• United States
Neal Weinberg
Contributing writer, Foundry

Sniffer Wireless PDA 1.0

Apr 17, 20032 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork SecuritySecurity

* WLAN protocol analyzers from Sniffer

Wireless LAN protocol analyzers can be used in the three stages of a wireless LANs lifetime. First, they can be used for a site survey. Since WLANs use the unlicensed radio spectrum, they are subject to whatever interfering radio commotion exists in the desired coverage area.

Also, analysis during deployment aids a plan developed from site survey results. Finally, post-installation connectivity problems between clients and access points can be analyzed. Traffic and signal distribution problems can be found, analyzed and corrected. This is also when rogue equipment might be detected, as well as discovering users who play with WLAN-associated settings.

Turning to this week’s featured product, Sniffer puts out two different variations on the wireless LAN protocol analyzer theme – a laptop-based device and a PDA option. The Sniffer PDA option focuses on network problem detection. Also based on the iPAQ (but using the Symbol 24 series Wi-Fi card), Sniffer PDA impressed us with a feature one expects from a Sniffer product – packet decodes and expert analysis.

A Channel Surf and Dashboard are the two front ends to Sniffer PDA. Sniffer surfs all of the 14 802.11b channels that are available, and has high radio sensitivity. Drilling down to specific objects for examination and manipulation wasn’t as easy as with some other products we tested, although packet capture and decode were stellar.

We also found what turns out to be a known issue: during medium to heavy loads, changing the monitored 802.11b channel to another will cause the unit to become erratic, then crash. When this happened, a soft reset solved the issue.

One of Sniffer’s best traits is its ability to decode packets, and using the Expert mode, let a user get a rapid idea of what is going on in the network. Sniffer PDA is no different except that we found its Expert diagnosis had overlooked two WLAN cards in separate machines with the same MAC address (a spoof simulation). The Expert analysis otherwise found all of our simulated problems.

The Sniffer PDA is an excellent tool primarily because of its protocol analysis features. For the full report, go to: