network analyzer (protocol analyzer or packet analyzer)

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Network management and monitoring: The evolution of network control

A network analyzer (also called a protocol analyzer or packetanalyzer) is a combination of hardware andprogramming, or in some cases a stand-alone hardware device, that canbe installed in a computer or network to enhance protection againstmalicious activity. Network analyzers can supplement firewalls,anti-virus programs, and spyware detection programs.

Network analyzers can:

  • Provide detailed statistics for current and recent activity on thenetwork.
  • Test anti-malware programs and pinpointpotential vulnerabilities
  • Detect unusual levels of network traffic.
  • Detect unusual packet characteristics.
  • Identify packet sources or destinations.
  • Configure alarms for defined threats.
  • Search for specific data strings in packets.
  • Monitor bandwidth utilization as a function of time.
  • Create application-specific plug-ins.
  • Display all statistics on a user-friendly control panel.

Network analyzers are not intended to replace firewalls, anti-virusprograms, or spyware detection programs. However, the use of a networkanalyzer in addition to other countermeasures can minimize theprobability that an attack will occur, and can facilitate rapidresponse in the event an attack begins.

This was last updated in August 2006

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