Snooping, in a security context, is unauthorized access to another person's or company's data. The practice is similar to eavesdropping but is not necessarily limited to gaining access to data during its transmission. Snooping can include casual observance of an e-mail that appears on another's computer screen or watching what someone else is typing. More sophisticated snooping uses software programs to remotely monitor activity on a computer or network device.

Malicious hackerkeyloggers to monitor keystrokes, capture passwords and login information, and to intercept e-mail and other private communications and data transmissions. Corporations sometimes snoop on employees legitimately to monitor their use of business computers and track Internet usage; governments may snoop on individuals to collect information and avert crime and terrorism.

Although snooping has a negative connotation in general, in computer technology snooping can refer to any program or utility that performs a monitoring function. For example, a snoop server is used to capture network traffic for analysis, and the snooping protocol monitors information on a computer bus to ensure efficient processing.

This was last updated in June 2007

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