pcap - Packet Capture library
pcap_t *pcap_open_live(char *device, int snaplen,
int promisc, int to_ms, char *ebuf)
pcap_t *pcap_open_dead(int linktype, int snaplen)
pcap_t *pcap_open_offline(char *fname, char *ebuf)
pcap_dumper_t *pcap_dump_open(pcap_t *p, char *fname)
char *pcap_lookupdev(char *errbuf)
int pcap_lookupnet(char *device, bpf_u_int32 *netp,
bpf_u_int32 *maskp, char *errbuf)
int pcap_dispatch(pcap_t *p, int cnt,
pcap_handler callback, u_char *user)
int pcap_loop(pcap_t *p, int cnt,
pcap_handler callback, u_char *user)
void pcap_dump(u_char *user, struct pcap_pkthdr *h,
int pcap_compile(pcap_t *p, struct bpf_program *fp,
char *str, int optimize, bpf_u_int32 netmask)
int pcap_setfilter(pcap_t *p, struct bpf_program *fp)
void pcap_freecode(struct bpf_program *);
u_char *pcap_next(pcap_t *p, struct pcap_pkthdr *h)
int pcap_datalink(pcap_t *p)
int pcap_snapshot(pcap_t *p)
int pcap_is_swapped(pcap_t *p)
int pcap_major_version(pcap_t *p)
int pcap_minor_version(pcap_t *p)
int pcap_stats(pcap_t *p, struct pcap_stat *ps)
FILE *pcap_file(pcap_t *p)
int pcap_fileno(pcap_t *p)
void pcap_perror(pcap_t *p, char *prefix)
char *pcap_geterr(pcap_t *p)
char *pcap_strerror(int error)
void pcap_close(pcap_t *p)
void pcap_dump_close(pcap_dumper_t *p)
The Packet Capture library provides a high level interface to packet capture systems. All
packets on the network, even those destined for other hosts, are accessible through this
NOTE: errbuf in pcap_open_live(), pcap_open_offline(), pcap_lookupdev(), and pcap_lookup-
net() is assumed to be able to hold at least PCAP_ERRBUF_SIZE chars.
pcap_open_live() is used to obtain a packet capture descriptor to look at packets on the
network. device is a string that specifies the network device to open; on Linux systems
with 2.2 or later kernels, a device argument of "any" or NULL can be used to capture pack-
ets from all interfaces. snaplen specifies the maximum number of bytes to capture.
promisc specifies if the interface is to be put into promiscuous mode. (Note that even if
this parameter is false, the interface could well be in promiscuous mode for some other
reason.) For now, this doesn't work on the "any" device; if an argument of "any" or NULL
is supplied, the promisc flag is ignored. to_ms specifies the read timeout in millisec-
onds. The read timeout is used to arrange that the read not necessarily return immedi-
ately when a packet is seen, but that it wait for some amount of time to allow more pack-
ets to arrive and to read multiple packets from the OS kernel in one operation. Not all
platforms support a read timeout; on platforms that don't, the read timeout is ignored.
ebuf is used to return error text and is only set when pcap_open_live() fails and returns
pcap_open_dead() is used for creating a pcap_t structure to use when calling the other
functions in libpcap. It is typically used when just using libpcap for compiling BPF
pcap_open_offline() is called to open a ``savefile'' for reading. fname specifies the
name of the file to open. The file has the same format as those used by tcpdump(1) and
tcpslice(1). The name "-" in a synonym for stdin. ebuf is used to return error text and
is only set when pcap_open_offline() fails and returns NULL.
pcap_dump_open() is called to open a ``savefile'' for writing. The name "-" in a synonym
for stdout. NULL is returned on failure. p is a pcap struct as returned by
pcap_open_offline() or pcap_open_live(). fname specifies the name of the file to open.
If NULL is returned, pcap_geterr() can be used to get the error text.
pcap_lookupdev() returns a pointer to a network device suitable for use with
pcap_open_live() and pcap_lookupnet(). If there is an error, NULL is returned and errbuf
is filled in with an appropriate error message.
pcap_lookupnet() is used to determine the network number and mask associated with the net-
work device device. Both netp and maskp are bpf_u_int32 pointers. A return of -1 indi-
cates an error in which case errbuf is filled in with an appropriate error message.
pcap_dispatch() is used to collect and process packets. cnt specifies the maximum number
of packets to process before returning. This is not a minimum number; when reading a live
capture, only one bufferful of packets is read at a time, so fewer than cnt packets may be
processed. A cnt of -1 processes all the packets received in one buffer when reading a
live capture, or all the packets in the file when reading a ``savefile''. callback speci-
fies a routine to be called with three arguments: a u_char pointer which is passed in from
pcap_dispatch(), a pointer to the pcap_pkthdr struct (which precede the actual network
headers and data), and a u_char pointer to the packet data.
The number of packets read is returned. 0 is returned if no packets were read from a live
capture (if, for example, they were discarded because they didn't pass the packet filter,
or if, on platforms that support a read timeout that starts before any packets arrive, the
timeout expires before any packets arrive, or if the file descriptor for the capture
device is in non-blocking mode and no packets were available to be read) or if no more
packets are available in a ``savefile.'' A return of -1 indicates an error in which case
pcap_perror() or pcap_geterr() may be used to display the error text.
NOTE: when reading a live capture, pcap_dispatch() will not necessarily return when the
read times out; on some platforms, the read timeout isn't supported, and, on other plat-
forms, the timer doesn't start until at least one packet arrives. This means that the
read timeout should NOT be used in, for example, an interactive application, to allow the
packet capture loop to ``poll'' for user input periodically, as there's no guarantee that
pcap_dispatch() will return after the timeout expires.
pcap_loop() is similar to pcap_dispatch() except it keeps reading packets until cnt pack-
ets are processed or an error occurs. It does not return when live read timeouts occur.
Rather, specifying a non-zero read timeout to pcap_open_live() and then calling pcap_dis-
patch() allows the reception and processing of any packets that arrive when the timeout
occurs. A negative cnt causes pcap_loop() to loop forever (or at least until an error
pcap_next() returns a u_char pointer to the next packet.
pcap_dump() outputs a packet to the ``savefile'' opened with pcap_dump_open(). Note that
its calling arguments are suitable for use with pcap_dispatch() or pcap_loop().
pcap_compile() is used to compile the string str into a filter program. program is a
pointer to a bpf_program struct and is filled in by pcap_compile(). optimize controls
whether optimization on the resulting code is performed. netmask specifies the netmask of
the local net. A return of -1 indicates an error in which case pcap_geterr() may be used
to display the error text.
pcap_compile_nopcap() is similar to pcap_compile() except that instead of passing a pcap
structure, one passes the snaplen and linktype explicitly. It is intended to be used for
compiling filters for direct BPF usage, without necessarily having called pcap_open(). A
return of -1 indicates an error; the error text is unavailable. (pcap_compile_nopcap() is
a wrapper around pcap_open_dead(), pcap_compile(), and pcap_close(); the latter three rou-
tines can be used directly in order to get the error text for a compilation error.)
pcap_setfilter() is used to specify a filter program. fp is a pointer to a bpf_program
struct, usually the result of a call to pcap_compile(). -1 is returned on failure, in
which case pcap_geterr() may be used to display the error text; 0 is returned on success.
pcap_freecode() is used to free up allocated memory pointed to by a bpf_program struct
generated by pcap_compile() when that BPF program is no longer needed, for example after
it has been made the filter program for a pcap structure by a call to pcap_setfilter().
pcap_datalink() returns the link layer type, e.g. DLT_EN10MB.
pcap_snapshot() returns the snapshot length specified when pcap_open_live was called.
pcap_is_swapped() returns true if the current ``savefile'' uses a different byte order
than the current system.
pcap_major_version() returns the major number of the version of the pcap used to write the
pcap_minor_version() returns the minor number of the version of the pcap used to write the
pcap_file() returns the name of the ``savefile.''
int pcap_stats() returns 0 and fills in a pcap_stat struct. The values represent packet
statistics from the start of the run to the time of the call. If there is an error or the
under lying packet capture doesn't support packet statistics, -1 is returned and the error
text can be obtained with pcap_perror() or pcap_geterr().
pcap_fileno() returns the file descriptor number of the ``savefile.''
pcap_perror() prints the text of the last pcap library error on stderr, prefixed by pre-
pcap_geterr() returns the error text pertaining to the last pcap library error. NOTE: the
pointer it returns will no longer point to a valid error message string after the pcap_t
passed to it is closed; you must use or copy the string before closing the pcap_t.
pcap_strerror() is provided in case strerror(1) isn't available.
pcap_close() closes the files associated with p and deallocates resources.
pcap_dump_close() closes the ``savefile.''
The original authors are:
Van Jacobson, Craig Leres and Steven McCanne, all of the Lawrence Berkeley National Labo-
ratory, University of California, Berkeley, CA.
The current version is available from "The Tcpdump Group"'s Web site at
Please send problems, bugs, questions, desirable enhancements, etc. to:
Please send source code contributions, etc. to:
3 January 2001 PCAP(3)