Sniffing Gigabit Ethernet

Table of contents:


How can I use Snort to sniff Gigabit Ethernet network(s)?


There are several commercial applications available to help sniff traffic at high speed, such as load balancers, sniffing switches, and regenerative taps. Another option is to filter or limit the amount and type of traffic that your high-speed sensors have to analyze. Lastly, you could use several of the OS and libpcap sniffing modifications to help your sensors still function at those speeds.


While there is no silver bullet for all networks, several networks that one of the authors has worked on monitor 1 to 2 GB networks. There are several things to consider when tasked with monitoring "GigE" networks.

  • Using a stock kernel is almost never an option. With every OS, there is a load of unneeded software that will affect the performance of the machine. For straight-out-of-the-box performance, any of the *BSD systems seem to be visibly far ahead of the stock Linux or System V systems at the higher speed.
  • Use tested and tried networking cards. With some NICs, you can "cheat" the network with such things as caching network traffic before passing it to the OS, filtering, and a modified libpcap built right into the card. The company is named endace (, and their product is a high-performance PCI NIC card.
  • Filtering. While you might want to capture full packet dumps from all traffic on your network, this might not be possible. For example, if all the users on your network are forced through a web proxy, you have logs of all web traffic anyhow. You don't need to capture on those ports other than Snort alert packets. A policy-based IDS solution is sometimes perfect as one layer of your IDS architecture. This is discussed in detail in "Monitoring a Network using Policy-based IDS" in Chapter 7, but it just means that you ignore normal traffic and alarm on unusual traffic. For example, ignore all port 80 traffic to and from your web server, but alarm on any other port in use coming from the web server.
  • There is a modified version of libpcap from Los Alamos laboratories. This version was built to try to capture all traffic on a GigE network. It is actively under development, though only for Linux-based sensors.

Lastly, another option would be to use a caching/load-balancing system, such as a Top Layer Networks switch. However, whenever considering these products, you should test them before you buy them to make sure they do what you anticipate.

See Also

Load balancing and span technologies

Linux TCPDump patch (

Tapping a Wireless Network

Installing Snort from Source on Unix

Logging to a File Quickly

How to Build Rules

Detecting Stateless Attacks and Stream Reassembly

Managing Snort Sensors

Generating Statistical Output from Snort Logs

Monitoring Network Performance


Snort Cookbook
Snort Cookbook
ISBN: 0596007914
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 167 © 2008-2020.
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