What is Wireshark?

Wireshark is the industry standard tool for packet sniffing. Most IT people have heard of it, but few understand what it does or how to use it.

The funny thing is that if you stuck to the graphical interface, you could learn Wireshark basics in just a few hours. You can use it to check on a theory you might have about a network issue or build an entire career using this tool to help companies plan network upgrades and justify changes to their topology or entire design.

In this post, we’ll dive into what is Wireshark and why it’s a must-learn tool.

What is Wireshark?

Wireshark is a free and open-source network protocol analyzer software. You may hear it referred to as a packet sniffer, which is essentially the same thing. It’s widely used for network troubleshooting, analysis, and development. It is available for operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, and others. Wireshark allows users to capture and analyze network traffic in real time and provides a detailed view of the packets that are sent and received on a network.

Wireshark can analyze a wide range of network protocols, including TCP, UDP, HTTP, FTP, DNS, and many others besides. You can use powerful filtering and searching capabilities to dive deep into the packets, even into the binary information, thus allowing users to find and isolate specific network traffic easily. In addition, Wireshark can generate various reports and statistics based on the captured network traffic, making it a useful tool for network administrators, developers, and security professionals.

wireshark graph

Wireshark is designed to be easy to use, with a user-friendly interface that allows users to capture and analyze network traffic quickly. It is also highly customizable, with a variety of options and settings that can be configured to suit different network environments and user preferences.

What is a Packet Sniffer?

I first heard of packet sniffing when I was working for Cisco. A customer asked me to capture some network traffic using a packet sniffer, and I had to find out what they did.

A network packet sniffer is a type of software or hardware device that captures and analyzes network traffic as it passes through a network. Packet sniffers work by intercepting and analyzing packets of data that are transmitted over a network, allowing users to inspect the contents of each packet and gain insight into the behavior of the network.

Packet sniffers can be used for various purposes, including network troubleshooting, security analysis, and performance optimization. By capturing and analyzing network traffic, packet sniffers can help users identify issues such as high latency, packet loss, congestion, and security threats.

Packet sniffers capture packets of data as they pass through a network interface, either by using specialized hardware or by installing software on a computer. The captured packets are then analyzed and processed, often using filtering and searching capabilities to isolate specific types of network traffic.

It is important to note that packet sniffers can be used for both legitimate and malicious purposes. While they can be a powerful tool for network administrators, developers, and security professionals, they can also be used by attackers to capture sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and other confidential data. As such, it is important to use packet sniffers responsibly and cautiously.

What is Wireshark Used For?

There is an almost limitless list for Wireshark, and just when you think you have found all the available features, you discover another. Wireshark even has its own command line!

As a network or security engineer, Wireshark will be one of your go-to tools. You can use it for:

  1. Network troubleshooting: Wireshark can be used to diagnose and resolve network issues by capturing and analyzing network traffic. It allows you to inspect packets in real-time and detect issues such as high latency, packet loss, and congestion.
  2. Network security analysis: Wireshark can be used to detect and analyze security threats, such as malware, viruses, and network intrusions. It allows you to monitor network traffic and detect suspicious behavior.
  3. Network performance optimization: Wireshark can be used to optimize network performance by analyzing network traffic and identifying bottlenecks, such as network congestion, slow response times, and bandwidth issues.
  4. Protocol development and testing: Wireshark can be used to develop and test new network protocols by analyzing packet flows and simulating different network conditions.
  5. Educational purposes: Wireshark can be used to teach students and network professionals about network protocols and how they operate. It allows users to capture and analyze network traffic in real time and learn about network behavior and performance.

Wireshark Certification

It’s becoming harder and harder to stand out from the crowd when trying to get into IT or even a job promotion.

I strongly recommend you add Wireshark certification to your list this year. You can learn it in a week, and much of your study time will be practical-based, so you won’t have to read through endless dry textbooks. It’s easiest to learn by exploring each feature in the menu system.

You can install Wireshark onto a virtual machine and capture live traffic or download Wireshark sample packets from their website. This will let you examine deep into how protocols and services such as DHCP work. You can see the sent and received messages and how IP information is allocated to a host on a network.


The Wireshark certification is called the WCNA or Wireshark Certified Network Analyst. The WCNA Certification Exam was DoD 8570 certified by the U.S. Army in 2009, which is essential for any US Government job or contract. The certification exam lasts 90 minutes and covers the domains:

  • Wireshark Functionality

  • TCP/IP Network Communications

  • Network Troubleshooting

  • Network Security

Although certifications such as the CompTIA Network+ cover TCP/IP, you won’t get a better understanding than by taking the WCNA exam.

This is one of the labs from our 101 Labs – Wireshark WCNA course.


no shadow WCNA

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