The Ethereal Packet sniffer

Ethereal is wonderful. It might at first hand be thought of as a hackers tool perhaps, but I have never used it as such and find it vastly useful. I have used it to diagnose all kinds of maladies in distributed applications, as well as to reverse engineer poorly documented protocols in network enabled products. There is no end to the things you might want to do with it.


Almost the first thing you will want to do, once you begin looking at packet traffic is to use a filter to limit what you are looking at. The first thing to avoid being confused by is the fact that ethereal has two kinds of filters with different syntax (Ugh!), namely capture filters and display filters. I typically fiddle with capture filters.

Capturing Packets

You will need to run ethereal as root (this is essential because the ability to put the network card into promiscuous mode and capture all traffic is limited to root). Also if you are on a switched network you will see only the traffic that the switch thinks you need to see, an old fashioned shared media hub and a few cables can be handy for many experiments you might want to perform. Click capture->start and you will be looking at a Capture Options popup. I essentially always click the option to Update list of packets in real time and go. The set a capture filter, there is a little entry box in this window to do so.

Example Capture Filters

Feedback? Questions? Drop me a line!

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