Packet Capture and Analysis is extremely useful for examining network interactions and identifying inefficient transmissions as well as dangerous cyber threats.

Packet Capture refers to intercepting and collecting a data packet as it travels over a network connection. Data packets are recorded and inspected to identify and manage network problems like high latency and glitches. The information acquired from packet analysis is used to assist a Network Administrator in troubleshooting and fixing network faults in a shorter amount of time.

Packet Analysis is used for some of the following tasks.

  • Detecting security risks
  • Troubleshooting DNS Issues
  • Identifying and Resolving Network Connectivity Issues
  • Detecting network glitches
  • Detecting and fixing packet leakage
  • Malware Detection and Prevention

It is possible to capture full data packets or particular segments of a packet. A full data packet consists of two parts: a payload and a header. The payload segment contains the packet's actual contents, whereas the header segment contains information such as the packet's source and destination addresses.

We have summed up a list of a few applications to perform Full Packet Capture and Analysis.

Let’s get rolling.

Colasoft Capsa

Capsa is a real-time portable network analyzer, monitoring, and diagnostics tool for both wired and wireless networks. Data Packet inspections can be scheduled to run at a specified time, such as regularly or monthly. Regular scans ensure that you don't miss any performance issues that arise. If you end up missing anything, email and audio alerts will notify you whenever a networking session requires your participation occurs.

Capsa assists the user in staying updated about vulnerabilities and threats that could result in a service disruption. All critical VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) metrics, such as call codec type and event distribution, are well-tracked using this tool. It's an excellent tool for individuals who want to engage in packet inspection and learn how to detect network issues and improve network security.

Features:

  • Free built-in utilities for creating and replaying packets, as well as scanning and pinging IP addresses.
  • Diagnoses network issues and recommend solutions automatically.
  • Supports VoIP and TCP flow analysis, which can be used to diagnose network issues such as slow response time and  CRM (Customer Relationship Management) transactions.
  • DDoS attack, ARP attack, and TCP port scanning can be detected, and it also allows the user to spot the technical glitches in the network.
  • This tool supports over 1800 protocols, making it simple to examine protocols in a network and comprehend what's going on.
  • It collects all data packets and shows full packet sequencing information in Hex, and ASCII format. (In-depth packet decoding)
  • Network traffic and throughput information can be displayed in graphs formats.

Colasoft provides other tools such as Network Performance Analysis System (nChronos) and Unified Performance Management Solution (Colasoft UPM). It provides a 30-day free trial to check the features before buying.

TCPDump

TCPDump is an open-source and powerful command-line packet analyzer tool that captures protocols such as TCP, UDP, and ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol). This tool comes pre-installed on all Unix-like operating systems. TCPDump is released under the BSD license. You can inspect the headers of TCP/IP packets easily with tcpdump. It outputs the information for each data transmission, and the script runs until you terminate it with the Ctrl+C option.

Tcpdump is very simple to set up, and if you learn the tool usage, flags, and arguments, you can use this tool to troubleshoot connectivity problems and secure the network. Recorded data packets will be saved in a file for further analysis with tcpdump. It saves the file in PCAP extension format, which can be easily inspected with the tcpdump or Wireshark that reads PCAP (abbreviation of packet capture) format files.

Features:

  • Filtering the captured data packets by source, destination, and protocol is possible.
  • Free and open-source

Here is an article on how to Capture and Analyze Network Traffic with tcpdump.

Paessler PRTG

One of the most popular network monitoring and traffic analyzing tools is Paessler PRTG Network Monitor. This tool provides crucial information on your network's infrastructure and its performance.

It is compatible with Windows. It includes a variety of monitoring options, including bandwidth monitoring and traffic analysis. A free version of Paessler PRTG is available. To report network performance metrics, it employs a combination of a packet sniffer, WMI, and SNMP.

Features:

  • Flexible alerting – PRTG has over ten designed technologies, including SMS, push notifications, emails, triggering HTTP requests, etc.
  • Multiple User Interfaces – built on AJAX with strong security requirements, highly performant attributable to Single Page Application (SPA) technology,
  • Cluster failover solution – To constitute a slightly elevated monitoring solution.
  • Maps and dashboards – Use real-time maps featuring current live information to visualize the network.
  • Distributed monitoring – Using Portable Interceptors, you can monitor numerous networks in various locations and multiple networks within your organization. 
  • In-depth reporting in the form of numbers, statistics, and graphs

This tool supports a variety of alert methods, including SMS, emails, and third-party connections to platforms such as Slack. PRTG is available in an unlimited version for 30 days. After the free period, it will revert to the free form.

Wireshark

Wireshark is a free and open-source packet analyzer that allows you to examine network data transmissions in real-time. This tool enables network managers to probe the network at a microscopic level in order to pinpoint the source of traffic problems and mistakes. It's a great tool that demands a solid understanding of networking concepts.

Features:

  • It practically works with any operating system, including Windows, Linux distributions, Mac OS X, etc.
  • Create reports based on current statistical data.
  • Filtering the output can be done with a variety of options, such as timers and filters.
  • Visualize network packets with IO graphs and charts.
  • It can also record USB traffic.
  • It offers a wide range of uses, including fingerprinting unauthorized traffic, packet filtering settings, and so on.
  • Color-coding rules can be applied to identify the types of traffic.
  • Detailed VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) research.

Lost data packets, network latency problems, Application dependencies, and Inefficient window sizes are the common troubleshooting challenges that Wireshark may help with. This tool allows you to monitor network traffic and provides mechanisms for searching and pinpointing the source of an issue.

Unicast (connectionless) traffic that isn't sent to the network's MAC address interface can also be monitored with the Wireshark tool.

Feel free to visit this article on troubleshooting Network Latency with Wireshark.

Arkime

Arkime operates in collaboration with the existing security system to collect and index network traffic and data transmissions in standard PCAP format.

All recorded data packets are stored and exported in ordinary PCAP format, allowing you to use your favorite PCAP ingesting tools, such as Wireshark or tcpdump in your analytic process.

PCAP retention is determined by the amount of sensor disc space available, whereas API retention is determined by the size of the Elasticsearch cluster. Both of these parameters can be changed at any moment.

Arkime is designed to work across several systems and scales to accommodate tens of gigabits per second of traffic. All PCAP format files that are saved on the Arkime sensors can be installed and can only be accessed via the Arkime web interface or API. PCAP files can be encrypted at rest with Arkime.

Features:

  • Provides a user-friendly web interface for examining, finding, and extracting PCAP files.
  • Free and open source
  • Allows other PCAP ingesting tools to inspect the saved PCAP files.

PCAP data and JSON-formatted transaction data can be retrieved directly through APIs. View the Arkime complete API documentation here.

Conclusion

Analysis of packet capture data usually demands a high level of technical expertise, which can be accomplished using these tools.

I hope you found this article very useful in learning the Full Packet Capture and Analysis tools for small to big networks.

You may also be interested in learning about the best Wi-Fi Analyzer Software tools.