What Is Wireshark? - ITU Online

What is Wireshark?

Definition: Wireshark

Wireshark is a powerful open-source network protocol analyzer used for network troubleshooting, analysis, software development, and education. It captures and interactively displays the data traveling back and forth on a network in real-time, providing detailed insight into network traffic and protocols.

Overview of Wireshark

Wireshark, originally known as Ethereal, was created by Gerald Combs in 1998. It is widely used by network administrators, security professionals, developers, and educators to understand network behavior, diagnose problems, and test network protocols. Wireshark supports hundreds of protocols and runs on various operating systems including Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Key Features of Wireshark

  • Packet Capture: Wireshark captures packets from a network connection and displays detailed information about each packet.
  • Deep Inspection: It provides deep inspection of hundreds of protocols, giving users the ability to analyze the minutiae of network traffic.
  • Filtering and Search: Users can set filters to view only the traffic of interest and use search features to find specific data within captured packets.
  • Visualization: It offers various visualization tools, such as flow graphs and IO graphs, to help users understand traffic patterns and identify issues.
  • Extensibility: Wireshark can be extended with plugins and scripts, enabling customized analysis and protocol support.
  • Export Options: Captured data can be exported in various formats, including plain text, XML, PostScript, and CSV.

Benefits of Using Wireshark

Wireshark provides several advantages that make it an essential tool for network analysis:

  • Troubleshooting Network Issues: It helps diagnose network problems by providing detailed insights into packet flows and protocol interactions.
  • Security Analysis: Wireshark is crucial for identifying security threats, such as unauthorized access and malware communication, by analyzing network traffic.
  • Protocol Development: Developers use Wireshark to debug and develop new network protocols, ensuring they function correctly.
  • Educational Tool: It serves as a valuable educational resource for students and professionals learning about network protocols and data communication.

Uses of Wireshark

Wireshark is used in various scenarios, including but not limited to:

  • Network Troubleshooting: Identifying and resolving network performance issues, packet loss, and latency problems.
  • Security Investigations: Analyzing suspicious network activities and investigating potential security breaches.
  • Protocol Analysis: Debugging and verifying the implementation of network protocols.
  • Performance Testing: Measuring and analyzing the performance of network applications and services.
  • Compliance Auditing: Ensuring that network communication adheres to compliance standards and regulations.

How to Use Wireshark

To use Wireshark effectively, follow these steps:

  1. Install Wireshark: Download and install Wireshark from the official website (https://www.wireshark.org/).
  2. Capture Traffic: Launch Wireshark and select the network interface to capture traffic. Click the “Start” button to begin capturing.
  3. Apply Filters: Use capture filters to limit the traffic captured and display filters to refine the view of captured data.
    • Capture Filter Example: tcp port 80 (captures only HTTP traffic).
    • Display Filter Example: ip.addr == (displays traffic to or from a specific IP address).
  4. Analyze Packets: Click on individual packets to view detailed information, including the packet’s headers and payload.
  5. Use Visualization Tools: Utilize Wireshark’s graphs and statistics tools to visualize traffic patterns and identify issues.
  6. Export Data: Save the captured data or export it in various formats for further analysis or reporting.

Features of Wireshark in Detail

Packet Capture

Wireshark’s packet capture feature allows users to record live network data. This data can include everything from Ethernet frames to TCP segments and higher-layer protocols. Packet captures are invaluable for diagnosing network problems, verifying protocol implementations, and conducting security analyses.

Deep Protocol Inspection

Wireshark supports deep inspection of a wide variety of protocols. Users can drill down into the details of each packet to see the headers and payloads of each layer. This capability is essential for understanding how protocols interact and for troubleshooting specific protocol issues.

Filtering and Search

Filters are a core feature of Wireshark, enabling users to focus on specific types of traffic or conditions. Capture filters define what traffic Wireshark captures, while display filters refine the view of the captured data. For instance, a capture filter might limit traffic to only TCP packets, while a display filter might focus on packets from a specific IP address or with a particular TCP flag set.

Visualization Tools

Wireshark offers several visualization tools to help users make sense of network data:

  • Flow Graphs: Visual representations of packet flows between network endpoints.
  • IO Graphs: Graphs showing packet counts, bytes per second, and other metrics over time.
  • Protocol Hierarchy: A breakdown of captured traffic by protocol, showing the proportion of traffic each protocol represents.


Wireshark’s functionality can be extended through plugins and scripts. Plugins can add support for new protocols or enhance existing features. Lua scripting allows users to automate tasks and create custom dissectors for proprietary protocols.

Export Options

Wireshark supports exporting captured data in several formats, making it easy to share or further analyze the data with other tools. Export formats include plain text, CSV, XML, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions Related to Wireshark

What operating systems does Wireshark support?

Wireshark supports a variety of operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, and Unix. This wide compatibility ensures that users can utilize Wireshark on their preferred platform.

How can I apply a display filter in Wireshark?

To apply a display filter in Wireshark, type the desired filter expression in the filter bar at the top of the Wireshark window and press Enter. Display filters refine the view of the captured data, showing only the packets that match the filter criteria.

Can Wireshark capture packets from remote systems?

Yes, Wireshark can capture packets from remote systems using various methods, such as remote capture interfaces or tools like SSH and rpcapd. This allows for network analysis on systems where Wireshark is not directly installed.

What are some common use cases for Wireshark?

Common use cases for Wireshark include network troubleshooting, security analysis, protocol development, performance testing, and compliance auditing. Wireshark’s comprehensive features make it a versatile tool for various network-related tasks.

Is Wireshark free to use?

Yes, Wireshark is free to use. It is open-source software released under the GNU General Public License (GPL), which allows users to freely download, use, and modify the software.

All Access Lifetime IT Training

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Total Hours
2626 Hrs 29 Min
13,344 On-demand Videos

Original price was: $699.00.Current price is: $289.00.

Add To Cart
All Access IT Training – 1 Year

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Total Hours
2626 Hrs 29 Min
13,344 On-demand Videos

Original price was: $199.00.Current price is: $139.00.

Add To Cart
All Access Library – Monthly subscription

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Total Hours
2626 Hrs 29 Min
13,344 On-demand Videos

Original price was: $49.99.Current price is: $16.99. / month with a 10-day free trial