Pcaps and the Tools That Love Them Part 1 of ???

There are many pcap tools available and which ones you use really depends on what you’re using them for. Some are very good at just giving you the raw data, others parse the data and show you certain types of packets..

But maybe we should back up one step and define what we’re taking about. What is a pcap? Simply put, a pcap is a binary file that contains packets captured off of a network interface.

How much data, and which fields depends on the manner that you capture the packets. We’ll look at some of those options as look at tcpdump. I won’t spend a lot of time on that tool because many people are familiar with it, at least the basics. It’s actually a powerful tool when combined with BPFs, but we’ll cover that as well later.

BPFs is short for Berkeley Packet Filters and they allow pcap tools to get granular down to the bit, the BIT, level in specifying what header fields you want to see. For example, the TCP flags are each one bit in size. With BPFs you can specify to your tool to only show you packets that the SYN flag is set. Or SYN and any other combination of flags

The simplest BPFs are built in to tcpdump. As Brandon pointed out “tcp” and “port” are primitives. Others include udp, src dst, icmp, host and ether and net.

Other tools built on the libpcap library can use them as well, tools like ngrep and  tshark.

An example would be tcpdump -nn -i eth0 ‘tcp and port 23’ (edited) 

This would tell tcpdump to listen on the eth0 interface, don’t resolve hostnames, don’t do port resolution, and only show packets that are the TCP protocol and either the source or destination port is 23.

If we only wanted to see traffic going to port 23, we could add the primitive dst in front of port.

tcpdump -nn -i eth0 ‘tcp and dst port 23’

Get into the habit of putting your BPF’s into single quotes.

It will make no difference using simple BPFs like “port 80 or port 443”, but when you get into complex BPFs using bitmasking, it will keep you from getting syntax errors.

So why use the -nn options, that disable name and port resolution? There are several reasons. One reason is speed and efficiency. 

If your sniffing a fast, busy segment and have to do a DNS lookup on every address, it will slow tcpdump down to the point of starting to drop packets. 

Another reason is if you’re monitoring malicious traffic and the attacker controls his/her nameserver, they will see the DNS lookup and know they’re being monitored by you. 

Port resolution is done using nmaps own services file, nmap-services instead of the default one in /etc/. This is a mapping of ports to services, so when tcpdump sees port 80 it substitutes http for 80. 

But can other services be bound to port 80? If you’re root you can bind any service you like to any port you want. That port 80 traffic could be any protocol. So we’ll bypass the commonly used ports and see what the traffic is ourselves.

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from JeffSoh on NetSec authored by JeffSoh. Read the original post at: