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A password sniffer is a software application that scans and records passwords that are used or broadcasted on a computer or network interface. It listens to all incoming and outgoing network traffic and records any instance of a data packet that contains a password.
A password sniffer installs on a host machine and scans all incoming and outgoing network traffic. A password sniffer may be applied to most network protocols, including HTTP, Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP), file transfer protocol (FTP), POP3, Telnet (TN) and related protocols that carry passwords in some format. In addition, a password sniffer that is installed on a gateway or proxy server can listen and retrieve all passwords that flow within a network.
A password sniffer is primarily used as a network security tool for storing and restoring passwords. However, hackers and crackers use such utilities to sniff out passwords for illegal and malicious purposes.