Saturday, January 24, 2009

Network Card Promiscuous mode

Promiscuous mode
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In computing, promiscuous mode or promisc mode is a configuration of a network card that makes the card pass all traffic it receives to the central processing unit rather than just packets addressed to it — a feature normally used for packet sniffing.

Each packet includes the hardware (Media Access Control) address. When a network card receives a packet, it checks if the address is its own. If not, the card normally drops the packet. But in promiscuous mode, the card doesn't drop the packet, thus allowing the computer to read all packets.

Many operating systems require superuser privileges to enable promiscuous mode. A non-routing node in promiscuous mode can generally only monitor traffic to and from other nodes within the same collision domain (for Ethernet and Wireless LAN) or ring (for Token ring or FDDI). Computers attached to the same network hub satisfy this requirement, which is why network switches are used to combat malicious use of promiscuous mode. A router may monitor all traffic that it routes.

Promiscuous mode is often used to diagnose network connectivity issues. There are programs that make use of this feature to show the user all the data being transferred over the network. Some protocols like FTP and Telnet transfer data and passwords in clear text, without encryption, and network scanners can see this data. Therefore, computer users are encouraged to stay away from insecure protocols like telnet and use more secure ones such as SSH.

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