Tcpdump - Dump Traffic on a Network

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tcpdump allows you to dump the traffic on a network. It can be used to print out the headers and/or contents of packets on a network interface that matches a given expression. You can use this tool to track down network problems, to detect many attacks, or to monitor the network activities.
Tcpdump prints out a description of the contents of packets on a network interface that match the boolean expression; the description is preceded by a time stamp, printed, by default, as hours, minutes, seconds, and fractions of a second since midnight. It can also be run with the -w flag, which causes it to save the packet data to a file for later analysis, and/or with the -r flag, which causes it to read from a saved packet file rather than to read packets from a network interface. It can also be run with the -V flag, which causes it to read a list of saved packet files. In all cases, only packets that match expression will be processed by tcpdump.
Tcpdump will, if not run with the -c flag, continue capturing packets until it is interrupted by a SIGINT signal (generated, for example, by typing your interrupt character, typically control-C) or a SIGTERM signal (typically generated with the kill(1) command); if run with the -c flag, it will capture packets until it is interrupted by a SIGINT or SIGTERM signal or the specified number of packets have been processed.
When tcpdump finishes capturing packets, it will report counts of:
packets ``captured'' (this is the number of packets that tcpdump has received and processed);
packets ``received by filter'' (the meaning of this depends on the OS on which you're running tcpdump, and possibly on the way the OS was configured - if a filter was specified on the command line, on some OSes it counts packets regardless of whether they were matched by the filter expression and, even if they were matched by the filter expression, regardless of whether tcpdump has read and processed them yet, on other OSes it counts only packets that were matched by the filter expression regardless of whether tcpdump has read and processed them yet, and on other OSes it counts only packets that were matched by the filter expression and were processed by tcpdump);
packets ``dropped by kernel'' (this is the number of packets that were dropped, due to a lack of buffer space, by the packet capture mechanism in the OS on which tcpdump is running, if the OS reports that information to applications; if not, it will be reported as 0).
On platforms that support the SIGINFO signal, such as most BSDs (including Mac OS X) and Digital/Tru64 UNIX, it will report those counts when it receives a SIGINFO signal (generated, for example, by typing your ``status'' character, typically control-T, although on some platforms, such as Mac OS X, the ``status'' character is not set by default, so you must set it with stty(1) in order to use it) and will continue capturing packets. On platforms that do not support the SIGINFO signal, the same can be achieved by using the SIGUSR1 signal.
Reading packets from a network interface may require that you have special privileges; see the pcap (3PCAP) man page for details. Reading a saved packet file doesn't require special privileges.  


Print each packet (minus its link level header) in ASCII. Handy for capturing web pages.
Print the AS number in BGP packets in ASDOT notation rather than ASPLAIN notation.
-B buffer_size
Set the operating system capture buffer size to buffer_size, in units of KiB (1024 bytes).
-c count
Exit after receiving count packets.
-C file_size
Before writing a raw packet to a savefile, check whether the file is currently larger than file_size and, if so, close the current savefile and open a new one. Savefiles after the first savefile will have the name specified with the -w flag, with a number after it, starting at 1 and continuing upward. The units of file_size are millions of bytes (1,000,000 bytes, not 1,048,576 bytes).
Dump the compiled packet-matching code in a human readable form to standard output and stop.
Dump packet-matching code as a C program fragment.
Dump packet-matching code as decimal numbers (preceded with a count).
Print the list of the network interfaces available on the system and on which tcpdump can capture packets. For each network interface, a number and an interface name, possibly followed by a text description of the interface, is printed. The interface name or the number can be supplied to the -i flag to specify an interface on which to capture.
This can be useful on systems that don't have a command to list them (e.g., Windows systems, or UNIX systems lacking ifconfig -a); the number can be useful on Windows 2000 and later systems, where the interface name is a somewhat complex string.
The -D flag will not be supported if tcpdump was built with an older version of libpcap that lacks the pcap_findalldevs() function.
Print the link-level header on each dump line. This can be used, for example, to print MAC layer addresses for protocols such as Ethernet and IEEE 802.11.
Use spi@ipaddr algo:secret for decrypting IPsec ESP packets that are addressed to addr and contain Security Parameter Index value spi. This combination may be repeated with comma or newline separation.
Note that setting the secret for IPv4 ESP packets is supported at this time.
Algorithms may be des-cbc, 3des-cbc, blowfish-cbc, rc3-cbc, cast128-cbc, or none. The default is des-cbc. The ability to decrypt packets is only present if tcpdump was compiled with cryptography enabled.
secret is the ASCII text for ESP secret key. If preceded by 0x, then a hex value will be read.
The option assumes RFC2406 ESP, not RFC1827 ESP. The option is only for debugging purposes, and the use of this option with a true `secret' key is discouraged. By presenting IPsec secret key onto command line you make it visible to others, via ps(1) and other occasions.
In addition to the above syntax, the syntax file name may be used to have tcpdump read the provided file in. The file is opened upon receiving the first ESP packet, so any special permissions that tcpdump may have been given should already have been given up.
Print `foreign' IPv4 addresses numerically rather than symbolically (this option is intended to get around serious brain damage in Sun's NIS server --- usually it hangs forever translating non-local internet numbers).
The test for `foreign' IPv4 addresses is done using the IPv4 address and netmask of the interface on which capture is being done. If that address or netmask are not available, available, either because the interface on which capture is being done has no address or netmask or because the capture is being done on the Linux "any" interface, which can capture on more than one interface, this option will not work correctly.
-F file
Use file as input for the filter expression. An additional expression given on the command line is ignored.
-G rotate_seconds
If specified, rotates the dump file specified with the -w option every rotate_seconds seconds. Savefiles will have the name specified by -w which should include a time format as defined by strftime(3). If no time format is specified, each new file will overwrite the previous.
If used in conjunction with the -C option, filenames will take the form of `file<count>'.
Print the tcpdump and libpcap version strings, print a usage message, and exit.
Print the tcpdump and libpcap version strings and exit.
Attempt to detect 802.11s draft mesh headers.
-i interface
Listen on interface. If unspecified, tcpdump searches the system interface list for the lowest numbered, configured up interface (excluding loopback), which may turn out to be, for example, ``eth0''.
On Linux systems with 2.2 or later kernels, an interface argument of ``any'' can be used to capture packets from all interfaces. Note that captures on the ``any'' device will not be done in promiscuous mode.
If the -D flag is supported, an interface number as printed by that flag can be used as the interface argument.
Put the interface in "monitor mode"; this is supported only on IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi interfaces, and supported only on some operating systems.
Note that in monitor mode the adapter might disassociate from the network with which it's associated, so that you will not be able to use any wireless networks with that adapter. This could prevent accessing files on a network server, or resolving host names or network addresses, if you are capturing in monitor mode and are not connected to another network with another adapter.
This flag will affect the output of the -L flag. If -I isn't specified, only those link-layer types available when not in monitor mode will be shown; if -I is specified, only those link-layer types available when in monitor mode will be shown.
Capture in "immediate mode". In this mode, packets are delivered to tcpdump as soon as they arrive, rather than being buffered for efficiency. This is the default when printing packets rather than saving packets to a ``savefile'' if the packets are being printed to a terminal rather than to a file or pipe.
-j tstamp_type
Set the time stamp type for the capture to tstamp_type. The names to use for the time stamp types are given in pcap-tstamp(7); not all the types listed there will necessarily be valid for any given interface.
List the supported time stamp types for the interface and exit. If the time stamp type cannot be set for the interface, no time stamp types are listed.
When capturing, set the time stamp precision for the capture to tstamp_precision. Note that availability of high precision time stamps (nanoseconds) and their actual accuracy is platform and hardware dependent. Also note that when writing captures made with nanosecond accuracy to a savefile, the time stamps are written with nanosecond resolution, and the file is written with a different magic number, to indicate that the time stamps are in seconds and nanoseconds; not all programs that read pcap savefiles will be able to read those captures.
When reading a savefile, convert time stamps to the precision specified by timestamp_precision, and display them with that resolution. If the precision specified is less than the precision of time stamps in the file, the conversion will lose precision.
The supported values for timestamp_precision are micro for microsecond resolution and nano for nanosecond resolution. The default is microsecond resolution.
Don't attempt to verify IP, TCP, or UDP checksums. This is useful for interfaces that perform some or all of those checksum calculation in hardware; otherwise, all outgoing TCP checksums will be flagged as bad.
Make stdout line buffered. Useful if you want to see the data while capturing it. E.g.,
tcpdump -l | tee dat
tcpdump -l > dat & tail -f dat
Note that on Windows,``line buffered'' means ``unbuffered'', so that WinDump will write each character individually if -l is specified.
-U is similar to -l in its behavior, but it will cause output to be ``packet-buffered'', so that the output is written to stdout at the end of each packet rather than at the end of each line; this is buffered on all platforms, including Windows.
List the known data link types for the interface, in the specified mode, and exit. The list of known data link types may be dependent on the specified mode; for example, on some platforms, a Wi-Fi interface might support one set of data link types when not in monitor mode (for example, it might support only fake Ethernet headers, or might support 802.11 headers but not support 802.11 headers with radio information) and another set of data link types when in monitor mode (for example, it might support 802.11 headers, or 802.11 headers with radio information, only in monitor mode).
-m module
Load SMI MIB module definitions from file module. This option can be used several times to load several MIB modules into tcpdump.
-M secret
Use secret as a shared secret for validating the digests found in TCP segments with the TCP-MD5 option (RFC 2385), if present.
Don't convert addresses (i.e., host addresses, port numbers, etc.) to names.
Don't print domain name qualification of host names. E.g., if you give this flag then tcpdump will print ``nic'' instead of ``''.
Print an optional packet number at the beginning of the line.
Do not run the packet-matching code optimizer. This is useful only if you suspect a bug in the optimizer.
Don't put the interface into promiscuous mode. Note that the interface might be in promiscuous mode for some other reason; hence, `-p' cannot be used as an abbreviation for `ether host {local-hw-addr} or ether broadcast'.
-Q direction
Choose send/receive direction direction for which packets should be captured. Possible values are `in', `out' and `inout'. Not available on all platforms.
Quick (quiet?) output. Print less protocol information so output lines are shorter.
Assume ESP/AH packets to be based on old specification (RFC1825 to RFC1829). If specified, tcpdump will not print replay prevention field. Since there is no protocol version field in ESP/AH specification, tcpdump cannot deduce the version of ESP/AH protocol.
-r file
Read packets from file (which was created with the -w option or by other tools that write pcap or pcap-ng files). Standard input is used if file is ``-''.
Print absolute, rather than relative, TCP sequence numbers.
-s snaplen
Snarf snaplen bytes of data from each packet rather than the default of 65535 bytes. Packets truncated because of a limited snapshot are indicated in the output with ``[|proto]'', where proto is the name of the protocol level at which the truncation has occurred. Note that taking larger snapshots both increases the amount of time it takes to process packets and, effectively, decreases the amount of packet buffering. This may cause packets to be lost. You should limit snaplen to the smallest number that will capture the protocol information you're interested in. Setting snaplen to 0 sets it to the default of 65535, for backwards compatibility with recent older versions of tcpdump.
-T type
Force packets selected by "expression" to be interpreted the specified type. Currently known types are aodv (Ad-hoc On-demand Distance Vector protocol), carp (Common Address Redundancy Protocol), cnfp (Cisco NetFlow protocol), lmp (Link Management Protocol), pgm (Pragmatic General Multicast), pgm_zmtp1 (ZMTP/1.0 inside PGM/EPGM), radius (RADIUS), rpc (Remote Procedure Call), rtp (Real-Time Applications protocol), rtcp (Real-Time Applications control protocol), snmp (Simple Network Management Protocol), tftp (Trivial File Transfer Protocol), vat (Visual Audio Tool), wb (distributed White Board), zmtp1 (ZeroMQ Message Transport Protocol 1.0) and vxlan (Virtual eXtensible Local Area Network).
Note that the pgm type above affects UDP interpretation only, the native PGM is always recognised as IP protocol 113 regardless. UDP-encapsulated PGM is often called "EPGM" or "PGM/UDP".
Note that the pgm_zmtp1 type above affects interpretation of both native PGM and UDP at once. During the native PGM decoding the application data of an ODATA/RDATA packet would be decoded as a ZeroMQ datagram with ZMTP/1.0 frames. During the UDP decoding in addition to that any UDP packet would be treated as an encapsulated PGM packet.
Don't print a timestamp on each dump line.
Print the timestamp, as seconds since January 1, 1970, 00:00:00, UTC, and fractions of a second since that time, on each dump line.
Print a delta (micro-second resolution) between current and previous line on each dump line.
Print a timestamp, as hours, minutes, seconds, and fractions of a second since midnight, preceded by the date, on each dump line.
Print a delta (micro-second resolution) between current and first line on each dump line.
Print undecoded NFS handles.
If the -w option is not specified, make the printed packet output ``packet-buffered''; i.e., as the description of the contents of each packet is printed, it will be written to the standard output, rather than, when not writing to a terminal, being written only when the output buffer fills.
If the -w option is specified, make the saved raw packet output ``packet-buffered''; i.e., as each packet is saved, it will be written to the output file, rather than being written only when the output buffer fills.
The -U flag will not be supported if tcpdump was built with an older version of libpcap that lacks the pcap_dump_flush() function.
When parsing and printing, produce (slightly more) verbose output. For example, the time to live, identification, total length and options in an IP packet are printed. Also enables additional packet integrity checks such as verifying the IP and ICMP header checksum.
When writing to a file with the -w option, report, every 10 seconds, the number of packets captured.
Even more verbose output. For example, additional fields are printed from NFS reply packets, and SMB packets are fully decoded.
Even more verbose output. For example, telnet SB ... SE options are printed in full. With -X Telnet options are printed in hex as well.
-V file
Read a list of filenames from file. Standard input is used if file is ``-''.
-w file
Write the raw packets to file rather than parsing and printing them out. They can later be printed with the -r option. Standard output is used if file is ``-''.
This output will be buffered if written to a file or pipe, so a program reading from the file or pipe may not see packets for an arbitrary amount of time after they are received. Use the -U flag to cause packets to be written as soon as they are received.
The MIME type application/vnd.tcpdump.pcap has been registered with IANA for pcap files. The filename extension .pcap appears to be the most commonly used along with .cap and .dmp. Tcpdump itself doesn't check the extension when reading capture files and doesn't add an extension when writing them (it uses magic numbers in the file header instead). However, many operating systems and applications will use the extension if it is present and adding one (e.g. .pcap) is recommended.
See pcap-savefile(5) for a description of the file format.
Used in conjunction with the -C option, this will limit the number of files created to the specified number, and begin overwriting files from the beginning, thus creating a 'rotating' buffer. In addition, it will name the files with enough leading 0s to support the maximum number of files, allowing them to sort correctly.
Used in conjunction with the -G option, this will limit the number of rotated dump files that get created, exiting with status 0 when reaching the limit. If used with -C as well, the behavior will result in cyclical files per timeslice.
When parsing and printing, in addition to printing the headers of each packet, print the data of each packet (minus its link level header) in hex. The smaller of the entire packet or snaplen bytes will be printed. Note that this is the entire link-layer packet, so for link layers that pad (e.g. Ethernet), the padding bytes will also be printed when the higher layer packet is shorter than the required padding.
When parsing and printing, in addition to printing the headers of each packet, print the data of each packet, including its link level header, in hex.
When parsing and printing, in addition to printing the headers of each packet, print the data of each packet (minus its link level header) in hex and ASCII. This is very handy for analysing new protocols.
When parsing and printing, in addition to printing the headers of each packet, print the data of each packet, including its link level header, in hex and ASCII.
-y datalinktype
Set the data link type to use while capturing packets to datalinktype.
-z postrotate-command
Used in conjunction with the -C or -G options, this will make tcpdump run " postrotate-command file " where file is the savefile being closed after each rotation. For example, specifying -z gzip or -z bzip2 will compress each savefile using gzip or bzip2.
Note that tcpdump will run the command in parallel to the capture, using the lowest priority so that this doesn't disturb the capture process.
And in case you would like to use a command that itself takes flags or different arguments, you can always write a shell script that will take the savefile name as the only argument, make the flags & arguments arrangements and execute the command that you want.
-Z user
If tcpdump is running as root, after opening the capture device or input savefile, but before opening any savefiles for output, change the user ID to user and the group ID to the primary group of user.
This behavior can also be enabled by default at compile time.
selects which packets will be dumped. If no expression is given, all packets on the net will be dumped. Otherwise, only packets for which expression is `true' will be dumped. For the expression syntax, see pcap-filter(7).
The expression argument can be passed to tcpdump as either a single Shell argument, or as multiple Shell arguments, whichever is more convenient. Generally, if the expression contains Shell metacharacters, such as backslashes used to escape protocol names, it is easier to pass it as a single, quoted argument rather than to escape the Shell metacharacters. Multiple arguments are concatenated with spaces before being parsed.


To print all packets arriving at or departing from sundown:
tcpdump host sundown
To print traffic between helios and either hot or ace:
tcpdump host helios and \( hot or ace \)
To print all IP packets between ace and any host except helios:
tcpdump ip host ace and not helios
To print all traffic between local hosts and hosts at Berkeley:
tcpdump net ucb-ether
To print all ftp traffic through internet gateway snup: (note that the expression is quoted to prevent the shell from (mis-)interpreting the parentheses):
tcpdump 'gateway snup and (port ftp or ftp-data)'
To print traffic neither sourced from nor destined for local hosts (if you gateway to one other net, this stuff should never make it onto your local net).
tcpdump ip and not net localnet
To print the start and end packets (the SYN and FIN packets) of each TCP conversation that involves a non-local host.
tcpdump 'tcp[tcpflags] & (tcp-syn|tcp-fin) != 0 and not src and dst net localnet'
To print all IPv4 HTTP packets to and from port 80, i.e. print only packets that contain data, not, for example, SYN and FIN packets and ACK-only packets. (IPv6 is left as an exercise for the reader.)
tcpdump 'tcp port 80 and (((ip[2:2] - ((ip[0]&0xf)<<2)) - ((tcp[12]&0xf0)>>2)) != 0)'
To print IP packets longer than 576 bytes sent through gateway snup:
tcpdump 'gateway snup and ip[2:2] > 576'
To print IP broadcast or multicast packets that were not sent via Ethernet broadcast or multicast:
tcpdump 'ether[0] & 1 = 0 and ip[16] >= 224'
To print all ICMP packets that are not echo requests/replies (i.e., not ping packets):
tcpdump 'icmp[icmptype] != icmp-echo and icmp[icmptype] != icmp-echoreply'

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