Archive for the NSM Category

Eyesight to the Blind – SSL Decryption for Network Monitoring

Posted in Crypto, NSM on 28 June, 2011 by Alec Waters

Here’s another post I wrote for the InfoSec Institute. This time, the article shows how to add SSL decryption to your NSM infrastructure, restoring the eyesight of sensors blinded by the use of SSL.

You can read the article here; comments welcome, as always!

Alec Waters is responsible for all things security at Dataline Software, and can be emailed at


Indiana Jones and the Contextless Artefact of Doom

Posted in NSM on 16 March, 2011 by Alec Waters

If archaeology floats your boat, in the UK there’s a TV series called “Time Team“. Each episode is fronted by the ever-enthusiastic Tony Robinson (best known for playing Baldrick in Blackadder), and documents a three-day excavation of interesting-site-du-jour.

Archaeology is a bit like tech forensics, in that it is the search for truth amidst a gigantic pile of stuff, some of which may be useful, some of which may not. Features (such as walls, ditches, post holes, etc) and finds (pottery, jewellery, medieval trash, etc) take the place of logs and NSM data, but the investigative methodologies have many parallels.

One astonishing episode was called “Celtic Spring”, which featured the team investigating a highly dubious site containing a hotch-potch of different things that really ought not be in such close proximity to one another. With open minds and their usual professionalism, they proceeded to expose what amounted to a hoax perpetrated by a nineteenth century cleric and twentieth century persons unknown. You can watch the episode here (have patience with the advertising, it soon passes!)

The point of this post concerns a spectacular find – an Iron Age sword, of which only two or three have ever been found in Wales. It wasn’t an ordinary iron age sword, either (if such a thing exists!), it was confirmed as a genuine La Tène sword from Switzerland – none of these have ever been found so far from home.

Dr Jones would have been ecstatic. He’d have rushed it back to Marcus and got it in the museum, probably after using it to escape from some dastardly trap.

However, the Time Team archaeologists weren’t so happy. They were cross. Some of them were absolutely livid. As they excavated the sword, they started to get the feeling that things weren’t quite right. It wasn’t buried very deep down. It was in an odd place to find such a thing. It was alone, with no other finds nearby. And most damning of all, it was above a buried strand of barbed wire, meaning it could only have got there after the wire did.

It turns out that barbed wire is a remarkably datable thing. The gauge and metal used, the nature of the twist and the pattern of the barbs all contribute to identification. This particular barbed wire was no more than twenty years old, meaning the sword had been in the ground for less time than this.

This was the cause of the archaeologists’ dismay. Yes, the sword in itself is a wonderful artefact, but, despite the antics of Dr Jones, archaeologists want to understand how people lived more than they want shiny trinkets for the museum. The sword had been removed from its original La Tène context and dumped unceremoniously in a Welsh ditch, presumably so the perpetrator could get his fifteen minutes of fame. Out of context, the sword is useless for understanding the La Tène culture. The archaeologists want to know who owned the sword, how they lived, how they died, and how they were prepared for their journey to the next world. Had the sword been found in context where it was left, these questions could have been answered. As it is, the sword is useless for these purposes.

An archaeologist ignoring the context of a find

An archaeologist ignoring the context of a find

Finally getting back to the NSM domain, the importance of establishing and investigating context is just as clear. Having Snort tell you it’s seen an instance of “Suspicious Inbound AlphaServer UserAgent” isn’t terribly useful on its own. It needs to be placed into context – when did it happen? What was the source? What was the destination? What exactly was the HTTP conversation all about? Did it have any impact? Only by taking the alert in the context of other indicators can answers be had. Even seemingly open-and-shut cases need to have their indicators put into context and investigated fully.

Indicators are hardly ever standalone entities – get out your trowel and brush, open a trench, and don’t stop digging until you have all the answers!

Alec Waters is responsible for all things security at Dataline Software, and can be emailed at

Next Generation Naughtiness at the Dead Beef Cafe

Posted in General Security, IPv6, Networking, NSM on 23 December, 2010 by Alec Waters

The IPocalypse is nearly upon us. Amongst the FUD, the four horsemen are revving up their steeds, each bearing 32 bits of the IPv6 Global Multicast Address of Armageddon, ff0e::dead:beef:666.

Making sure that the four horsemen don’t bust into our stables undetected is something of a challenge at the moment; IPv6 can represent a definite network monitoring blind spot or, at worst, an unpoliced path right into the heart of your network. Consider the following:

Routers and Firewalls

Although a router may be capable of routing IPv6, are all the features you use on the router IPv6-enabled? Is the firewall process inspecting IPv6 traffic? If it is, is it as feature-rich as the IPv4 equivalent (e.g., does it support application-layer inspection for protocols like FTP, or HTTP protocol compliance checking?)

End hosts

If you IPv6-enable your infrastructure, you may be inadvertently assigning internal hosts global IPv6 addresses (2001::) via stateless address autoconfiguration. If this happens (deliberately or accidentally), are the hosts reachable from the Internet directly? There’s no safety blanket of NAT for internal hosts like there is in IPv4, and if your network and/or host firewalls aren’t configured for IPv6 you could be wide open.


Do your IDS/IPS boxes support IPv6? Snort’s had IPv6 support since (I think) v2.8; the Cisco IPS products are also IPv6-aware, as I’m sure are many others.

Session tracking tools

SANCP has no IPv6 support; Argus does, as does cxtracker. netflow can also be configured to export IPv6 flows using v9 flow exports.

Reporting tools

Even if all of your all-seeing-eyes support IPv6, they’re of little use if your reporting tools don’t. Can your netflow analyser handle IPv6 exports? What about your IDS reporting tools – are they showing you alerts on IPv6 traffic? What about your expensive SIEM box?

The IPv6 Internet is just as rotten as the IPv4 one

We’ve seen some quite prolific IPv6 port scanning just as described here, complete with scans of addresses like 2001:x:x:x::c0:ffee and 2001:x:x:x::dead:beef:cafe. The same scanning host also targeted UDP/53 trying to resolve ‘localhost’, with the same source port (6689) being used for both TCP and UDP scans. I have no idea if this is reconnaissance or part of some kind of research project, but there were nearly 13000 attempts from this one host in the space of about three seconds.

Due to the current lack of visibility into IPv6, it can also make a great bearer of covert channels for an attacker or pentester. Even if you’re not running IPv6 at all, an attacker who gains a foothold within your network could easily set up a low-observable IPv6-over-IPv4 tunnel using one of the many IPv6 transition mechanisms available, such as 6in4 (uses IPv4 protocol 41) or Teredo (encapsulates IPv6 in UDP, and can increase the host’s attack surface by assigning globally routable IPv6 addresses to hosts behind NAT devices, which are otherwise mostly unreachable from the Internet).

The IPocalypse is coming…

…that’s for certain; we just have to make sure we’re ready for it. Even if you’re not using IPv6 right now, you probably will be to some degree a little way down the road. Now’s the time to check the capability of your monitoring infrastructure, and to conduct a traffic audit looking for tunneled IPv6 traffic. Who knows what you might find!

Alec Waters is responsible for all things security at Dataline Software, and can be emailed at

Cap’n Quagga’s Pirate Treasure Map

Posted in Cisco, Networking, NSM on 23 November, 2010 by Alec Waters

Avast, me hearties! When a swashbucklin’ pirate sights land whilst sailin’ uncharted waters, the first thing he be doin’ is makin’ a map. Ye can’t be burying ye treasure if ye don’t have a map, yarrr!


For everyone’s sanity, the pirate speak ends now. Save it for TLAP day!

When searching for booty on a network, it’s often useful to have a map. If you’ve got a foothold during a pentest, for example, how far does your conquered domain stretch? Is it a single-subnet site behind a SOHO router, or a tiny outpost of a corporate empire spanning several countries?

To get the answer, the best thing to do is ask one of the locals. In this case, we’re going to try to convince a helpful router to give up the goods and tell us what the network looks like. The control plane within the enterprise’s routers contains the routing table, which is essentially a list of destination prefixes (i.e., IP networks) and the next-hop to be used to get there (i.e., which neighbouring router to pass traffic on to in order to reach a destination).

The routing table is populated by a routing protocol (such as BGP, OSPF, EIGRP, RIP, etc), which may in turn have many internal tables and data structures of its own. Interior routing protocols (like OSPF) are concerned with finding the “best” route from A to B within the enterprise using a “technical” perspective; they’re concerned with automatically finding the “shortest” and “fastest” route, as opposed to exterior routing protocols like BGP which are more interested in implementing human-written traffic forwarding policies between different organisations.

The key word above automatic. Interior routing protocols like to discover new neighbouring routers without intervention – it can therefore cater for failed routers that come back online, and allow the network to grow and have the “best” paths recomputed automatically.

So, how are we going to get our treasure map so that we know how far we can explore? We’re going to call in Cap’n Quagga!

Technically, it's James the Pirate Zebra, but seriously man, you try finding a picture of a pirate quagga!! They're extinct, for starters!

Pirate Cap'n Quagga aboard his ship, "Ye Stripy Scallywag"

Quagga is a software implementation of a handful of routing protocols. We’re going to use it to convince the local router that we’re a new member of the pirate fleet, upon which the router will form a neighbour relationship with us. After this has happened we’ll end up with our pirate treasure map, namely the enterprise’s routing table. Finally, we’ll look at ways in which the corporate privateers can detect Cap’n Quagga, and ways to prevent his buckle from swashing in the first place.

For the purposes of this article we’re going to use OSPF, but the principles hold for other protocols too. OSPF is quite a beast, and full discussion of the protocol is well beyond the scope of this article – interested parties should pick up a book.

Step One – Installing and configuring Quagga

I’m using Debian, so ‘apt-get install quagga’ will do the job quite nicely. Once installed, we need to tweak a few files:


This file controls which routing protocols will run. We’re interested only in OSPF for this example, so we can edit it as follows:


As shown above, we need to turn on the zebra daemon too – ospfd can’t stand alone.

Next, we need to set up some basic config files for zebra and ospfd:


hostname pentest-zebra
password quagga
enable password quagga


hostname pentest
password quagga
enable password quagga
log stdout

Now we can force a restart of Quagga with ‘/etc/init.d/quagga restart’.

For more information, the Quagga documentation is here, the wiki is here, and there’s a great tutorial here.

Step Two – Climb the rigging to the crow’s nest and get out ye spyglass

We need to work out if there’s a router on the local subnet that’s running OSPF. This step is straightforward, as OSPF sends out multicast “Hello” packets by default every ten seconds – all we have to do is listen for it. As far as capturing this traffic goes, it has a few distinguishing features:

  • The destination IP address is, the reserved AllSPFRouters multicast address
  • The IP datagrams have a TTL of one, ensuring that the multicast scope is link local only
  • OSPF does not ride inside TCP or UDP – it has its own IP Protocol number, 89.

The easiest capture filter for tshark/tethereal or their GUI equivalents is simply “ip proto 89”; this will capture OSPF hellos in short order:

Ahoy there, matey!

Apart from confirming the presence of a local OSPF router, this information is critical in establishing the next step on our journey to plunderville – we need Quagga’s simulated router to form a special kind of neighbour relationship with the real router called an “adjacency”. Only once an adjacency has formed will routing information be exchanged. Fortunately, everything we need to know is in the hello packet:

Ye're flying my colours, matey!

For a text only environment, “tshark -i eth0 -f ‘ip proto 89’ -V” provides similar output.

Step Three – configure Quagga’s OSPF daemon

For an adjacency to form (which will allow the exchange of LSAs, which will allow us to populate the OSPF database, which will allow us to run the SPF algorithm, which will allow us to populate the local IP routing table…), we need to configure Quagga so that all of the highlighted parameters above match. The command syntax is very Cisco-esque, and supports context sensitive help, abbreviated commands and tab completion. I’m showing the full commands here, but you can abbreviate as necessary:

# telnet localhost ospfd
Connected to localhost.
Escape character is ‘^]’.

Hello, this is Quagga (version 0.99.17).
Copyright 1996-2005 Kunihiro Ishiguro, et al.

User Access Verification

pentest> enable
pentest# configure terminal
pentest(config)# interface eth0
! Make the hello and dead intervals match what we’ve captured
pentest(config-if)# ospf hello-interval 10
pentest(config-if)# ospf dead-interval 40
pentest(config-if)# exit
pentest(config)# router ospf
! eth0 on this machine was given by DHCP
! The command below will put any interfaces in
! into area, effectively
! therefore “turning on” OSPF on eth0
! The area id can be specified as an integer (4) or
! as a dotted quad (
pentest(config-router)# network area
pentest(config-router)# exit
pentest(config)# exit

We can check our work by looking at the running-config:

pentest# show running-config

Current configuration:
hostname pentest
password quagga
enable password quagga
log stdout
interface eth0
interface lo
router ospf
network area
line vty

The Hello and Dead intervals of 10 and 40 are the defaults, which is why they don’t show in the running-config under ‘interface eth0’.

Step Four – Start diggin’, matey!

With a bit of luck, we’ll have formed an OSPF adjacency with the local router:

pentest# show ip ospf neighbor

Neighbor ID Pri  State    Dead Time Address        Interface   1  Full/DR  32.051s eth0:

If we exit from Quagga’s OSPF daemon and connect to zebra instead, we can look at our shiny new routing table. Routes learned via OSPF are prefixed with O:

# telnet localhost zebra
Connected to localhost.
Escape character is ‘^]’.

Hello, this is Quagga (version 0.99.17).
Copyright 1996-2005 Kunihiro Ishiguro, et al.

User Access Verification

pentest-zebra> show ip route
Codes: K – kernel route, C – connected, S – static, R – RIP, O – OSPF,
I – ISIS, B – BGP, > – selected route, * – FIB route

O [110/1] via, eth0, 00:04:45
K>* via, eth0
O>* [110/1012] via, eth0, 00:04:46
O>* [110/1012] via, eth0, 00:04:46
O>* [110/1012] via, eth0, 00:04:46
O>* [110/1012] via, eth0, 00:04:46
O>* [110/1012] via, eth0, 00:04:46
O>* [110/1012] via, eth0, 00:04:46
O>* [110/15] via, eth0, 00:04:46
O>* [110/16] via, eth0, 00:04:46
O>* [110/11] via, eth0, 00:04:46
O>* [110/110] via, eth0, 00:04:46
O>* [110/12] via, eth0, 00:04:46
O>* [110/13] via, eth0, 00:04:46
O>* [110/16] via, eth0, 00:04:46
O>* [110/1012] via, eth0, 00:04:46
O>* [110/1012] via, eth0, 00:04:46

We clearly are not just sitting on a single-subnet LAN! Here are some of the things we can learn from the routing table:

  • Firstly, we’ve got a few more subnets than merely the local one to enumerate with nmap etc!
  • We can make some kind of estimation on how far away the subnets are by looking at the route metrics. An example above is the ‘1012’ part of ‘[110/1012]’. 1012 is the metric for the route, with the precise meaning of “metric” varying from routing protocol to routing protocol. In the case of OSPF, by default this is the sum of the interface costs between here and the destination, where the interface cost is derived from the interface’s speed. The 110 part denotes the OSPF protocol’s “administrative distance“, which is a measure of trustworthiness of a route offered for inclusion in the routing table by a given routing protocol. If two protocols offer the routing table exactly the same prefix (, for example), the routing protocol with the lowest AD will “win”.
  • A good number of these routes have a prefix length of /26 (i.e., a subnet mask of, meaning that they represent 64 IP addresses. These are likely to be host subnets with new victims on them.
  • The /30 routes (4 IP addresses) are likely to be point-to-point links between routers or even WAN or VPN links between sites.
  • The /32 routes (just one IP address) are going to be loopback addresses on individual routers. If you want to target infrastructure directly, these are the ones to go for.

If you want to start digging really deeply, you can look at the OSPF database (show ip ospf database), but that’s waaay out of scope for now.

Step Five – Prepare a broadside!

If we’ve got to this point, we are in a position not only to conduct reconnaissance, but we could also start injecting routes into their routing table or manipulate the prefixes already present in an effort to redirect traffic to us (or to a blackhole). Originating a default route is always fun, since it will take precedence over legitimate static default routes that have been redistributed into OSPF (redistributed routes are “External” in OSPF terminology, and are less preferable to “internal” routes such as our fraudulent default). If we had a working default route of our own, this approach could potentially redirect Internet traffic for the entire enterprise through our Quagga node where we can capture it. Either that or you’ll bring the network to a screaming halt.

Anyway, it’s all moot, since we’re nice pirates and would never consider doing anything like that!

Privateers off the starboard bow, Cap’n!

How can we detect such naughtiness, and even better, prevent it?

The first step is to use the OSPF command ‘log-adjacency-changes’ on all the enterprise’s OSPF routers. This will leave log messages like this:

Nov 23 15:11:24.666 UTC: %OSPF-5-ADJCHG: Process 2, Nbr on Gi­gabitEthernet0/0.2 from LOADING to FULL, Loading Done

Keeping track of adjacency changes is an excellent idea – it’s a metric of the stability of the network, and also offers clues when rogue devices form adjacencies.

Stopping rogue adjacencies altogether can be accomplished in two ways. The first is to make OSPF interfaces on host-only subnets “passive“, which permits them to participate in OSPF without allowing adjacencies to form.

The second method is to use OSPF authentication, whereby a hash of a preshared key is required before an adjacency can be established. Either method is strongly recommended!

As always, keep yer eyes to the horizon, mateys! 🙂

Alec Waters is responsible for all things security at Dataline Software, and can be emailed at

The Analyst’s Creed

Posted in NSM on 2 November, 2010 by Alec Waters

These are my logfiles. There are many like them, but these ones are mine. My logfiles are my best friends. They are my life. I must master them as I must master my life. My logfiles, without me, are useless. Without my logfiles, I am useless. I must comprehend my logfiles’ every word. I must be more vigilant than my enemy who is trying to invade me. I must detect him before he compromises me.

I will…

My network and myself know that what counts in this war is not the products we buy, nor the number of our certifications. We know that it is the detections and investigations that count.

We will detect and investigate…

My network is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its services and its users. I will assume nothing and verify everything. I will ever guard it against the ravages of opportunistic attack and determined infiltration as I will ever guard my legs, my arms, my eyes and my heart against damage. I will keep my CSIRT trained and ready. We will become part of each other.

We will…

Before $Deity, I swear this creed. My logfiles and myself are the defenders of my enterprise. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until victory is ours and there is no enemy, but peace!

Adapted from the Rifleman’s Creed.

Alec Waters is responsible for all things security at Dataline Software, and can be emailed at

The Cisco Kid and the Great Packet Roundup, part two – session data

Posted in Cisco, General Security, NSM on 26 October, 2010 by Alec Waters

In part one, I covered how to use Cisco routers and firewalls to perform full packet capture. This exciting installment will cover how to get network session data out of these devices.

Network session data can be likened to a real-world itemised telephone bill. It tells you who “called” who, at what times, for how long, and how much was said (but not what was said). It’s an excellent lightweight way to see what’s going on armed only with a command prompt.

There are several ways to extract such information from Cisco kit; we’ll look at each in turn, following Part One’s support/troubleshooting/IR scenario of accessing remote devices where you’re not able to make topological changes or install any extra software or hardware.


The richest source of session information on Cisco devices is Netflow (I’ll leave it to Cisco to explain how to turn it on). If you’re able to set up a Netflow collector/analyser (like this one (free for two-interface routers), or many others) you can drill down into your session info as far as you like. If you haven’t got an analyser or you can’t install one in time of need, it’s still worth switching on Netflow because you can interrogate the flow cache from the command line.

The command is “show ip cache flow”, and the output is split into two parts. The first shows some statistical information about the flows that the router has observed:

router#sh ip cache flow
IP packet size distribution (3279685 total packets):
 1-32   64   96  128  160  192  224  256  288  320  352  384  416  448  480
 .000 .184 .182 .052 .072 .107 .004 .005 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000

 512  544  576 1024 1536 2048 2560 3072 3584 4096 4608
 .000 .000 .001 .020 .365 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000 .000

IP Flow Switching Cache, 278544 bytes
 57 active, 4039 inactive, 418030 added
 10157020 ager polls, 0 flow alloc failures
 Active flows timeout in 1 minutes
 Inactive flows timeout in 15 seconds
IP Sub Flow Cache, 34056 bytes
 57 active, 967 inactive, 418030 added, 418030 added to flow
 0 alloc failures, 0 force free
 1 chunk, 1 chunk added
 last clearing of statistics never
Protocol     Total    Flows   Packets Bytes  Packets Active(Sec) Idle(Sec)
--------     Flows     /Sec     /Flow  /Pkt     /Sec     /Flow     /Flow
TCP-WWW       6563      0.0       186  1319      1.2       4.7       1.4
TCP-other    16163      0.0         1    47      0.0       0.0      15.4
UDP-DNS         12      0.0         1    67      0.0       0.0      15.6
UDP-NTP       1010      0.0         1    76      0.0       0.0      15.0
UDP-Frag         2      0.0         6   710      0.0       0.2      15.3
UDP-other   316602      0.3         2   156      0.8       0.6      15.4
ICMP         31165      0.0         6    63      0.2      53.4       2.2
IP-other     46438      0.0        21   125      1.0      58.0       2.1
Total:      417955      0.4         7   574      3.3      11.0      12.7

In absence of a graphical Netflow analyser, the Packets/Sec counter is a good barometer of what’s “using up all the bandwidth”. To clear the stats so that you can establish a baseline, you can use the command “clear ip flow stats”.

After the stats comes a listing of all the flows currently being tracked by the router:

SrcIf     SrcIPaddress    DstIf     DstIPaddress    Pr SrcP DstP  Pkts
Fa4 Local     yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy 32 3FAF 037C    16
Tu100      BV3        06 0051 C07A   663
Tu100      BV3        06 0050 C0AC   120
BV3        Tu100      06 C0AC 0050   116
Tu100   Local     01 0000 0800     5
BV3        Fa4       zzz.zzz.zzz.zzz 06 C0A2 0050   429
BV3        Tu100      06 C07A 0051   366
Fa4       bbb.bbb.bbb.bbb BV3       yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy 06 0050 C0A0     1
BV3        Fa4       ddd.ddd.ddd.ddd 06 C07E 0050     1
Tu100   Local     06 8081 0016     7
Fa4       zzz.zzz.zzz.zzz BV3       yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy 06 0050 C0A2   763
Tu100   Local     11 04AC 00A1     1
Tu100   Local     11 04A6 00A1     1
Fa4 Local     yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy 32 275F BD8A     5
Fa4       ccc.ccc.ccc.ccc Local     yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy 32 97F1 E9BE     5
Tu100      Local     01 0000 0000     3
Fa4       ddd.ddd.ddd.ddd BV3       yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy 06 0050 C07E     1

The tempting simplicity of the table above hides a plethora of gotchas for the unwary:

  • The Pr (IP protocol number),  SrcP (source port) and DstP columns are in hex, but we can all do the conversion in our heads, right? 😉
  • Netflow is a unidirectional technology. That means that if hosts A and B are talking to one another via a single TCP connection, two flows will be logged – one for A->B and one for B->A. For example, these two rows in the table above are talking about the same TCP session (the four-tuple of addresses and ports is the same for both rows):
Tu100      BV3        06 0051 C07A   663
BV3        Tu100      06 C07A 0051   366
  • Unless you configure it otherwise, Netflow is an ingress technology. This means that flows are accounted for as they enter the router, not as they leave. You can determine what happens on the egress side of things because when a flow is accounted for the output interface is determined by a FIB lookup and placed in the DstIf column; in this way, you can track a flow’s path through the router. I mention this explicitly because…
  • Netflow does not sit well with NAT. Take a look at these two rows, which represent an HTTP download (port 0x0050 is 80 in decimal) requested of non-local server zzz.zzz.zzz.zzz by client
BV3        Fa4       zzz.zzz.zzz.zzz 06 C0A2 0050   429
Fa4       zzz.zzz.zzz.zzz BV3       yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy 06 0050 C0A2   763

So what’s yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy, then? It’s the NAT inside global address representing As Netflow is unidirectional and is recorded as it enters an interface, the returning traffic from zzz.zzz.zzz.zzz will have the post-NAT yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy as its destination address, and will be recorded as such.

Provided that you keep that lot in mind, the flow cache is a powerful tool to explore the traffic your router is handling.

NAT translations

A typical border router may well perform NAT/PAT tasks. If so, you can use the NAT database as a source of session information. On a router, the command is “show ip nat translations [verbose]”; on a PIX/ASA, it’s “show xlate [debug]”:

router#show ip nat translations
Pro Inside global         Inside local   Outside local    Outside global
tcp yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy:49314
tcp yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy:49316

If you’ve got a worm on your network that’s desperately trying to spread, chances are you’ll see a ton of NAT translations (which could overwhelm a small router). Rather than paging through thousands of lines of output, you can just ask the device for some NAT statistics. On a router, it’s “show ip nat statistics”; on a PIX/ASA, it’s “show xlate count”.

Keeping tabs on the number of active NAT translations is a worthwhile thing to do. I wrote a story for Security Monkey’s blog a while back which tells the tale of a worm exhausting a router’s memory with NAT translations; you can even graph the number of translations to look for anomalies over time.

Firewall sessions

Another way of extracting session information is to ask the router or PIX about the sessions it is currently tracking for firewall purposes. On a router it’s “show ip inspect sessions [detail]”; on the PIX/ASA, it’s “show conn [detail]”.

router#show ip inspect sessions detail
Established Sessions
 Session 842064A4 (>( http SIS_OPEN
  Created 00:00:59, Last heard 00:00:58
  Bytes sent (initiator:responder) [440:4269]
  In  SID[80:80]=>y.y.y.y[49446:49446] on ACL outside-fw (6 matches)
 Session 84206FC4 (>( http SIS_OPEN
  Created 00:00:59, Last heard 00:00:59
  Bytes sent (initiator:responder) [440:2121]
  In  SID[80:80]=>y.y.y.y[49443:49443] on ACL outside-fw (4 matches)
 Session 8420728C (>( http SIS_OPEN
  Created 00:01:01, Last heard 00:00:50
  Bytes sent (initiator:responder) [1343:48649]
  In  SID[80:80]=>y.y.y.y[49436:49436] on ACL outside-fw (44 matches)

This has the advantage of not being complicated by NAT, but still showing useful bytecounts and session durations.

Last resorts

If none of the above can help you out, there are a couple of last resort options open to you. The first of these is the “ip accounting” interface configuration command on IOS routers. To quote Cisco:

The ip accounting command records the number of bytes (IP header and data) and packets switched through the system on a source and destination IP address basis. Only transit IP traffic is measured and only on an outbound basis; traffic generated by the router access server or terminating in this device is not included in the accounting statistics. Traffic coming from a remote site and transiting through a router is also recorded.

Also note that this command will likely have a performance impact on the router. You may end up causing more problems than you solve by using this! The output of “show ip accounting” will look something like this:

router# show ip accounting
 Source          Destination            Packets      Bytes          7            306          67           2749          17           1111             5            319             463          30991             4            262

If “ip accounting” was a last resort, “debug ip packet” is what you’d use as an even lasterer resort, so much so that I leave it as an exercise for the reader to find out all about it. Don’t blame me when your router chokes to the extent that you can’t even enter “undebug all”…!

Alec Waters is responsible for all things security at Dataline Software, and can be emailed at

The Cisco Kid and the Great Packet Roundup, part one

Posted in Cisco, General Security, NSM on 11 August, 2010 by Alec Waters

Knowing what your network is doing is central to the NSM doctrine, and the usual method of collecting NSM data is to attach a sensor of some kind to a tap or a span port on a switch.

But what if you can’t do this? What if you need to see what’s going on on a network that’s geographically remote and/or unprepared for conventional layer-2 capture? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

In the first of a two-part post, the Cisco Kid (i.e., me) is going to walk you through a number of ways to use an IOS router or ASA/PIX firewall to perform full packet capture. The two product sets have different capabilities and limitations, so we’ll look at each in turn.


Full packet capture has been supported on these devices for many years, and it’s quite simple to operate. Step one is to create an ACL that defines the traffic we’re interested in capturing – because all of the captures are stored in memory, we need to be as specific as we can otherwise we’ll be using scarce RAM to capture stuff we don’t care about.

Let’s assume we’re interested in POP3 traffic. Start by defining an ACL like this:

pix(config)# access-list temp-pop3-acl permit tcp any eq 110 any
pix(config)# access-list temp-pop3-acl permit tcp any any eq 110

Note that we’ve specified port 110 as the source or the destination – we wouldn’t want to risk only capturing one side of the conversation.

Now we can fire up the capture, part of which involves specifying the size of the capture buffer. Remembering that this will live in main memory, we’d better have a quick check to see how much is going spare:

pix# show memory
Free memory:        31958528 bytes (34%)
Used memory:        60876368 bytes (66%)
Total memory:       92834896 bytes (100%)

Plenty, in this case. Let’s start the capture:

pix# capture temp-pop3-cap access-list temp-pop3-acl buffer 1024000 packet-length 1514 interface outside-if circular-buffer

This command gives us a capture called temp-pop3-cap, filtered using our ACL, stored in a one-meg (circular) memory buffer, that will capture frames of up to 1514 bytes in size from the interface called outside-if. If you don’t specify a packet-length, you won’t end up capturing entire frames.

Now we can check that we’re actually capturing stuff:

pix# show capture temp-pop3-cap
5 packets captured
1: 12:22:02.410440 > yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy.110: S 3534424301:3534424301(0) win 65535 <mss 1260,nop,nop,sackOK>
2: 12:22:02.411401 yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy.110 > S 621655548:621655548(0) ack 3534424302 win 16384 <mss 1380,nop,nop,sackOK>
3: 12:22:02.424691 > yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy.110: . ack 621655549 win 65535
4: 12:22:02.425515 yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy.110 > P 621655549:621655604(55) ack 3534424302 win 65535
5: 12:22:02.437462 > yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy.110: P 3534424302:3534424308(6) ack 621655604 win 65480

To get the capture off the box and into Wireshark, point your web browser at the PIX/ASA like this, specifying the capture’s name in the URL:


Don’t forget the /pcap on the end, or you’ll end up downloading only the output of the ‘show capture temp-pop3-cap’ command.

To clean up, you can use the ‘clear capture’ command to empty the capture buffer (but still keep on capturing) and the ‘no capture’ command to destroy the buffer and stop capturing altogether.

Provided one is careful with the size of the capture buffer, it’s nice and easy, it works, and it’s quick to implement in an emergency. If you’re using the ASDM GUI, Cisco have a how-to here that will walk you through the process.

IOS routers

As we’ll see, things aren’t quite as nice in IOS land, but there’s still useful stuff we can do. As of 12.4(20)T, IOS supports the Embedded Packet Capture feature (EPC) which at first glance seems to be equivalent to the PIX/ASA’s capture feature. Again, we’ll start by creating an ACL for capturing POP3 traffic:

router(config)#ip access-list extended temp-pop3-acl
router(config-ext-nacl)#permit tcp any eq 110 any
router(config-ext-nacl)#permit tcp any any eq 110

Now we can set up the capture. This involves two steps, setting up a capture buffer (where to store the capture) and a capture point (where to capture from). The capture buffer is set up like this:

router#monitor capture buffer temp-pop3-buffer size 512 max-size 1024 circular

Here is where Cisco seem to have missed a trick. The ‘size’ parameter refers to the buffer size in kilobytes, and 512 is the maximum. That’s “Why???” #1 – 512KB seems like a very low limit to place on a capture buffer. “Why???” #2 is the ‘max-size’ parameter, which refers to the amount of bytes in each frame that will be captured; 1024 is the maximum, well below ethernet’s 1500 byte MTU. So we seem to be limited in that we can capture only a small amount of incomplete frames, which isn’t really in the spirit of “full” packet capture…

Sighing deeply, we move on to setting up the buffer’s filter using our ACL:

router#monitor capture buffer temp-pop3-buffer filter access-list temp-pop3-acl

Next, we create a capture point. This specifies where the frames will be captured, both from an interface and an IOS architecture point of view:

router#monitor capture point ip cef temp-pop3-point GigabitEthernet0/0.2 both

‘ip cef’ means we’re interested in capturing CEF-switched frames as opposed to process-switched ones, so if traffic you’re expecting to see in the buffer isn’t there it could be that the router process switched it thus avoiding the capture point. The capture interface is specified, as is ‘both’ which means we’re interested in ingress and egress traffic.

Next (we’re almost there) we have to associate a buffer with a capture point:

router#monitor capture point associate temp-pop3-point temp-pop3-buffer

Now we can check our work before we start the capture:

router#show monitor capture buffer temp-pop3-buffer parameters
Capture buffer temp-pop3-buffer (circular buffer)
Buffer Size : 524288 bytes, Max Element Size : 1024 bytes, Packets : 0
Allow-nth-pak : 0, Duration : 0 (seconds), Max packets : 0, pps : 0
Associated Capture Points:
Name : temp-pop3-point, Status : Inactive
monitor capture buffer temp-pop3-buffer size 512 max-size 1024 circular
monitor capture point associate temp-pop3-point temp-pop3-buffer
monitor capture buffer temp-pop3-buffer filter access-list temp-pop3-acl

router#sh monitor capture point temp-pop3-point
Status Information for Capture Point temp-pop3-point
Switch Path: IPv4 CEF            , Capture Buffer: temp-pop3-buffer
Status : Inactive
monitor capture point ip cef temp-pop3-point GigabitEthernet0/0.2 both

Start the capture:

router#monitor capture point start temp-pop3-point

And make sure we’re capturing stuff:

router#show monitor capture buffer temp-pop3-buffer dump
<frame by frame raw dump snipped>

When we’re done, we can stop the capture:

router#monitor capture point stop temp-pop3-point

And finally, we can export it off the box for analysis:

router#monitor capture buffer temp-pop3-buffer export tftp://

…and for all that work, we’ve ended up with a tiny pcap containing truncated frames. Better than nothing though!

However, there is a second option for IOS devices, provided that you have a capture workstation that’s on a directly attached ethernet subnet. It’s called Router IP Traffic Export (RITE), and will copy nominated packets and send them off-box to a workstation running Wireshark or similar (or an IDS, etc.). Captures therefore do not end up in a memory buffer, and it is the responsibility of the workstation to capture the exported packets and to work out which packets were actually exported from the router and which are those sent or received by the workstation itself.

After carefully reading the restrictions and caveats in the documentation, we can start by setting up a RITE profile. This defines what we’re going to monitor, and where we’re going to export the copied packets:

router#ip traffic-export profile temp-pop3-profile
# Set the capture filter
router(conf-rite)#incoming access-list temp-pop3-acl
router(conf-rite)#outgoing access-list temp-pop3-acl
# Specify that we want to capture ingress and egress traffic
# The capture workstation lives on the subnet attached to Gi0/0.2
router(conf-rite)#interface GigabitEthernet 0/0.2
# And the workstation’s MAC address is:
router(conf-rite)#mac-address hhhh.hhhh.hhhh

Finally, we apply the profile to the interface from which we actually want to capture packets:

router(config)#interface GigabitEthernet 0/0.2
router(config-subif)#ip traffic-export apply temp-pop3-profile

If all’s gone well, the capture workstation on hhhh.hhhh.hhhh should start seeing a flow of POP3 traffic. We can ask the router how it’s getting on, too:

router#show ip traffic-export
Router IP Traffic Export Parameters
Monitored Interface         GigabitEthernet0/0
Export Interface                GigabitEthernet0/0.2
Destination MAC address hhhh.hhhh.hhhh
bi-directional traffic export is on
Output IP Traffic Export Information    Packets/Bytes Exported    19/1134

Packets Dropped           17877
Sampling Rate                one-in-every 1 packets
Access List                      temp-pop3-acl [named extended IP]

Input IP Traffic Export Information     Packets/Bytes Exported    27/1169

Packets Dropped           12153
Sampling Rate                one-in-every 1 packets
Access List                      temp-pop3-acl [named extended IP]

Profile temp-pop3-profile is Active

You get full packets captured (note packets, not frames – the encapsulating Ethernet frame isn’t the same as the original, in that it has the router’s MAC address as the source and the capture workstation’s MAC address as the destination), and provided you’re local to the router and can afford the potential performance hit on the box, it’s quite a neat way to perform an inline capture. Furthermore, this may be your only capturing option sometimes – granted, the capture workstation has to be on a local ethernet segment, but the traffic profile itself can be applied to other kinds of circuit for which you may not have a tap (ATM, synchronous serial, etc.). It’s a very useful tool.

In the next exciting installment, the Cisco Kid will look at ways of extracting network session information from IOS routers, PIXes and ASAs.

Alec Waters is responsible for all things security at Dataline Software, and can be emailed at