How to Capture HTTP traffic in Wireshark

Wireshark allows you to analyze the traffic inside your network with various tools. If you want to see what’s going on inside your network or have issues with network traffic or page loading, you can use Wireshark. It allows you to capture the traffic, so you can understand what the problem is or send it to support for further assistance. Keep reading this article, and you’ll learn how to capture http traffic in Wireshark.

How to Capture HTTP traffic in Wireshark

Installing Wireshark

Installing Wireshark is an easy process. It’s free tool across different platforms, and here is how you can download and install it:

Windows & Mac Users

  1. Open your browser.
  2. Visit https://www.wireshark.org/download.html.
  3. Select the version for your device.
  4. Wireshark will be downloaded to your device.
  5. Install it by following the instructions in the package.

Linux Users

If you’re a Linux user, you can find Wireshark in the Ubuntu Software Center. Download it from there and install it according to the instructions in the package.

Capturing HTTP Traffic in Wireshark

Now that you’ve installed Wireshark on your computer, we can move on to capturing http traffic. Here are the steps to do it:

  1. Open your browser – You can use any browser.
  2. Clear cache – Before capturing the traffic, you need to clear your browser’s cache. You can do this if you go to your browser’s settings.
  3. Open Wireshark.
  4. Tap “Capture.”
  5. Tap “Interfaces.” You will now see a pop-up window on your screen.
  6. Choose the interface. You probably want to analyze the traffic going through your ethernet driver.
  7. Once you’ve selected the interface, tap “Start” or tap “Ctrl + E.”
  8. Now go back to your browser and visit the URL you want to capture traffic from.
  9. Once you’re done, stop capturing traffic. Go back to Wireshark and tap “Ctrl + E.”
  10. Save the captured traffic. If you have network issues and want to send the captured traffic to support, save it into a *.pcap format file.

Capturing Packets in Wireshark

Besides capturing http traffic, you can capture whatever network data you need in Wireshark. Here is how you can do this:

  1. Open Wireshark.
  2. You’ll see a list of available network connections you can examine. Select the one you’re interested in. If you want, you can analyze multiple network connections at once by pressing “Shift + Left-click.”
  3. Now you can start capturing packets. You can do this in several ways: The first one is by tapping the shark fin icon at the top-left corner. The second one is tapping “Capture” and then tapping “Start.” The third way to start capturing is by tapping “Ctrl + E.”

While capturing, Wireshark will display all the captured packets in real-time. Once you’re done capturing packets, you can use the same buttons/shortcuts to stop capturing.

Wireshark Filters

One of the reasons Wireshark is one of the most famous protocol analyzers today is its ability to apply various filters to the captured packets. Wireshark filters can be divided into capture and display filters.

Capture Filters

These filters are applied before capturing data. If Wireshark captures data that doesn’t match the filters, it won’t save them, and you won’t see them. So, if you know what you’re looking for, you can use capture filters to narrow down your search.

Here are some of the most used capture filters you can use:

  • host 192.168.1.2 – Capture all traffic associated with 192.168.1.2.
  • port 443 – Capture all traffic associated with port 443.
  • port not 53 – Capture all traffic except the one associated with port 53.

Display Filters

Depending on what you’re analyzing, your captured packets may be very hard to go through. If you know what you’re looking for, or if you want to narrow down your search and exclude the data you don’t need, you can use display filters.

Here are some of the display filters you can use:

  • http – If you’ve captured a number of different packets, but you want to see only the http-based traffic, you can apply this display filter, and Wireshark will show you only those packets.
  • http.response.code == 404 – If you’re having trouble loading certain web pages, this filter might be useful. If you apply it, Wireshark will only show the packets where “404: Page not found” was a response.

It’s important to note the difference between capture and display filters. As you’ve seen, you apply capture filters before, and display filters after capturing packets. With capture filters, you discard all packets that don’t fit the filters. With display filters, you don’t discard any packets. You just hide them from the list in Wireshark.

Additional Wireshark Features

Although capturing and filtering packets is what makes Wireshark famous, it also offers different options that can make your filtering and troubleshooting easier, especially if you’re new at this.

Colorization Option

You can color packets in the Packet List according to different display filters. This allows you to emphasize the packets you want to analyze.

There are two types of coloring rules: temporary and permanent. Temporary rules are applied only until you close the program, and permanent rules are saved until you change them back.

You can download sample coloring rules here, or you can create your own.

Promiscuous Mode

Wireshark captures traffic coming to or from the device where it’s running. By enabling the promiscuous mode, you’re able to capture the majority of traffic on your LAN.

Command Line

If you’re running your system without a GUI (Graphic user interface), you can use Wireshark’s Command Line Interface. You can capture packets and review them on a GUI.

Statistics

Wireshark offers a “Statistics” menu you can use to analyze captured packets. For example, you can view file properties, analyze traffic between two IP addresses, etc.

FAQs

How do I read the data captured in WireShark?

Once you’re done capturing packets, Wireshark will show all of them in a packet list pane. If you want to focus on a specific capture, double-click on it, and you can read more information about it.

You can decide to open a particular capture in a separate window for easier analysis:

1. Choose the packet you want to read.

2. Right-click on it.

3. Tap “View.”

4. Tap “Show Packet in New Window.”

Here are some details from the packet list pane that will help you with reading captures:

1. No. – The number of a captured packet.

2. Time – This shows you when the packet was captured with regards to when you started capturing. You can customize and adjust the value in the “Settings” menu.

3. Source – This is the origin of a captured packet in the form of an address.

4. Destination – The destination address of a captured packet.

5. Protocol – The type of a captured packet.

6. Length – This shows you the length of a captured packet. This is expressed in bytes.

7. Info – Additional information about a captured packet. The type of information you see here depends on the type of the captured packet.

All of the above columns can be narrowed down with the use of display filters. Depending on what you’re interested in, you can interpret Wireshark captures easier and faster by applying different filters.

In a World of Fish, Be a Wireshark

Now you’ve learned how to capture http traffic in Wireshark, along with useful information about the program. If you want to inspect your network, troubleshoot issues, or ensure everything’s in order, Wireshark is the right tool for you. It’s easy to use and interpret, and it’s free.

Have you used Wireshark before? Tell us in the comment section below.

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