TCPDUMP: a simple cheatsheet
Having a solid grasp of tcpdump is mandatory for anyone desiring a thorough understanding of TCP/IP.
What is tcpdump?
Tcpdump is one of th best network analysis tool for information security professionals.
tcpdumpruns under the command line and allows the user to display TCP/IP and other packets being transmitted or received over a network to which the computer is attached.
Is a Free Software, originally written in 1988 by Van Jacobson, Sally Floyd, Vern Paxson and Steven McCanne who were, at the time, working in the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory Network Research Group.
tcpdump is distributed under the BSD license.
Many prefer to use higher level analysis tools such as Wireshark, but I believe that when using a tool that displays network traffic in a raw format the burden of analysis is placed directly on the human rather than the application, allowing the analyst to perform a more deeper research.
This kind of approach require a deeper understanding of the TCP/IP suite,so start using tcpdump instead of other tools whenever possible!
Here a few options you can use when using tcpdump.
Using this options, we will try to build some simple usecases.
-i any : Listen on all interfaces just to see if you’re seeing any traffic.
-i eth0 : Listen on the eth0 interface.
-D : Show the list of available interfaces
-n : Don’t resolve hostnames.
-nn : Don’t resolve hostnames or port names.
-q : Be less verbose (more quiet) with your output.
-t : Give human-readable timestamp output.
-tttt : Give maximally human-readable timestamp output.
-X : Show the packet’s contents in both hex and ASCII.
-XX : Same as -X, but also shows the ethernet header.
-v, -vv, -vvv : Increase the amount of packet information you get back.
-c : Only get x number of packets and then stop.
-s : Define the size of the capture in bytes. Use -s0 to get everything, unless you are intentionally capturing less.
-S : Print absolute sequence numbers.
-e : Get the ethernet header as well.
-q : Show less protocol information.
-E : Decrypt IPSEC traffic by providing an encryption key.
Now, a brief excerpt about expressions, that allows you to trim out various types of traffic and find exactly what you’re looking for.
There are three main types of expression: type, dir, and proto.
Type options are: host, net, and port.
Direction lets you do src, dst, and combinations thereof.
Proto(col) lets you designate: tcp, udp, icmp, ah, and many more.
The Use Cases
Now, let's try using this information in real usecases:
Listing possible network interfaces on the system
$ tcpdump -D 1.eth0 2.eth1 3.eth2
tcpdump -i interface-name
Capture packets from a particular interface
tcpdump -i eth1
tcpdump -c N
Capture only N number of packets
tcpdump -i eth1 -c 10
tcpdump -w file.pcap
Capture the packets and write into a file
tcpdump -i eth1 -w tmp.pcap
tcpdump -s 0
Capture and store network frames full-length
tcpdump -i eth1 -w tmp.pcap -s 0
tcpdump -r file.pcap
Reading the packets from a saved file
tcpdump -tttt -r tmp.pcap
Capture packets with proper readable timestamp
tcpdump -i eth1 -tttt
tcpdump greater N
Read packets longer than N bytes
tcpdump -i eth1 -w tmp.pcap greater 1024
Specify protocol type
To receive only the packets of a specific protocol type - fddi, tr, wlan, ip, ip6, arp, rarp, decnet, tcp and udp
tcpdump -i eth1 arp
tcpdump host IP
Will show you traffic from 126.96.36.199, whether it’s the source or the destination.
tcpdump host 188.8.131.52
Filtering by source and sestination: it’s quite easy to isolate traffic based on either source or destination using
tcpdump src 184.108.40.206 tcpdump dst 220.127.116.11
tcpdump net x.x.x.x/xx
Filter packets by network: you can combine this with the
dst options as well.
tcpdump net 18.104.22.168/24
tcpdump port PORT_NO
Receive packets flows on a particular port
tcpdump -i eth1 port 22 tcpdump -i eth1 src port 1026
Filter traffic based on Packet Size: you can use less, greater, or their associated symbols that you would expect from mathematics.
tcpdump -i eth1 less 32 tcpdump -i eth1 greater 64 tcpdump -i eth1 <= 128
tcpdump dst IPADDRESS and port PORT-NO
Capture packets for particular destination IP and Port
tcpdump -i eth1 dst 10.181.140.216 and port 22
Display more packet information
E.g. tcpdump -i eth1 -vvv
Display link level header of every packet: -e
tcpdump -i eth1 -e -t listening on eth2, link-type EN10MB (Ethernet), capture size 65535 bytes 52:54:00:e1:1c:10 (oui Unknown) > 01:80:c2:00:00:00 (oui Unknown), 802.3, length 60: LLC, dsap STP (0x42) Individual, ssap STP (0x42) Command, ctrl 0x03: STP 802.1d, Config, Flags [none], bridge-id 8000.52:54:00:e1:1c:10.8003, length 43 52:54:00:e1:1c:10 (oui Unknown) > 01:80:c2:00:00:00 (oui Unknown), 802.3, length 60: LLC, dsap STP (0x42) Individual, ssap STP (0x42) Command, ctrl 0x03: STP 802.1d, Config, Flags [none], bridge-id 8000.52:54:00:e1:1c:10.8003, length 43
Don’t print a timestamp on each dump lin: without using -t option we can see the below output timestamp is dumped.
tcpdump -i eth2 listening on eth2, link-type EN10MB (Ethernet), capture size 65535 bytes 08:44:51.295229 STP 802.1d, Config, Flags [none], bridge-id 8000.52:54:00:e1:1c:10.8003, length 43 08:44:53.296795 STP 802.1d, Config, Flags [none], bridge-id 8000.52:54:00:e1:1c:10.8003, length 43
and with -t option:
tcpdump -i eth2 -t listening on eth2, link-type EN10MB (Ethernet), capture size 65535 bytes STP 802.1d, Config, Flags [none], bridge-id 8000.52:54:00:e1:1c:10.8003, length 43 STP 802.1d, Config, Flags [none], bridge-id 8000.52:54:00:e1:1c:10.8003, length 43
Display packets with IP address instead of DNS names: -nBasically tcpdump converts the plain address to DNS names. Using n option we can make tcpdump to display ip address.
tcpdump -i eth1 -n
Display Captured Packets in ASCII
tcpdump -i eth1 -A
Display Captured Packets in HEX and ASCII
tcpdump -i eth1 -XX
tcpdump -nnvXSs 0 -c1 icmp
Hex output: useful when you want to see the content of the packets in question, and it’s often best used when you’re isolating a few candidates for closer scrutiny.
Some everyday examples
tcpdump can output content in ASCII, so you can use it to search for cleartext content using other command-line tools like
-l switch lets you see the traffic as you’re capturing it, and helps when sending to commands like
Find HTTP User Agents
tcpdump -vvAls0 | grep 'User-Agent:'
Cleartext GET Requests
tcpdump -vvAls0 | grep 'GET'
Find HTTP Host Headers
tcpdump -vvAls0 | grep 'Host:'
Find HTTP Cookies
tcpdump -vvAls0 | grep 'Set-Cookie|Host:|Cookie:'
Find SSH Connections
This one works regardless of what port the connection comes in on, because it’s getting the banner response.
tcpdump 'tcp[(tcp>>2):4] = 0x5353482D'
Find DNS Traffic
tcpdump -vvAs0 port 53
Find FTP Traffic
tcpdump -vvAs0 port ftp or ftp-data
Find NTP Traffic
tcpdump -vvAs0 port 123
Find Cleartext Passwords
tcpdump port http or port ftp or port smtp or port imap or port pop3 or port telnet -lA | egrep -i -B5 'pass=|pwd=|log=|login=|user=|username=|pw=|passw=|passwd=|password=|pass:|user:|username:|password:|login:|pass |user '
References and further readings