6.14 Ethereal

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It is useful to understand how a packet is constructed at the byte level (discussed below), but for practical purposes, tools such as Ethereal make packet analysis much easier. Ethereal (http://www.ethereal.com) performs packet sniffing on almost any platform, in real time and on saved capture files from other sniffers (NAIs Sniffer, NetXray, tcpdump, Airscanner Mobile Sniffer, and more). Many features are included with this program, such as filtering, TCP stream reconstruction, promiscuous mode, third-party plug-in options, and the ability to recognize more than 260 protocols. Ethereal also supports capturing on Ethernet, FDDI, PPP, Token Ring, X-25, and IP over ATM. In short, it is one of the most powerful sniffers available ”and it is free. Supported platforms include Linux (Red Hat, SuSE, Slackware, Mandrake), BSD (Free, Net, Open), Windows (9x/ME, NT4/2000/XP), AIX, Compaq Tru64, HP-UX, Irix, MacOS X, SCO, and Solaris.

Installation varies, depending on the platform. Because 98% of people using Ethereal employ a Linux distribution (such as RedHat) or a Windows operating system, we discuss only those platforms. For the most part, what works on one *nix operating system will work on another, with only slight modifications to the installation procedure.

Once Ethereal is loaded, it will present a three-paned screen. Each of the panes serves a unique purpose, and they present the following information.


Packet summary

This is a list of all the captured packets, including the packet number (1-65, 535), timestamp, source and destination addresses, protocol, and some brief information about the data in the packet.


Packet detail

This window contains more detailed information about the packet, such as MAC addresses, IP address, packet header information, packet size , packet type, and more. This is useful when you are interested in what type of data a packet contain, but you don't care about the actual data. For example, if you are troubleshooting a network, you can use this information to narrow down possible problems.


Packet dump (hex and ASCII)

This field contains the standard three columns of information found in most sniffers. On the left is the memory value of the packet; the middle contains the data in hex, and the right contains the ASCII equivalent of the hex data. This is the section that lets you actually peer into the packet, and see what type of data is being transmitted, character by character.

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Security Warrior
Security Warrior
ISBN: 0596005458
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 211

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