Sniffing and Spoofing: Important Points to know in 2021

Ajay Ohri


With every passing day, there are novel methods of hacking that are being discovered by the vexatious attackers, and hence it is important to acquire the right awareness to be ahead of them. Only when the right level of understanding is obtained, it becomes easier to defend against the attacks.  

Among the many attacking ways employed in the digital world today, this post discusses two popular methods: Sniffing and Spoofing. Attacks and attackers are highly sophisticated and devise intelligent schemes to remain undetected for a long time. Therefore, knowing what is spoofing and sniffing, the ways to identify them, the difference between sniffing and spoofing would help go a long way in securing your system and data.

A) What are IP Sniffing and IP Spoofing?

To begin with, it is essential to understand what is IP sniffing and IP spoofing. In sniffing, an attacker falsifies the authorized readers, that can scan the legal tags to acquire valuable data. In spoofing attacks, an attacker efficaciously fakes as an official and legal operator of a system. The duplicating factor of a spoofing attack is an approved user of a system. Spoofing attacks are not the same as the other attacks such as counterfeiting or sniffing. However, counterfeiting, packet-sniffing, and spoofing all fall under the ambit of misrepresentation and deception kinds of attack. Let’s take a brief look at the sniffing and spoofing meaning before understanding the difference between sniffing and spoofing:


The practice or technique of monitoring, gathering, capturing, and logging some or all data packets passing through a given computer network is called sniffing or packet sniffing.  A packet sniffer is composed of two parts namely; a network adapter and software that is used by a network to observe or troubleshoot network traffic.

Attackers use these sniffers to seize data packets that contain valuable information and analyze the network traffic. Sniffing is categorized into active sniffing and passive sniffing. In Active sniffing, there is the constant activity by the attacker to obtain information and sniff the traffic from the switch network. In passive sniffing, the attacker is hidden and sniffs through the hub.


Any kind of behavior where an attacker mask as an authentic user or a device to secure something beneficial or crucial information for their gain is called spoofing. There are various kinds of spoofing such as website spoofing, E-mail spoofing, and IP spoofing. Other common methods include ARP spoofing attacks and DNS server spoofing attacks.

An E-mail spoofing targets the user while an IP spoofing is predominantly targeted at a network. 

In an IP spoofing attack, the attacker attempts to obtain illicit and illegal access to a network through messages with a bogus or spoofed IP address to deceive and show it off as a message from a trusted source. This is achieved by using a genuine host’s IP address and varying the packet headers led from their personal system to mimic it as an original and a trusted computer’s IP address.

B) Difference between Sniffing and Spoofing

Now that we have understood what is sniffing and spoofing, the spoofing and sniffing definition, let’s now compare packet sniffing and packet spoofing. 

  • During the process of sniffing, the networks’ data traffic is the main target of the attacker who captures data packets that flows across a computer network using packet sniffers. 

Whereas in spoofing, the attacker rip-offs the authorizations of a user and deploys those details in a system as an authentic user to unveil attacks against network hosts, take data, disburse malware, or circumvent access controls.

  • In spoofing, the attackers use another person’s IP address to produce TCP/IP. In packet sniffing, a sniffing program is on a part between two interactive endpoints where the attacker pretends to be one end of the connection to the target and snoop on files delivered between the two endpoints. 

The software or method depleted to achieve this is called a packet sniffer, which is a function that sniffs without altering the network’s packets in any way.

  • In short, packet sniffing means eavesdropping on other people’s conversations.  Packet spoofing refers to dynamically presenting phony network traffic impersonating to be someone else.
  • In packet sniffing, an attacker can’t cause any mutilation to the system per se and hence is a passive attack. Packet spoofing is an active attack where it is possible for an attacker to introduce a harmful program to taint the victim’s system.
  • The attackers get access to the device or system through which the traffic is directed in packet and packet spoofing, the attack is done by transferring packets with incorrect source address i.e., modifying routing tables.
  • A popular method to defend sniffing is by way of encryption while the top method to tackle spoofing is by use of digital signatures.


In both the sniffing and spoofing attacks, the victims or the targeted persons are completely unaware of the fact that their data and exchanges have been intercepted and conceded. This becomes one of the greatest strengths for the intruders who take away the private information for their undue benefits. Hence, it is imperative to understand their mechanism and know ways to defend against these attacks. Some of the ways to defend against these attacks are as follows:

  • It is important to use and surf only websites that are encrypted with the “HTTPS-.” This can be found by looking at the address of the website. The presence of HTTPS:// in the address bar means a secure website, which makes it impossible for the hacker to sniff out the data.
  • A Virtual Private Network or VPN helps track all your Internet movement over an encrypted network, which is impossible for a hacker to invade and trace. This is extremely important and useful if you are online in public as a VPN conceals your real IP address from hackers who may attempt to track or trace it.
  • Network administrators must scan and observe their network’s bandwidth monitoring or device auditing at periodical intervals to detect any doubtful traffic or activity. 

Be mindful and aware of every activity that happens in your system to be secure and safe at all times.

So, have you made up your mind to make a career in Cyber Security? Visit our Cyber Security Courses for further help. It is the first program in offensive technologies in India and allows learners to practice in a real-time simulated ecosystem, that will give you an edge in this competitive world.



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