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Your Complete Guide to Wireshark

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By: Olivia

June 21, 2017

You may know Wireshark as the ‘best network protocol analyzer in the world,’ but do you know how to use it? Being familiar with this popular tool can help you stand out on your resume, or can help you go further in your current IT role as it has plenty of benefits for users.“With more than 500,000 downloads a month, the IT industry has embraced Wireshark as the go-to tool for network troubleshooting, optimization, and security,” says TechTarget. Sure, it’s important to be able to configure a TCP/IP network, but understanding the inner workings of a network can set you apart as an in-demand network analyst.

What is a network packet analyzer?

A network packet analyzer (also known as a network analyzer, protocol analyzer or packet sniffer) is a computer program or piece of computer hardware that can intercept and log traffic that passes over a digital network or part of a network.You could think of a network packet analyzer as a measuring device used to examine what’s going on inside a network cable. Without it, understanding a network communication exchange would be almost impossible.As a refresher, the network protocol is comprised of 7 layers, of which Wireshark deals with 2 through 7. Essentially, Wireshark can decode most well-known protocols. For a refresher, review the OSI Model.

Why is Wireshark the best?

In the past, packet analyzers were very expensive or proprietary, but Wireshark has changed that. Those with the ability to use this tool have become a highly demanded. Not to mention, it offers a wide range of capabilities to those who utilize it.According to the Wireshark website, “It [Wireshark] lets you see what’s happening on your network at a microscopic level and is the de facto standard across many commercial and non-profit enterprises, government agencies, and educational institutions. Wireshark development thrives thanks to the volunteer contributions of networking experts around the globe and is the continuation of a project started by Gerald Combs in 1998.”

What is Wireshark used for?

On the surface level, network administrators use it to troubleshoot network problems, network security engineers use it to examine security problems and developers use it to debug protocol implementations. In general, it can be used to analyze network protocols.To get more specific, I’ll list some uses here:
  1. Capture and analyze frames and packets so you can identify what’s really happening on your networks.
  2. Gain insight about who or what is consuming the network resources and discover latency details.
  3. Verify by seeing the actual traffic such as protocols used, port and protocol numbers, header types, addresses, payloads, and more.
  4. Identify problems before users do using proactive analysis.
  5. Watch network communications or capture login credentials.
See an example of Wireshark in action, here:Keep in mind that Wireshark is not an intrusion detection system and cannot manipulate things on the network; it simply measures them.

Why should I learn Wireshark?

The need for highly skilled analysts with Wireshark knowledge is crucial for organizations who need to understand the inner workings of their networks. When a network problem can’t be solved, “you can be ‘that person’ who has taken the time to learn Wireshark and can now apply the skills to quickly capture and analyze the traffic in question.”Network traffic can actually be engaging to dissect, like Sudoku or a puzzle; not to mention with all its’ features, it can make your job much easier.

How can I learn Wireshark?

Sure, there are plenty of online tutorials, but if you really want to become a ‘Wireshark Guru,’ and truly learn the different capabilities of this tool, we recommend learning step-by-step with the Introduction to Wireshark Hands-On Lab. While other tutorials may show and tell you about the tool, this Wireshark lab walks you through the steps to perform the tasks yourself so you can learn by doing.

What is a virtual lab?

Virtual labs are pre-configured hardware layouts with accompanying lab guides for fast, convenient access that make studying for an exam or learning new technologies an engaging experience. Develop your comprehensive IT skills in a safe, working environment without the need to invest in your own hardware and software.
  • Practical Training on the Latest Industry Technology
  • Real Equipment, No Simulations
  • 6 Month Unified Access Available on Any Device
  • No Hardware or Licensing Costs

What will I learn in this lab?

If you are ready to lead proactive analysis of networks and solve ever-changing puzzles related to packets and users, this is the ideal skill enhancement tool for you.Because there is always something new to learn from the packets flowing through a network, most IT professionals get a thrill out of using Wireshark. In this lab, you will learn how to install and customize Wireshark, as well as how to work with and analyze captured traffic. The modules cover common ports and protocols, Wireshark functionality and packet sniffing using this tool.Lab exercises include:
  • Understand Common Ports and Protocols
  • Installing Wireshark
  • Wireshark Functionality
  • Customizing Wireshark
  • Working with Captured Traffic
  • Analyzing Captured Traffic
  • Analyzing Protocols
  • Packet Sniffing with Wireshark

To Summarize

Wireshark is a popular network packet analyzer that has a variety of benefits to those who use it. Learning the various capabilities of Wireshark makes you a more desirable professional, and is now easier than ever to learn with the Introduction to Wireshark Hands-On Lab, found in the Cybrary catalog.

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Olivia Lynch (@Cybrary_Olivia) is the Marketing Manager at Cybrary. Like many of you, she is just getting her toes wet in the field of cyber security. A firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword, Olivia considers corny puns and an honest voice essential to any worthwhile blog.
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