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What Are Sniffing Attacks?

A modern tool of the present age cyber criminals is a packet sniffer, a piece of software or hardware. They use packet sniffers to capture data traffic during the flow of data packets through the computer network. Sniffing attack refers to the unauthoritative monitoring and interception of network traffic. Both hardware and software applications are available for this kind of cyber attack

Packet sniffers read sensitive data like unencrypted financial information, email messages, and login credentials. So, there is nothing fishy about email phishing and network sniffing is one of the real reasons behind it. There are even incidents where hackers use this technique to inject harmful codes into data packets thereby, attempting to hijack the concerned computer. DNS poisoning, spoofing, DHCP, and JavaScript card attacks are prime examples. 

What Are Sniffing Attacks
Sniffing Attacks

Two Kinds Of Sniffing Attacks

Sniffing attacks are broadly categorized as active and passive. 

Passive sniffing

A hacker doesn’t interfere with the traffic flow through a network while closely monitoring it. This is called a passive sniffing attack useful for gathering the targeted network’s information including its data types. Such attacks arouse relatively less suspicion in the target system due to the lack of interference from packet sniffer’s end. 

Active sniffing

In active sniffing, hackers or packet sniffers send crafted packets to single or multiple targets within a network. The objective behind it is the extraction of sensitive data. This method allows cyber criminals to overtake the measures of cyber security and infuse their target systems with malicious codes. These codes facilitate control over sensitive information in the target systems, to steal them. 

What Damages Do Sniffing Attacks Cause?

  • The following list is a reminder of the harmful consequences an organization may face due to a sniffing attack:
  • Leakage of sensitive data like email messages, financial details, and login credentials.
  • Attackers’ control over confidential data through the injection of malicious code.
  • Slow network performance due to communication problems resulting from network traffic intervention.
  • Exposure of proprietary data, trade secrets, and such other confidential information.
  • Damage to the organization’s reputation that compromises with the security of its network. 

How To Detect Sniffing Attacks?

Given here are a handful of techniques for detecting the detrimental sniffing attacks to maintain cyber security

Ping method

This method may not be very reliable but there is no harm in trying it. The technique involves the ping request of the affected machine’s IP address. There are chances of the sniffer machine to answer to the ping request while it is still running.

ARP method

Sending a non-broadcast ARP to the suspect machine causes the latter to capture and cache it. This response is a clue for detecting a sniffing attack. 

Local host

This procedure utilizes logs for identifying whether a machine is prone to sniffing attack or not. 

Latency method

Latency method analyzes the possibility of attacks based on the ping time duration. The usual length of a ping time is short but an increase in it detects the presence of sniffer interference. Its load causes the target machine to take relatively more time in responding to pings. 

ARP watch

It is the setting of alarms for the machine to provide alerts whenever the network shows a duplicate ARP cache. 

Intrusion detection

IDS (Intrusion Detection System) is an effective tool to monitor a network’s ARP spoofing. The system records data packets with spoof ARP addresses within networks. Switching to HTTPS, SSH from HTTP, using encryption tools, adding gateway MAC address to ARP cache permanently, are other solutions. 

How To Prevent Sniffing Attacks?

The following methods are very effective in safeguarding data through preventing the occurrence of sniffing attacks:

Network monitoring

Regular network monitoring is always helpful in detecting the connection of unauthorized devices to it or dubious activities. The use of proper tools is essential to figure out potential sniffing attempts. 

Two-factor authentication

The implementation of 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication) offers an extra protective layer of data security. It enforces a second step for verification of the unauthorized accessors on the network. 

Password strength

It is a normal tendency of packet sniffers to attack login credentials of their targets. The use of unique and strong passwords assures enhanced security to online accounts. It would be wise to implement a password manager for creating and securing robust passwords. 

Email attachments

Not all email attachments are safe and so a recipient must always verify the sender identity before downloading them. Clicking on such attachments or links makes way for hackers to deliver malware into the network. 

Firewall protection

The configuration of a firewall on the network router or system is a powerful means to prevent sniffing attacks. It acts as a security layer against the unauthorized access of outbound or inbound traffic on a network. 

Device update

Updating web applications, browsers, and the operating system is an age-old but valuable precautionary step. Regular updates comprise security patches that detect and address vulnerabilities which otherwise are exploited by cyber criminals. 

Secure networks

Cautious selection of Wi-Fi networks is an essential step. Public networks such as those available at airports or cafes, are susceptible to sniffing attacks. It is safest to use the workplace or home network after having secured it with WPA3 or WPA2 encryption. VPN encryption is necessary for protecting traffic on public networks. 

Encrypted connections

Sniffers find it tough to decode encrypted data transferred from a device to its required destination. VPN (Virtual Private Network) connections are applicable to internet traffic security. Use TLS and SSH for enforcing safety in email services and remote connections, respectively. Encryption protocols like HTTPS are just perfect for protecting web browsers. 

To delve deep into the cyber security hacks and become a professional in them, several training programs are available. CISSP Certification Training and many other such courses are there for aspirants to choose from. Data security is an ever-evolving domain with businesses whether big or small, resorting to IT procedures. So, individuals desiring to etch their careers in this domain need not struggle for employment opportunities. Their demand is never-ending. 

Posted in Cybersecurity

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