Visualize Netfilter accounting in Graphite

Ulogd Graphite output plugin

I’m committed a new output plugin for ulogd. The idea is to send NFACCT accounting data to a graphite server to be able to display the received data. Graphite is a web application which provide real-time visualization and storage of numeric time-series data.

Once data are sent to the graphite server, it is possible to use the web interface to setup different dashboard and graphs (including combination and mathematical operation):

Nfacct setup

One really interesting thing is that Graphite is using a tree hierarchy for data and this hierarchy is build by using a dot separator. So it really matches ulogd key system and on top of that nfacct can be used to create this hierarchy:

nfacct add ipv4.http
nfacct add ipv6.http

Once a counter is created in NFACCT it is instantly sent by ulogd to Graphite and can be used to create graph. To really use the counter, some iptables rules needs to be setup. To continue on previous example, we can use:

ip6tables -I INPUT -p tcp --sport 80 -m nfacct --nfacct-name ipv6.http
ip6tables -I OUTPUT -p tcp --dport 80 -m nfacct --nfacct-name ipv6.http
iptables -I INPUT -p tcp --sport 80 -m nfacct --nfacct-name ipv4.http
iptables -I OUTPUT -p tcp --dport 80 -m nfacct --nfacct-name ipv4.http

To save counters, you can use:

nfacct list >nfacct.dump

and you can restore them with:

nfacct restore <nfacct.dump

Ulogd setup

Ulogd setup is easy, simply add a new stack to ulogd.conf:


The configuration of NFACCT is simple, there is only one option which is the polling interval. The plugin will dump all nfacct counter at the given interval:

pollinterval = 2

The Graphite output module is easy to setup, you only need to specify the host and the port of the Graphite collector:


Some statistics about Suricata 1.4

A huge work

Suricata 1.4 has been released December 13th 2012 and it has been a huge work. The number of modifications is just impressing:

390 files changed, 25299 insertions(+), 11982 deletions(-)

The following video is using gource to display the evolution of Suricata IDS/IPS source code between version 1.3 and version 1.4. It only displays the modified files and do not show the files existing at start.

A collaborative work

A total of 11 different authors have participated to this release. The following graph generated by gitstats shows the number of lines of code by author:

Some words about activity

The activity shows that most of the work is done during week day but there is some work done on sunday:

As shown the following graph, the activity as decreased during the stabilization process:

































32 31 30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

The defense blues

Mother Nature has been really unfair with me. It has given me two strong interests in life: building things and information security. Once that was done, my doom was sealed and I’ve become a infosec defense guy. Nowadays this is one of the worst fate possible in computer science.

Today, this burden is really hard to wear. I know some of you will try to encourage me by saying this like:

It is not that bad. You could have been a Microsoft Exchange administrator.

And they are right. I’m doing really interesting things and taking a lot of pleasure at doing them. The point is not here. It is on the way information security community is evolving. It is cheering the offensive guys and as everybody want to be loved this lead to absurd and dangerous behaviors. And this is just becoming worse every day.

My last example is a conference given at Blackhat by Antonios Atlasis, Chief/Research at Center for strategic cyberspace + security science. The talk is advertised on CSCSS website which is a first sign of the importance of infosec circus for this kind of entity. But let’s get back to the main issue. The talk is showing some results of a study made by Mr. Atlasis on security impact of IPv6 extension headers. Among the result, successful evasion of two well-known IDS: snort and Suricata. And this completely pissed me off.

I’m one of the developer of Suricata and we never have been contacted by the guy before the event. So to sum up, a guy working for a not-for-profit organization is publishing attacks on software without even having warn the editor before. That’s just insane. And this show, the current spirit in information security:

I publish vulnerability without warning editor to maximize the impact of my talk

The worse thing is that I know that a possible defense will be:

I’m a good guy cause I could have sell it as a O-day

That’s not a real excuse. O-day sellers are just blackhats in suit. Or to be more accurate as I know some of them don’t wear suit, blackhats doing public business thanks to the legal void on the selling of cyberweapons. A guy working for a not-for-profit organization has to be a whitehat. I think this is even mandatory in the USA as it seems the not-for-profit organization must act for public good.

Yes, being a defensive guy is not fair. You build huge and complex structure and all the light (and sometime the money) is for the one who demonstrate how one of the thousand engines you’ve build can be abused. And this is the climax when the guy disrespects you by not letting you a chance to fix the issue before it goes public.

About Suricata and a kernel oops in AF_PACKET


Kernel oops have been reported by some users running Suricata with AF_PACKET multiple thread capture activated. This is due to a bug I’ve introduced in AF_PACKET when fixing an other bug.

Which kernel not to use with Suricata in AF_PACKET mode

The following kernel version will surely crash if Suricata or any other program is used with AF_PACKET capture with multiple capture threads:

  • Linux 3.2.30 to 3.2.33
  • Linux 3.4.12 to 3.4.18
  • Linux 3.5.5 to 3.5.7
  • Linux 3.6.0 to 3.6.6

If only one capture thread is used there is no risk of crash. If you are running a vulnerable kernel, your configuration should looks like:

  - interface: eth0
    # Number of receive threads (>1 will crash with bad kernel)
    threads: 1

Some explanations

AF_PACKET capture is one of my favorite capture method on Linux with Suricata. It is mainline and it offers really good performance with latest kernel. For example, this is deployed on one of our box and run at 10Gbps speed on non-expensive hardware.
This speed is achieved by using load-balanced capture. This feature allows to have multiple thread/process listening to the same interface. The load-balancing is made by the kernel.
This feature has been developed by David Miller and is available since Linux 3.1.

In summer 2012, I’ve worked on adding AF_PACKET IPS mode and I’ve discovered a kernel bug which was causing a packet sending loop in the IPS code. I’ve proposed a fix af_packet: don’t emit packet on orig fanout group. The patch has reached mainline with Linux 3.6. As it was fixing a real problem it was propagated to most Linux stable branches. Some distributions, like Ubuntu, have also backported the patch to their official kernel.

But the patch was buggy and some Suricata users have reported kernel oops. I’ve fixed the bug af-packet: fix oops when socket is not present and the patch will be available in Linux 3.7.
The kernel stable team has incorporated this patch in their subsequent releases so most stable branches but 3.5 don’t suffer anymore of this problem.


Ubuntu Quantal has a patched kernel since at least 3.5.0-25.