How to monitor Wi-Fi traffic on Android devices

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Monitoring or capturing Wi-Fi traffic on Android smartphones and tablets is possible. I’m not just talking about Wi-Fi stumblers or traffic usage apps, but full network sniffers that can capture and display the raw 802.11 network packets from the airwaves. Instead of having to run captures on your bulky laptop, you can walk around with your Android tablet or phone tucked away in your pocket.

Example of capturing wireless packets with Intercepter-NG ITworld/Eric Geier

Example of capturing wireless packets with Intercepter-NG.

These sniffers can be useful when performing advanced troubleshooting of wireless connectivity or performance issues. They can also aid in security auditing, penetration testing, and ethical hacking, or so you can better visualize and understand certain network vulnerabilities. Or you might just be curious of what the real data packets look like or exactly what devices and apps are sending and receiving.

Just about all the network sniffer apps will only work on rooted devices; if you haven’t unlocked your Android device yet, consider the free tPacketCapture app. It offers packet capturing without requiring root permissions by using the VPN Service of the Android OS. It is a very simple app that saves the packets in a PCAP file format that you can open in another app or transfer to a PC for viewing. The Pro version of tPacketCapture ($10.71) and adds application filtering so you can optionally capture only packets for a specific application.

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