We're very impressed by the collective smarts of the security community and we highly recommend reading the whole list and investigating any tools you are unfamiliar with. Click any tool name for more details on that particular application, including the chance to read (and write) reviews. Many site elements are explained by tool tips if you hover your mouse over them. Enjoy!
Wireshark (known as Ethereal until a trademark dispute in Summer 2006) is a fantastic open source multi-platform network protocol analyzer. It allows you to examine data from a live network or from a capture file on disk. You can interactively browse the capture data, delving down into just the level of packet detail you need. Wireshark has several powerful features, including a rich display filter language and the ability to view the reconstructed stream of a TCP session. It also supports hundreds of protocols and media types. A tcpdump-like console version named tshark is included. One word of caution is that Wireshark has suffered from dozens of remotely exploitable security holes, so stay up-to-date and be wary of running it on untrusted or hostile networks (such as security conferences).
Read 33 reviews.
Latest release: version 1.12.7 on Aug. 12, 2015 (9 months, 3 weeks ago).
UNIX users often smugly assert that the best free security tools support their platform first, and Windows ports are often an afterthought. They are usually right, but Cain & Abel is a glaring exception. This Windows-only password recovery tool handles an enormous variety of tasks. It can recover passwords by sniffing the network, cracking encrypted passwords using dictionary, brute-force and cryptanalysis attacks, recording VoIP conversations, decoding scrambled passwords, revealing password boxes, uncovering cached passwords and analyzing routing protocols. It is also well documented.
Read 13 reviews.
Latest release: version 4.9.56 on April 7, 2014 (2 years, 1 month ago).
Tcpdump is the network sniffer we all used before (Wireshark) came on the scene, and many of us continue to use it frequently. It may not have the bells and whistles (such as a pretty GUI and parsing logic for hundreds of application protocols) that Wireshark has, but it does the job well and with less security risk. It also requires fewer system resources. While Tcpdump doesn't receive new features often, it is actively maintained to fix bugs and portability problems. It is great for tracking down network problems or monitoring activity. There is a separate Windows port named WinDump. tcpdump is the source of the Libpcap/WinPcap packet capture library, which is used by Nmap and many other tools.
Read 2 reviews.
Latest release: version 4.7.4 on April 22, 2015 (1 year, 1 month ago).
Kismet is a console (ncurses) based 802.11 layer-2 wireless network detector, sniffer, and intrusion detection system. It identifies networks by passively sniffing (as opposed to more active tools such as NetStumbler), and can even decloak hidden (non-beaconing) networks if they are in use. It can automatically detect network IP blocks by sniffing TCP, UDP, ARP, and DHCP packets, log traffic in Wireshark/tcpdump compatible format, and even plot detected networks and estimated ranges on downloaded maps. As you might expect, this tool is commonly used for wardriving. Oh, and also warwalking, warflying, and warskating, etc.
Read 1 review.
Latest release: version Kismet-2013-03-R1b on April 8, 2013 (3 years, 1 month ago).
Ettercap is a suite for man in the middle attacks on LAN. It features sniffing of live connections, content filtering on the fly and many other interesting tricks.
It supports active and passive dissection of many protocols (even ciphered ones) and includes many feature for network and host analysis.
Read 7 reviews.
Latest release: version 0.8.2-Ferri on March 14, 2015 (1 year, 2 months ago).
Netstumbler is the best known Windows tool for finding open wireless access points ("wardriving"). They also distribute a WinCE version for PDAs and such named MiniStumbler. The tool is currently free but Windows-only and no source code is provided. It uses a more active approach to finding WAPs than passive sniffers such as Kismet or KisMAC.
Read 3 reviews.
Latest release: version 0.4.0 on April 1, 2004 (12 years, 2 months ago).
This popular and well-engineered suite by Dug Song includes many tools: dsniff, filesnarf, mailsnarf, msgsnarf, urlsnarf, and webspy passively monitor a network for interesting data (passwords, e-mail, files, etc.); arpspoof, dnsspoof, and macof facilitate the interception of network traffic normally unavailable to an attacker (e.g, due to layer-2 switching); and sshmitm and webmitm implement active monkey-in-the-middle attacks against redirected ssh and https sessions by exploiting weak bindings in ad-hoc PKI. A separately maintained partial Windows port is available here. The suite suffers from the lack of any updates in the last decade, but it is still a great toolset for handling your password sniffing needs.
Read 4 reviews.
Latest release: version 2.3 on Dec. 17, 2000 (15 years, 5 months ago).
Ntop shows network usage in a way similar to what top does for processes. In interactive mode, it displays the network status on the user's terminal. In Web mode, it acts as a Web server, creating an HTML dump of the network status. It sports a NetFlow/sFlow emitter/collector, an HTTP-based client interface for creating ntop-centric monitoring applications, and RRD for persistently storing traffic statistics.
Read 2 reviews.
Latest release: version 4.0.3 on Oct. 24, 2010 (5 years, 7 months ago).
ngrep strives to provide most of GNU grep's common features, applying them to the network layer. ngrep is a pcap-aware tool that will allow you to specify extended regular or hexadecimal expressions to match against data payloads of packets. It currently recognizes TCP, UDP and ICMP across Ethernet, PPP, SLIP, FDDI, Token Ring and null interfaces, and understands bpf filter logic in the same fashion as more common packet sniffing tools, such as tcpdump and snoop.
Review this tool.
Latest release: version 1.45 on Nov. 28, 2006 (9 years, 6 months ago).
Featuring link layer, IP, and TCP modes, EtherApe displays network activity graphically with a color coded protocols display. Hosts and links change in size with traffic. It supports Ethernet, WLAN, FDDI, Token Ring, ISDN, PPP and SLIP devices. It can filter traffic to be shown, and can read traffic from a file as well as live from the network.
Review this tool.
Latest release: version 0.9.13 on May 5, 2013 (3 years ago).
NetworkMiner is a Network Forensic Analysis Tool for Windows. NetworkMiner can be used as a passive network sniffer/packet capturing tool in order to detect operating systems, sessions, hostnames, open ports etc. without putting any traffic on the network. NetworkMiner can also parse pcap files for off-line analysis and to regenerate/reassemble transmitted files and certificates from pcap files. In contrast to other sniffers like Wireshark, NetworkMiner's display focuses on hosts and their attributes rather than raw packets.
Read 1 review.
Latest release: version 1.0 on Feb. 5, 2011 (5 years, 3 months ago).
P0f is able to identify the operating system of a target host simply by examining captured packets even when the device in question is behind an overzealous packet firewall. P0f does not generate ANY additional network traffic, direct or indirect. No name lookups, no mysterious probes, no ARIN queries, nothing. In the hands of advanced users, P0f can detect firewall presence, NAT use, existence of load balancers, and more!
Review this tool.
Latest release: version 2.0.8 on Sept. 6, 2006 (9 years, 8 months ago).
inSSIDer is a wireless network scanner for Windows, OS X, and Android. It was designed to overcome limitations of NetStumbler, namely not working well on 64-bit Windows and Windows Vista. inSSIDer can find open wireless access points, track signal strength over time, and save logs with GPS records.
Read 11 reviews.
Latest release: version 4.1.0 on Jan. 22, 2015 (1 year, 4 months ago).
This popular wireless stumbler for Mac OS X offers many of the features of its namesake Kismet, though the codebase is entirely different. Unlike console-based Kismet, KisMAC offers a pretty GUI and was around before Kismet was ported to OS X. It also offers mapping, Pcap-format import and logging, and even some decryption and deauthentication attacks.
Read 1 review.
Latest release: version 0.3.3 on Feb. 7, 2011 (5 years, 3 months ago).