Using AF_PACKET zero copy mode in Suricata

Victor Julien has just pushed a new feature to suricata’s git tree. It brings improvements to the AF_PACKET capture mode.

This capture mode can be used on Linux. It is the native way to capture packet. Suricata is able to use the interesting new multithreading feature provided by AF_PACKET on recent kernels: it is possible to have multiple capture threads receiving the packet of a single interface.

The commits add mmaped ring buffer support to AF_PACKET capture and also provide a zero copy mode. Mmaped ring buffer is mechanism similar to the one used by PF_RING. The kernel allocates some memory to store the packets and share this memory with the capture process. Instead of sending messages, the kernel just write to the shared memory and the process capture reads it. This is less consuming in term of CPU ressource and helps to increase the capture rate. But the main avantage of this technique is that the capture process can treat the packets without making a copy and this saves a lot of time

To activate this features, you need a Suricata compiled from latest git and you need to modify some entries in your suricata.yaml file. You have to tell suricata that you want to activate the mmap feature. For example to activate the feature on eth0, you have to add ‘use-mmap’ to your configuration:
– interface: eth0
use-mmap: yes

You can then run Suricata with the command:

suricata -c suricata.yaml --af-packet=eth0

This setup will not activate the zero copy feature which is currently dependant of the running mode. You will need to activate the worker mode to enable zero copy. To do so, run Suricata with a command similar to this one:

suricata -c suricata.yaml --af-packet=eth0 --runmode=workers

This code should provide an interesting performance boost to the AF_PACKET capture system. I’ve no number to provide now but I will be happy to hear some if you make some tests

Ecosystem of Suricata

Suricata is an IDS/IPS engine. To build a complete solution, you will need to use other tools.

The following schema is a representation of a possible software setup in the case Suricata is used as IDS or IPS on the network. It only uses opensource components:

Suricata is used to sniff and analyse the traffic. To detect malicious traffic, it uses signatures (or rules). You can download a set of specialised rules from EmergingThreats.

To analyse the alerts generated by Suricata, you will need an interface such as, for example, snorby.

But this interface will need to have an access to the data. This is done by storing the alerts in a database. The feed of this database can be done by barnyard2 which take the files outputted by suricata in unified2 and convert and send them to a database (or to some other format).

If you want counter-measure to be taken (such as blocking for a moment attacker at the firewall level), you can use snortsam.

More complex setup can include interactions with a SIEM solution.