanged. This can be useful for identifying security vulnerabilities or for troubleshooting network issues.
  • LAN Sniffing – This type of sniffing is used to monitor traffic on a local area network (LAN). By using a packet sniffer, an ethical hacker can see all the data being sent and received by each device on the network. This can be useful for troubleshooting network issues or for gathering information about what devices are communicating with each other.
  • Protocol Sniffing – Protocol sniffing is similar to LAN sniffing but focuses on the protocols used to communicate between devices. By sniffing the traffic, an ethical hacker can see how data is transmitted and what information is being exchanged. This can be useful for identifying security vulnerabilities or for troubleshooting network issues.
  • ARP Sniffing – ARP (Address Resolution Protocol) is a protocol used to map IP addresses to physical addresses. By sniffing ARP traffic, an ethical hacker can see which IP addresses are mapped to which physical addresses. This can be useful for gathering information about network devices or troubleshooting network issues.

TCP Session Stealing – TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) is a protocol used for communication between devices on a network. By sniffing TCP traffic, an ethical hacker can see how data is transmitted and what information is being exchanged. This can be useful for identifying security vulnerabilities or for troubleshooting network issues.

Which Is the Best Defense Against Password Sniffing?

One way to defend against password sniffing is to encrypt your traffic which can be done with a VPN or by using SSL/TLS. Encryption will make it much more difficult for an attacker to read your traffic.

Another way to defend against password sniffing is to use a switch instead of a hub. Switches only send traffic to the intended port, while hubs send traffic to all ports, meaning an attacker would only see traffic meant for their device.

What is a Sniffer App?

A sniffer app is a type of software that can be used to intercept and log network traffic. This type of sniffing tool can be used for legal and illegal purposes, depending on how it is configured and used.

Network administrators typically use sniffer apps to monitor network activity and identify potential security threats. However, malicious individuals can use sniffer apps to steal sensitive information like passwords or credit card numbers.

What Makes Password Sniffing a Threat?

Password sniffing is a threat because it can lead to the theft of sensitive information, such as login credentials and credit card numbers. Password sniffing can be used to eavesdrop on network traffic or to physically intercept data transmitted between devices.

When passwords are sniffed, the attacker can access the victim’s account and impersonate them. This can lead to financial loss or the disclosure of confidential information.

There are several ways that attackers can sniff passwords. They may use specialized hardware, or they may use software that is installed on a computer that is already on the network. Once they have access to the network traffic, they can use several methods to decrypt the passwords.

How the Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH) Can Help Grow Your Skills

If you’re interested in learning ethical hacking, packet-sniffing attack techniques, and how to use various tools to analyze data and look for vulnerabilities, then EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacking (C|EH) course can help you learn everything you need to know about hacking techniques, attack vectors, and sniffing methodologies. Acquire the knowledge and skills to defend against sniffing attacks and protect your organization.

References

Cybersecurity Exchange. (2022, June 12). What Are Sniffing Attacks, and How Can You Protect Yourself?

https://www.eccouncil.org/cybersecurity-exchange/ethical-hacking/what-are-sniffing-attacks/

Kaspersky. (2018, August 6). What is a Packet Sniffer? Www.kaspersky.com. https://www.kaspersky.com/resource-center/definitions/what-is-a-packet-sniffer

PagerDuty. (2022, September 19) Network Sniffers: What Are They and How Can I Use Them?  

https://www.pagerduty.com/resources/learn/what-are-network-sniffers/

About the Author

Ryan Clancy is a writer and blogger. With 5+ years of mechanical engineering experience, he’s passionate about all things engineering and tech. He also loves bringing engineering (especially mechanical) down to a level that everyone can understand. Ryan lives in New York City and writes about everything engineering and tech. 
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