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Working with Protocol Analyzers and Related Certifications

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Ed Tittel, creator of the Exam Cram series, discusses the current network protocol analyzers that any real expert needs to know. Who exactly counts as an "expert?" Ed also sorts out which of the many available certifications are really useful in identifying true masters of protocol analysis.

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Protocol Analysis Certs, Revisited and Reimagined

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The biggest change to the landscape has been a switchover from Ethereal, the former leading freeware protocol analyzer, to Wireshark, its current reigning replacement. Wireshark has en entirely creditable certification program, supported with classroom and online training.

Though the various nGenius successors to the Sniffer program are also great credentials, they require access to and knowledge of the NetScout products, whereas Wireshark will run on any Windows PC for which a suitable network driver is available. Some form of the Windows Promiscuous mode capture (WinPcap) driver is needed to enable Wireshark to do its packet-capture thing. NetScout is touting this new program as a replacement for and successor to the Sniffer Certified Professional (SCP) program, offering discounted upgrade paths to holders of Sniffer credentials, as well as entry-level training and certification and its own certification ladder for nGenius users who lack prior Sniffer credentials.

Finally, the AirMagnet certifications are likely to be of interest to anyone who uses those products for wireless network survey, analysis, and troubleshooting tasks. Interestingly, both Wireshark and AirMagnet products use the AirPCap driver to permit protocol traces to be captured from wireless network traffic. With wireless communications occupying an increasingly important portion of general networking, familiarity with wireless protocols and related topics (survey, security, monitoring, and analysis) is likewise moving to center stage for those interested in protocol analysis work.

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