AÂ snifferÂ is a software program used by IT administrators to monitor network usage, investigate network problems, investigate network misuse and abuse, identify configuration issues and determine the state of a networkâ€™s security. Sniffers ultimately decode the data so it is readable in words, numbers and computer code.
Note that last part: â€œdetermine the state of a networkâ€™s security.â€Â That is a big one. This is because while good-guy IT security professionals use sniffers to determine the security of a network, bad guys also use them to see your data as it travels from your device to the router communicating the wireless internet signal.
Unsecured, unprotected, unencrypted and sometimes shared wireless internet communications over Wi-Fi in your home, office or any publicly connected Wi-Fi (such as at a coffee shop, airport or hotel) are vulnerable to sniffers. A sniffer employed by a criminal can be used to spy on anything you communicate wirelessly. Criminals can steal your data, get your usernames and passwords, and potentially hijack your deviceâ€¦and your life.
The kind of data that is most vulnerable to sniffers is that which is unencrypted; this can include something as simple as files being copied and pasted or shared from one device to another. Any information coming through your browser that isnâ€™t coming from or going to a website employing encryption designatedÂ HTTPSâ€”theÂ SÂ meansÂ secureâ€”is also vulnerable.
On wireless connections that arenâ€™t properly securedâ€”such as those public ones I mentioned earlierâ€”your best line of defense is to use a virtual private network softwareÂ that protects your identity by ensuring that all web transactions (shopping, filling out forms, downloads) are secured through HTTPS.Â Hotspot Shield VPNÂ is a good one to use. Itâ€™s secure, free to you (supported by ads) and available for PC, Mac, iPhone and Android.
Robert SicilianoÂ is an Identity Theft expertÂ consultant toÂ Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author ofÂ 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was StolenÂ See him discussing internet and wireless security onÂ Good Morning America. Disclosures