Two Tools for Every Network Engineer

Two Tools for Every Network Engineer

There are many tools network administrators and security professionals rely on to provide insights into network traffic and vulnerabilities. We’ll take a look at two of my favorite tools today, Wireshark and Nmap. That and I thought this topic dovetailed nicely with the post about enabling SSH on a Cisco device. Let's go!

Wireshark: The packets never lie

Wireshark, an open-source network protocol analyzer, serves as a comprehensive tool for capturing and analyzing network traffic in real-time. Its user-friendly graphical interface allows users to examine network packets and gain valuable insights into network behavior. It offers support for various protocols such as TCP/IP, HTTP, DNS, and Wireshark offers detailed information about packet headers, payloads, and utilized protocols.

Key Features of Wireshark:

Real-time Packet Analysis: Wireshark captures packets from diverse sources like Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, presenting a real-time view of network traffic. This aids in troubleshooting network issues and diagnosing network-related problems.

Advanced Filtering: Wireshark facilitates the filtering of captured packets based on specific criteria, allowing users to focus on relevant network traffic for in-depth analysis. This feature enhances the efficiency of network troubleshooting and identification of anomalies. In reality, the tool would be worthless for all the traffic it records if not for its ability to easily filter the results into digestible snippets. Once you get the hang of the syntax, filters in Wireshark are straightforward and quite intuitive.

Offline Analysis: Wireshark allows you to save the captured packets for offline analysis as a pcap file, making it a great resource for anyone needing to do retrospective investigations or long-term network monitoring. You can also easily share the pcap file with a colleague with more knowledge who can help you to really drill into the results of the packet capture.

Nmap: The all-seeing eye?

Nmap is also an open-source network scanning and reconnaissance tool. It offers a wide array of capabilities to discover hosts, assess network security, and perform vulnerability assessments. You could use Nmap for a lot of nefarious purposes, and hackers often do, so do be careful when using Nmap. Nmap allows you to generate packets to send into the network. It provides valuable information about live hosts, open ports, and services running on a network. But like I said, if used for evil, Nmap can be a dangerous hacking tool. You could use it to perpetrate a denial of service attack, even if you weren’t meaning to, so use caution.

Key Features of Nmap:

Host Discovery: Nmap employs various techniques, including ICMP echo requests, TCP/UDP port scanning, and ARP requests, to identify live hosts on a network. This information is crucial for network administrators to maintain an accurate inventory of their network devices.

Port Scanning: Nmap excels in port scanning, enabling the identification of open ports on target hosts. This is actually where I find it most useful as a tool. The information Nmap gathers helps users understand the services exposed by network devices and identify potential vulnerabilities (can’t stress enough how this is a tool for good as well as evil—never hack any system you don’t have permission to).

Service and Version Detection: Nmap goes beyond port scanning by identifying the services running on open ports and attempting to determine their versions. This aids in assessing the network's architecture and identifying potential security risks associated with specific software versions.

OS Detection: Nmap's ability to guess the operating system running on a host provides valuable insights into the network's composition. This information assists administrators in understanding the network's overall security posture and planning appropriate security measures.


Wireshark and Nmap are powerful tools that empower network administrators, security professionals, and developers in understanding network behavior, diagnosing issues, and ensuring network security. Wireshark's packet analysis capabilities provide granular insights into network traffic, facilitating efficient troubleshooting and performance optimization. Meanwhile, Nmap's host discovery, port scanning, and scripting capabilities enable effective network reconnaissance and vulnerability assessments.

By leveraging the strengths of Wireshark and Nmap, network professionals can build a comprehensive toolkit for network analysis, monitoring, and security. These tools play a vital role in ensuring the integrity, reliability, and security of computer networks in our interconnected world.

Remember, with great power comes great responsibility. When using these tools, always adhere to ethical standards, obtain proper authorization, and respect the privacy and security of the networks you analyze.