Introduction to tcpdump

Tcpdump is a powerful tool that allows us to sniff network packets and make some statistical analysis out of those dumps. One major drawback to tcpdump is the size of the flat file containing the text output. But tcpdump allows us to precisely see all the traffic and enables us to create statistical monitoring scripts.

In our case, looking at an ethernet segment, tcpdump operates by putting the network card into promiscuous mode in order to capture all the packets going through the wire. Tcpdump runs using BSD Packet Filter (BPF) which is the method of collecting data from this network interface running into promiscuous mode. BPF receives copies from the driver of sent packets and received packets. Before traveling through the kernel all the way up to the user process the user can set a filter so only interesting packets go through the Kernel. SUN OS uses Network Interface Tap (NIT) which only allows to capture packets received from the interface but no packets sent by the host. Still the SUN OS tcpdump does the trick but it performs its own filtering at the user process level which means that more data goes through the kernel.

Locaton on pima: /opt/sfw/sbin/tcpdump to be run as root

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