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A sniffer is a program which captures and analyses packets of data as it passes across a network. They are used by network administrators who wish to analyse loading across network segments, especially where they suspect that spurious packets are 'bleeding' from one network to another.

The other use of sniffers is by connecting to the Internet then capturing data; such data can include user names and passwords. However, crackers who deploy sniffers usually target sniffers at a strategic position e.g. at the gateway between the target system and another network; through this gateway will pass all the login names and passwords. Having said that, most modern systems will ensure that the username and password is encrypted prior to transmission such that the sniffer will not yield such information 'on a plate'.

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