There are a lot of new features (see this post) coming soon in Windows 10. Microsoft has quietly added a built-in network packet sniffer to the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, and it has gone unnoticed since its release.
A packet sniffer, or network sniffer, is a program that monitors the network activity flowing over a computer down to an individual packet level.
This can be used by network administrators to diagnose networking issues, see what types of programs are being used on a network, or even listen in on network conversations sent via clear text.
Built-in packet sniffer comes to Windows 10
With the release of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, Microsoft quietly added a new network diagnostic and packet monitoring program located in C:\Windows\system32\pktmon.exe.
This program has a description of “Monitor internal packet propagation and packet drop reports”, which indicates it is designed for diagnosing network problems.
Similar to the Windows
netsh trace command, it can be used to perform full packet inspection of data being sent over the computer.
This program has no mention on Microsoft’s site that we could find, and we had to learn how to use it by playing with the program.
Thankfully it includes a fairly extensive help system that can be used by typing ‘
pktmon [command] help‘.
pktmon filter help, will give you the help screen for the filter command.
To learn how to use Pktmon, I strongly suggest you read through the help documentation and play around with the program. We have also provided an example in the next section to help you get started.
Using Pktmon to monitor network traffic
Unfortunately, diving into the full feature set of Pktmon is outside of the scope of this article, but we wanted to show you a basic example of how you can use the tool.
For our example, we will use Pktmon to monitor FTP traffic from the computer it is run on.
To do this, we first need to launch a Windows 10 elevated command prompt as Pktmon requires administrator privileges.
We then need to create two packet filters that tell Pktmon what traffic to monitor, which in our example will be the traffic on TCP ports 20 and 21.
These filters can be created by using the
pktmon filter add -p [port] command for each port we want to monitor.
pktmon filter add -p 20 pktmon filter add -p 21
You can then use the
pktmon filter list command to see the packet filters we just created.
To start monitoring for packets communicating with TCP ports 20 and 21, we need to use the
pktmon start --etw command.
Once executed, pktmon will log all packets on ALL network interfaces on the device to a file called PktMon.etl and only record the first 128 bytes of a packet.
To make it log the entire packet and only from a specific ethernet device, you can use the -p 0 (capture entire packet) and -c 13 (capture only from the adapter with ID 13) arguments.
To determine what ID your adapters are, you can run the command
pktmon comp list command
When we combine all the arguments, we get a final command of:
pktmon start --etw -p 0 -c 13
Pktmon will now quietly run while capturing all packets that match our inputted filters.
To stop capturing packets, enter the
pktmon stop command, and a log file called PktMon.etl will have been created in the same folder that contains the raw captured data.
This data in this file is not directly usable, so you need to convert it to a human-readable text format with the following command:
pktmon format PktMon.etl -o ftp.txt
To benefit from the captured data, I suggest you download and install the Microsoft Network Monitor and use it to view the ETL file.
Using Network Monitor, you can see the full packet that was sent, including any clear-text information.
For example, below you can see a packet containing the clear-text password we entered when logging into this FTP test site.
When done using the Pktmon program, you can remove all created filters using the command:
pktmon filter remove
One thought on “Windows 10 got a built-in network sniffer”
[…] Windows 10 has officially hit a billion users and Microsoft recently teased upcoming changes to the operating system in a low-quality video. Today, Microsoft has finally posted high-resolution screenshots of Windows 10’s upcoming changes, which gives us a closer look at the new Start menu and other bits and pieces of the refreshed UI. Also, Microsoft is releasing a lot of new features, for example a network sniffer. […]
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