Flow accounting with Netfilter and ulogd2


Starting with Linux kernel 3.3, there’s a new module called nfnetlink_acct.
This new feature added by Pablo Neira brings interesting accountig capabilities to Netfilter.
Pablo has made an extensive description of the feature in the commit.

System setup

We need to build a set of tools to get all that’s necessary:

  • libmnl
  • libnetfilter_acct
  • nfacct

The build is the same for all projects:

git clone git://git.netfilter.org/PROJECT
autoreconf -i
sudo make install


This command line tool is here to set up and interact with the accounting subsystem. To get the help you can use the man page or run:

# nfacct help
nfacct v1.0.0: utility for the Netfilter extended accounting infrastructure
Usage: nfacct command [parameters]...

  list [reset]		List the accounting object table (and reset)
  add object-name	Add new accounting object to table
  delete object-name	Delete existing accounting object
  get object-name	Get existing accounting object
  flush			Flush accounting object table
  version		Display version and disclaimer
  help			Display this help message



Let’s have for objectives to get the following statistics:

  • IPv6 data usage
    • http on IPv6 usage
    • https on IPv6 usage
  • IPv4 data usage
    • http on IPv4 usage
    • https on IPv4 usage

Ulogd2 configuration

Let’s start by a simple output to XML. For that we will add the following stack:


and this one:


nfacct setup

modprobe nfnetlink_acct
nfacct add ipv6
nfacct add http-ipv6
nfacct add https-ipv6
nfacct add ipv4
nfacct add http-ipv4
nfacct add https-ipv4

iptables setup

iptables -I INPUT -m nfacct --nfacct-name ipv4
iptables -I INPUT -p tcp --sport 80 -m nfacct --nfacct-name http-ipv4
iptables -I INPUT -p tcp --sport 443 -m nfacct --nfacct-name https-ipv4
iptables -I OUTPUT -m nfacct --nfacct-name ipv4
iptables -I OUTPUT -p tcp --dport 80 -m nfacct --nfacct-name http-ipv4
iptables -I OUTPUT -p tcp --dport 443 -m nfacct --nfacct-name https-ipv4

ip6tables setup

ip6tables -I INPUT -m nfacct --nfacct-name ipv6
ip6tables -I INPUT -p tcp --sport 80 -m nfacct --nfacct-name http-ipv6
ip6tables -I INPUT -p tcp --sport 443 -m nfacct --nfacct-name https-ipv6
ip6tables -I OUTPUT -m nfacct --nfacct-name ipv6
ip6tables -I OUTPUT -p tcp --dport 80 -m nfacct --nfacct-name http-ipv6
ip6tables -I OUTPUT -p tcp --dport 443 -m nfacct --nfacct-name https-ipv6

Starting the beast

Now we can start ulogd2:

ulogd2 -c /etc/ulogd.conf

In /var/log, we will have the following files:

  • ulogd_gprint.log: display stats for each counter on one line
  • ulogd-sum-14072012-224313.xml: XML dump
  • ulogd.log: the daemon log file to look at in case of problem

Output examples

In the ulogd_gprint.log file, the ouput for a given timestamp is something like that:


The XML output is the following:



nfacct and ulogd2 offers a easy and efficient way to gather network statistics. Some tools and glue are currently lacking to fill the data inside reporting tool but the log structure is clean and it should not be too difficult.

7 thoughts on “Flow accounting with Netfilter and ulogd2”

  1. `automake –install-missing` and `libtoolize` are redundant, because `autoreconf -i` already takes care of that.

  2. Good idea, we could do this inside the database. Do we add an ulogd2 output to suricata ? 😉

  3. Great blog! Could you give an example of per host accounting using nfacct, please.

  4. Thanks. It looks it is an excellent question. I don’t see any easy way to do it but to define a counter per-host which is not really optimal in term of performance.

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