BPF(9) BSD Kernel Developer's Manual BPF(9)
bpf -- Berkeley Packet Filter
bpfattach(struct ifnet *ifp, u_int dlt, u_int hdrlen);
bpfattach2(struct ifnet *ifp, u_int dlt, u_int hdrlen, struct bpf_if **driverp);
bpfdetach(struct ifnet *ifp);
bpf_tap(struct ifnet *ifp, u_char *pkt, u_int *pktlen);
bpf_mtap(struct ifnet *ifp, struct mbuf *m);
bpf_mtap2(struct bpf_if *bp, void *data, u_int dlen, struct mbuf *m);
bpf_filter(const struct bpf_insn *pc, u_char *pkt, u_int wirelen, u_int buflen);
bpf_validate(const struct bpf_insn *fcode, int flen);
The Berkeley Packet Filter provides a raw interface, that is protocol independent, to data
link layers. It allows all packets on the network, even those destined for other hosts, to
be passed from a network interface to user programs. Each program may specify a filter, in
the form of a bpf filter machine program. The bpf(4) manual page describes the interface
used by user programs. This manual page describes the functions used by interfaces to pass
packets to bpf and the functions for testing and running bpf filter machine programs.
The bpfattach() function attaches a network interface to bpf. The ifp argument is a pointer
to the structure that defines the interface to be attached to an interface. The dlt argu-
ment is the data link-layer type: DLT_NULL (no link-layer encapsulation), DLT_EN10MB (Ether-
net), DLT_IEEE802_11 (802.11 wireless networks), etc. The rest of the link layer types can
be found in <net/bpf.h>. The hdrlen argument is the fixed size of the link header; variable
length headers are not yet supported. The bpf system will hold a pointer to ifp->if_bpf.
This variable will set to a non-NULL value when bpf requires packets from this interface to
be tapped using the functions below.
The bpfattach2() function allows multiple bpf instances to be attached to a single inter-
face, by registering an explicit if_bpf rather than using ifp->if_bpf. It is then possible
to run tcpdump(1) on the interface for any data link-layer types attached.
The bpfdetach() function detaches a bpf instance from an interface, specified by ifp. The
bpfdetach() function should be called once for each bpf instance attached.
The bpf_tap() function is used by an interface to pass the packet to bpf. The packet data
(including link-header), pointed to by pkt, is of length pktlen, which must be a contiguous
buffer. The ifp argument is a pointer to the structure that defines the interface to be
tapped. The packet is parsed by each processes filter, and if accepted, it is buffered for
the process to read.
The bpf_mtap() function is like bpf_tap() except that it is used to tap packets that are in
an mbuf chain, m. The ifp argument is a pointer to the structure that defines the interface
to be tapped. Like bpf_tap(), bpf_mtap() requires a link-header for whatever data link
layer type is specified. Note that bpf only reads from the mbuf chain, it does not free it
or keep a pointer to it. This means that an mbuf containing the link-header can be
prepended to the chain if necessary. A cleaner interface to achieve this is provided by
The bpf_mtap2() function allows the user to pass a link-header data, of length dlen, inde-
pendent of the mbuf m, containing the packet. This simplifies the passing of some link-
The bpf_filter() function executes the filter program starting at pc on the packet pkt. The
wirelen argument is the length of the original packet and buflen is the amount of data
present. The buflen value of 0 is special; it indicates that the pkt is actually a pointer
to an mbuf chain (struct mbuf *).
The bpf_validate() function checks that the filter code fcode, of length flen, is valid.
The bpf_filter() function returns -1 (cast to an unsigned integer) if there is no filter.
Otherwise, it returns the result of the filter program.
The bpf_validate() function returns 0 when the program is not a valid filter program.
bpf invokes bpf_track EVENTHANDLER(9) event each time listener attaches to or detaches from
an interface. Pointer to (struct ifnet *) is passed as the first argument, interface dlt
follows. Last argument indicates listener is attached (1) or detached (0). Note that han-
dler is invoked with bpf global lock held, which implies restriction on sleeping and calling
bpf subsystem inside EVENTHANDLER(9) dispatcher. Note that handler is not called for write-
tcpdump(1), bpf(4), EVENTHANDLER(9)
The Enet packet filter was created in 1980 by Mike Accetta and Rick Rashid at Carnegie-Mel-
lon University. Jeffrey Mogul, at Stanford, ported the code to BSD and continued its devel-
opment from 1983 on. Since then, it has evolved into the Ultrix Packet Filter at DEC, a
STREAMS NIT module under SunOS 4.1, and BPF.
Steven McCanne, of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, implemented BPF in Summer 1990. Much of
the design is due to Van Jacobson. This manpage was written by Orla McGann.
BSD May 11, 2012 BSD