Apr 29 2008   2:07PM GMT

A YUMMY New (FREE) Tool for Looking at Packet Captures

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

I don’t know about you, but looking at packet captures is right up there with looking at Cisco PIX firewall configuration files. Nonetheless, it’s part of my job, on occasion, and although I enjoy the “capturing” part, the “looking through it” part tends to make my eyes cross.

So, a nifty new FREE tool “rumint.” (Short for rumored intelligence – why the name – who knows) Anyway, when you load a capture file (it will run a number of formats, including tcpdump) and select “Text Rainfall” from the View pulldown, and Voila! A screen that pulls ASCII text from each packet in the capture. Oh my. What a thing of beauty. I had an epiphany, it was so easy to read. You can set it for looping, as well.

This tool is part of an emerging field of “Security Data Visualization.” When I first heard of this topic, I thought of dashboards and graphs, but that’s not what this seems to be about, except in a peripheral way. I’ve just bought the first book out on the subject, Security Data Visualization And so far it’s gotten some very good reviews from at least one big name in the field. It’s also written by the author of rumint.

I think what they are shooting for is a new way of looking at data flow that uses the best part of the human brain. Computers can do a lot of things around computation and correlation, but they are basically only as good at it as we tell them to be.

You and I can look at a dataset in a certain way, and it comes together in a gestalt. Computers are not yet able to do this. Like looking at enough pieces of a puzzle, suddenly we will see the picture. I had that exact experience with rumint, which, by the way, can also run with real time packet captures.

And in any case, if it makes your life easier reading packet captures, enjoy! Kudos and thanks to the author.

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