Wireshark - a boring network analyzing tool?

Labeled by Aleks as a “rather standard” tool with “not much application in hacking”, we had a hard time proving the opposite. There are a few astonishing, easy to exploit weaknesses of broadcasting networks that can be made visible and it is a great tool to look for a starting point for hacking. So, let’s dive into it!

What is Wireshark?

Wireshark is a complete package filled with network analysis tools. Wireshark is not only a packet sniffer but also a packet analyzer, password hacker, and a firewall. It can also detect any denial of service attack on your network and can identify possible hacker. Wireshark is also used sometimes as a tool to detect if anyone is spying on you.

Capturing packets

By selecting the name of interface on the opening window we can see the packets captured on screen and packets captured by wireshark are in real time.The packets are captured as shown image

Filtering packets:

Filtering is used to identify a specific packet. For example, you can filter a traffic received by your browser or from an application. You can also filter packets going through protocols such as DNS, HTTP or TCP. How the packets can be filtered is shown Filter. By clicking on packets and selecting follow stream will automatically add a filter of that packet and Wireshark will show all the packets related to it.

The internet is organized in layers

The OSI model (Open System Interconnection) model defines a computer networking framework to implement protocols in seven layers. A protocol in the networking terms is a kind of negotiation and rule in between two networking entities. The OSI model uses layers to help give a visual description of what is going on with a networking system. OSI model helps to narrow down problems in network, for instance it can show whether it is physical issue or something with the application.

Physical layer

The Physical layer is also called as the Layer 1. Here are the basic functionalities of the Physical layer:

  1. Responsible for electrical signals, light signal, radio signals etc.
  2. Hardware layer of the OSI layer.
  3. Devices like repeater, hub, cables, ethernet work on this layer.
  4. Protocols like RS232, ATM, FDDI, Ethernet work on this layer.

The data link layer is also called as the Layer 2 of the OSI model. Here are the basic functionalities of the data link layer:

  1. Responsible for encoding and decoding of the electrical signals into bits.
  2. Covers electrical signals into frames
  3. The data link layer is divided into two sub-layers
    • The Media Access Control (MAC) layer
    • Logical Link Control LLC layer.
  4. The MAC sub layer controls how a computer on the network gains access to the data and permission to transmit it.
  5. The LLC layer controls frame synchronization, flow control and error checking.
  6. Devices like ethernet work at this layer

Network Layer

The Network layer is also called as the layer 3 of the OSI model. Here are the basic functionalities of the network layer:

  1. Switching and routing technologies work here.
  2. Creates logical paths between two hosts across the world wide web called as virtual circuits.
  3. Routes the data packet to destination.
  4. Internet working, error handling, congestion control and packet sequencing work at this layer.
  5. Different network protocols like IP, IPX, AppleTalk work at this layer.

Transport layer

The Transport layer is also called as the layer 4 of the OSI model. Here are the basic functionalities of the Transport layer:

  1. Responsible for the transparent transfer of data between end systems
  2. Responsible for end-to-end error recovery and flow control
  3. Responsible for complete data transfer.
  4. Protocols like SPX, TCP, UDP work here.

Session layer

The Session layer is also called as the layer 5 of the OSI model. Here are the basic functionalities of the Session layer:

  1. Responsible for establishment, management and termination of connections between applications.
  2. The session layer sets up, coordinates, and terminates conversations, exchanges, and dialogues between the applications at each end.
  3. It deals with session and connection coordination.
  4. Protocols like NFS, NetBios names, RPC, SQL work at this layer.

Presentation layer

The Presentation layer is also called as the layer 6 of the OSI model. Here are the basic functionalities of the presentation layer:

  1. Responsible for data representation on your screen
  2. Encryption and decryption of the data.
  3. Data semantics and syntax.
  4. Layer 6 Presentation examples include encryption, ASCII, EBCDIC, TIFF, GIF, PICT, JPEG, MPEG, MIDI.

Application Layer

The Application layer is also called as the layer 7 of the OSI model. Here are the basic functionalities of the Application layer:

  1. Application layer supports application, apps, and end-user processes.
  2. Quality of service.
  3. This layer is responsible for application services for file transfers, e-mail, and other network software services.
  4. Protocols like Telnet, FTP, HTTP work on this layer.


Wireshark in the context of HACKING

Since Wireshark is basically a tool making package traffic in a network visible it is perfectly suitable for exploiting some weaknesses of broadcasting networks like WiFi. As you remember: Using WiFi is nothing more than just shouting out loud the information you want to share and hoping that the WiFi router understands it. For us as hackers this means that we can also just listen and maybe gain some valuable insight. A great starting point for that are unencrypted protocols. In the following two interesting and widely used protocols will be examined.

issue #1: unencrypted HTTP

The HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is a application layer protocol for any data exchange in a client-server communication. It furthermore is a connectionless protocol based on the transport layer protocol TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) (often Port 80) and is therefore not encrypted. Information is exchanged in a stateless request and response cycle. Important request methods are GET, POST and PUT while for example 200 OK is the most common response message. If you want to refresh your knowledge on HTTP you can find a great and short explanation in this video.

The broadcast property of WiFi and the unencrypted content of HTTP allow hackers to gain confidential data from tracking the sent packages with Wireshark. The application of some filters to the packages allows her or him to look for interesting HTTP packages. In the following an example is explained in more detail.

Tutorial for getting confidential login data from a user of way2sms.com

Given a user of way2sms.com in your WiFi network trying to log in to his account and the hacker simultaneously tracking the traffic of the network allows her or him to read out the user’s name and password.

Therefore, the hacker must select the respective network in Wireshark and start tracking by pressing the shark button in the top left corner. After the victim logged in to way2sms.com the hacker can apply some filters to the tracked packages. For example, filtering for the victims IP address (if known) and for all HTTP packages will reduce the number of displayed packages. Instead, filtering for the TCP port 80 might also help.

ip.addr == and http
tcp.port == 80

Given all the remaining packages the hacker can check them manually or look for promising packages. In the example of way2sms.com a POST request can be found. Displaying the package, the user name and password can be extracted easily.


For demonstration purposes the attacker and victim can be simulated on one computer, but it also works for two different agents in the same network.

This is shocking! Without any fancy tools login data can be seen all over the network. So never login somewhere if you are in a public WiFi! Never? No. Help is on the way and it is called HTTPS, where the s stands for security. It is basically HTTP over SSL (Secure Socket Layer) and therefore encrypted. The protocol uses a public and private key encryption and is therefore dependent on a certificate authority. If you want to understand the idea of HTTPS and SSL this short video is a great resource.

Today most web services offer a communication over HTTPS. Google even started marking HTTP requests as NOT SECURE in its browser Chrome (blog post). And the trend is clear: More and more services caring about encrypting confidential data and change to HTTPS (see on searchenginewatch.com).

issue #2: unencrypted DNS

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a protocol within the set of standards for how computers exchange data on the Internet and on many private networks. DNS resolves domain names to Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. When a URL is entered into the web browser, the DNS server uses its resources to resolve the domain name into the IP address for the appropriate web server and retrieves the web page. If you want to check out how the DNS server works you can find great and quick explanation in this video.

Most people’s DNS queries remain unencrypted while flowing over the internet. The broadcast property of Wi-Fi and unencrypted nature of DNS allows hackers to get access over the network behaviour and can easily track different users browsing different websites by tracking the sent packages from WireShark. The application of some filters to the packages allows hackers to look for interesting observations in DNS packages. In the following, an example is explained in more detail.

The hacker can look for all DNS requests in the respective network by pressing the shark button in the top left corner of WireShark. As explained in above tutorial, after the victim logged in to way2sms.com the hacker can apply the dns filter to get all the DNS requests in the selected network. These requests are capable of handling different functions such as looking up an IP address of host name and looking up a host name from an IP address. The following images shows some DNS packets and DNS query.



Given all the remaining packets, the hacker can easily track the IP address of users and can also track the behaviour of users over a period of time. For example, filtering for the victims IP address and for all DNS packets will show the network behaviour for a particular IP address.

ip.addr == and dns

To mitigate the effects of DNS exploitation, most web services have started using HTTPS combined with a security mechanism called HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS). It is supported by all modern browsers and it prevents protocol downgrade attacks and cookie hijacking and instructs browsers to always access a website over encrypted connections (HTTPS). For more information on HSTS (see on link).