tcpdump is a tool you will often use to troubleshoot networking problems. It's much more convenient than wireshark because you can use it on a server without a GUI. It can process enormous files very quickly and input and output can be processed using standard UNIX utilities.


The simplest way to log network traffic is to run:

$ doas tcpdump -w YYYYMMDDSS.pcap

This will log all network packets into the file YYYYMMDDSS.pcap. Replace YYYY with the year, MM with the month, DD with the day, and SS with the serial number.

NOTE: tcpdump requires you to run as root (use doas) when you are logging network traffic because normal users should not have permission to view this sensitive data.

You can choose which network interface to log by including the option -i:

$ doas tcpdump -i vio0 -w YYYYMMDDSS.pcap

This logs only packets from vio0.

To stop collection, type [ctrl]+c, ^C.

To read a pcap file, you use tcpdump with the -r option. I recommend also using -n to avoid doing hostname lookup (this dramatically speeds up tcpdump):

$ doas tcpdump -n -r YYYYMMDDSS.pcap

To get more verbose output, use -v. This will include the time to live (TTL) and type of service (ToS) of the packet:

$ doas tcpdump -n -v -r YYYYMMDDSS.pcap

To see the first 1500 bytes of data in ASCII format, add -s 1500 -A:

$ doas tcpdump -n -v -s 1500 -A -r YYYYMMDDSS.pcap


The power of tcpdump lies in the ability to filter packets easily using english-like syntax:

To show only packets that are coming from or going to IP

$ doas tcpdump 'host'

To show only packets that have source IP, then to show only packets with destination IP

$ doas tcpdump 'src'
$ doas tcpdump 'dst'

You can combine these with and &&, or ||, and not !.

To show only packets that have source IP and destination IP

$ doas tcpdump 'src && dst'

To show only packets from network headed for destination network but no packets going to or from port 22:

$ doas tcpdump '(src net and dst net and !port 22'

The keyword net is used for specifying subnets and parentheses () are used for grouping.

To show only traffic from certain protocols, use keywords like icmp or ip6. For example:

$ doas tcpdump '(udp || tcp) && portrange 6667-7000'

This shows UDP and TCP packets that involve ports 6667 to 7000 (port ranges used for IRC).

Here are two different ways for finding RST (reset) packets (see TCP RST flood):

$ doas tcpdump 'tcp[13]&4 != 0'
$ doas tcpdump 'tcp[tcpflags] == tcp-rst'

Here are two different ways for finding SYN packets (see SYN flood?):

$ doas tcpdump 'tcp[13]&2 != 0'
$ doas tcpdump 'tcp[tcpflags] == tcp-syn'

Here's how to find SYN-ACK packets (see SYN-ACK flood?):

$ doas tcpdump 'tcp[13] = 18'

Here's how to find ACK packets:

$ doas tcpdump 'tcp[13]&16 != 0'
$ doas tcpdump 'tcp[tcpflags] == tcp-ack'

And FIN packets:

$ doas tcpdump 'tcp[13]&1 != 0'
$ doas tcpdump 'tcp[tcpflags] == tcp-fin'

Find the evil bit, which is always malicious:

$ doas tcpdump 'ip[6]&128 != 0'

External Links

Much of this content was adapted from Daniel Miessler's TCPDump Guide

See Also