Packet capture and analysis is the most powerful technique that will be discussed in this book—it is the ultimate troubleshooting tool. If you really want to know what is happening on your network, you will need to capture traffic. No other tool provides more information.
On the other hand, no other tool requires the same degree of sophistication to use. If misused, it can compromise your system’s security and invade the privacy of your users. Of the software described in this book, packet capture software is the most difficult to use to its full potential and requires a thorough understanding of the underlying protocols to be used effectively. As noted in Chapter 1, you must ensure that what you do conforms to your organization’s policies and any applicable laws. You should also be aware of the ethical implications of your actions.
This chapter begins with a discussion of the type of tools available and various issues involved in traffic capture. Next I describe tcpdump, a ubiquitous and powerful packet capture tool. This is followed by a brief description of other closely related tools. Next is a discussion of ethereal, a powerful protocol analyzer that is rapidly gaining popularity. Next I describe some of the problems created by traffic capture. The chapter concludes with a discussion of packet capture tools available for use with Microsoft Windows platforms.
Packet capture is the real-time collection of data as it travels ...