tcpdump is the premier network analysis tool for information security professionals. Having a solid grasp of this über-powerful application is mandatory for anyone desiring a thorough understanding of TCP/IP. Many prefer to use higher level analysis tools such as
EtherealWireshark, but I believe this to usually be a mistake.
In a discipline so dependent on a true understanding of concepts vs. rote learning, it’s important to stay fluent in the underlying mechanics of the TCP/IP suite. A thorough grasp of these protocols allows one to troubleshoot at a level far beyond the average analyst, but mastery of the protocols is only possible through continued exposure to them.
When using a tool that displays network traffic a more natural (raw) way the burden of analysis is placed directly on the human rather than the application. This approach cultivates continued and elevated understanding of the TCP/IP suite, and for this reason I strongly advocate using tcpdump instead of other tools whenever possible.