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Network surveillance is the monitoring of computer activity in a network. It is usually done covertly by organizations, governments or individuals to monitor illegal activities. A network engineer/operator, network equipment manufacturer or service provider should have the means to do surveillance tasks related to networking. Network surveillance helps governments and organizations in understanding their user base and gathering intelligence. However, at times it is perceived as a threat to network users as an invasion of privacy.
Almost all network surveillance is done automatically, intrusively and remotely. In networks, packet sniffing is the usual technique used for monitoring of data traffic. Numerous technologies are also available to aid in network surveillance. Network surveillance could be used in limiting access to information available to the public or to specific user-groups. It can become the base of asymmetric power relations between the surveyor and the ones who are being monitored. Network surveillance also helps in monitoring the different circumvention techniques such as filtering, blocking, bypassing and intercepting network traffic.
Network surveillance provides comprehensive analysis about the overall status of protocol monitoring and the health of the network. Network surveillance also provides inputs for real-time data monitoring, traffic optimization, quality of service measurements, remote protocol analysis and troubleshooting. One of the most important benefits of network surveillance is to help in fraud detection and location. From a government perspective, network surveillance allows the monitoring of threat levels, maintaining social control and helping in prevention of illegal and criminal activities.