What is Eavesdropping in Computer Security?

What is Eavesdropping in Computer Security?

The term 'eavesdropping' is used to refer to the interception of communication between two parties by a malicious third party. Since the beginning of the digital age, the term has also come to hold great significance in the world of cyber security.

Listening in Online

The internet runs on data. Every day, millions of transactions take place digitally which require the input of sensitive personal information into websites to make a purchase, forward a loan, sign up for a site membership, etc.

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Digital network eavesdropping takes the form of sniffing out this data from websites. Special programs are developed by hackers to seek out and record parts of sensitive data communications from insecure networks. These info-packets are then analyzed using advanced cryptographic tools, or simply read or listened to in hopes of arriving at valuable information.

How is this information valuable?

There are a number of ways in which hackers can manipulate your personal information to their advantage, including:

  1. Using someone's bank account information to make unauthorized purchases, or to transfer money to the hacker's account.
  2. Stealing someone's identity, in terms of their personal address, social security number, and other details. The information is then used to commit crimes and lay the blame at the identity theft victim's doorstep.
  3. Uncovering incriminating evidence against someone, and using the information to blackmail that person for financial gain or emotional leverage.
  4. Using passwords stolen from people to gain access to private parts of a digital network. Once the hacker gets inside a protected web space, there is no end to the damage that can be inflicted on the web space. Sometimes, the results can even spill out into the real world.

Methods of Eavesdropping

Hackers are constantly coming up with new ways to eavesdrop on digital conversations. Voice-over-IP calls which are made using IP-based communication are recorded with the help of protocol analyzers. The data can be converted into audio files to be analyzed by the hacker.

Another popular eavesdropping method is data sniffing. This technique works well on local networks which make use of a HUB. Since all the communications within the network are sent to all the ports of the network, all a sniffer has to do is choose to accept every bit of incoming data, even though they were not the intended recipients. Wireless networking data can be similarly manipulated if it broadcasts unsecured information to all the network ports.

Taking a step back from digital crime, the simple act of listening to two people talk in the real world using microphones and recorders can often lead to the gain of personal information. Phones can be hacked into by remotely activating the device's speaker function. The same can be done to laptops, where microphones are switched on discretely to listen in on the owner.

Preventing Digital Eavesdropping

As there are hackers looking to eavesdrop on every person's digital conversations, there are also cyber security experts working non-stop to ensure online conversations are kept as secure as possible. There are a number of ways this is done, including:


A large part of the duties of a cyber security expert is to encrypt data before it is transferred using digital networks. Encryption basically refers to scrambling the data before sending it to the receiver so that any third party that tries to read the data only sees a string of gibberish. The receiver, on the other hand, has an encryption key which can be used to unscramble the message and retrieve the information in a safe and secure manner.

Building More Secure Networks

Another important duty for cyber security experts is to build digital networks for their companies that are capable of withstanding attacks from hackers and are immune to attempts at digital eavesdropping. A host of firewalls and anti-virus software are used by security experts to make sure all the information that travels between the network's nodal points does not lie exposed before hackers who may have accessed a particular port.

Contributing to Digital Literacy

Far too many people who use the internet know nothing about keeping data secure, or believe in using outdated methods of protection that have long since been made obsolete by new and improved hacking methods.

Working for a company as a cyber security expert means you will often be called upon to explain the basics of cyber security to other employees who use the company's digital network. You will have to teach them to pick a strong password, to keep changing the password at regular intervals, not to download or open unknown files off the internet, and other security basics which will help protect the company's network.

What is Eavesdropping in Computer Security?

Are you curious about the field of cyber security? If you could see yourself working to keep companies and individuals safe from hackers using eavesdropping techniques, you’ll need the proper education to hold that position. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Computer and Information Science with a Major in Cyber and Network Security from ECPI University could help you to learn the skills you need to keep up with today’s digital world. For more information, contact a friendly admissions advisor.

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