Wireshark Certification Hits Fork in the Road

NOTE: Ed Tittel wrote a follow-up to this story a few weeks after it appeared, with additional details regarding all concerned. CLICK TO READ


A kerfuffle over new licensing restriction around the "Wireshark" name has disrupted a popular certification program.

I've been working with IP protocol analysis since 1988 when I went to work for Excelan (acquired by Novell in 1989) and learned its LANalyzer product as part of my knowledge base for the Network Consultant job role that I filled at the time. Thus, I've been aware of Gerald Combs' Wireshark software-based network protocol analyzer since it was first introduced under the name "Ethereal" in the late 1990s.


Today, Wireshark is the most widely used IP protocol analyzer around, and is also the basis for a comprehensive training and certification program developed in large part by Laura Chappell. (I know Laura from my Novell days; she's been training and active in the protocol analysis field for 30 years or more.)


Yesterday (June 26), I got an e-mail from Laura informing me about a change in her training and certification offerings, prompted by Riverbed's request for an annual fee to continue to use the Wireshark name in those offerings.


Here's what Ms. Chappell says about the program name change that's been implemented at the newly christened WCNAcertification.com website's home page (verbatim quote):


Why the Name Change?

The name change was prompted by Riverbed's decision to "monetize Wireshark assets" and charge a yearly license fee for non-exclusive usage of the name "Wireshark" on our projects. Yes, it's true — Riverbed owns the Wireshark project. Although we founded both programs with Gerald Combs, the creator of Wireshark, Riverbed states we cannot continue to use the names "Wireshark University" or "Wireshark Certified Network Analyst." The certification program was therefore renamed to "WCNA Certification" on June 19, 2019. Our WCNAs may add the line "Wireshark Specialist" to their certification designation, if they wish. We remain committed to the WCNA Certification program. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at info@WCNAcertification.com.


What Does This Mean?


It doesn't really change the program itself at all, as far as I can tell. The term "WCNA Certification" is affixed with the trademark (�) symbol on the organization's home page. This indicates that the phrase so designated has been submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademarks Office for registration and is pending approval.


It also indicates a pretty profound and saddening split with Riverbed, which has heretofore supported and promoted Wireshark University (the previous name of the training organization, and the umbrella organization for the former certification program) and the Wireshark Certified Network Analyst certification program (the previous name of what shall hereafter be known as WCNA Certification�).


Perhaps the biggest wrinkle in the formerly smooth sailcloth is that Mr. Combs is staying on at Riverbed, where he will presumably continue to maintain and develop the Wireshark software as he has always done.


An important yet-to-be-answered question is, "Will Riverbed start up its own certification program for Wireshark?" This could result in separate programs competing for the same audience attached to the same software platform. I'd hate to see that user community have to choose between the longstanding, mature, and highly-respected program that Ms. Chappell and her colleagues have put together and run for over a decade.


I've got two first editions of Laura's related books on my shelf: Wireshark Network Analysis: The Official Wireshark Certified Network Analyst Study Guide and Wireshark Certified Network Analyst: Official Exam Prep Guide. Both of those show copyright dates of 2010 (with a publication date of March 15, 2010 verifiable at Amazon). The second editions of those books carry 2012 dates.


For the moment, users seeking training and/or certification on Wireshark have only one choice, though: They should check out the offerings available through WCNAcertfication.com. Only time will tell whether these waters remain Wireshark-infested, or whether the dispute with Riverbed will lead to dueling training and certification offerings. Stay tuned!


[NOTE: In the interests of full disclosure, I must reveal that Ms. Chappell is a co-author on the first four editions of my own Cengage community college textbook Guide to TCP/IP. While I designed this book and continue to steward it (it's now its fifth edition), Guide to TCP/IP started out referencing Ethereal and switched to use Wireshark in the early 2000s. Because of her expertise and skill with protocol analysis, it was my pleasure and privilege to work with Laura on that book until her responsibilities and engagement with Wireshark University and its certification program preempted her participation in the fifth edition.]


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at www.edtittel.com, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.