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man pages section 4: Device and Network Interfaces

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Updated: Wednesday, July 27, 2022



pf_packet - packet interface on device level


#include <sys/socket.h>
#include <netpacket/packet.h>
#include <sys/ethernet.h>
inpacket_socket = socket(PF_PACKET, int socket_type, int protocol);


Packet sockets are used to receive or send packets at the device driver (OSI Layer 2) level. These allow users to implement protocol modules in user space on top of the physical layer.

The socket_type is either SOCK_RAW for raw packets including the link level header or SOCK_DGRAM for cooked packets with the link level header removed. The link level header information is available in a common format in a sockaddr_ll. protocol is the IEEE 802.3 protocol number in network order. See the <sys/ethernet.h> include file for a list of allowed protocols. When protocol is set to htons (ETH_P_ALL) then all protocols are received. All incoming packets of that protocol type is passed to the packet socket before they are passed to the protocols implemented in the kernel.

Only processes with the net_rawaccess privilege may create PF_PACKET sockets. Processes in the global zone may bind to any network interface that is displayed using the command: dladm show-link.

SOCK_RAW packets are passed to and from the device driver without any changes in the packet data. When receiving a packet, the address is still parsed and passed in a standard sockaddr_ll address structure. When transmitting a packet, the user supplied buffer should contain the physical layer header. That packet is then queued unmodified to the network driver of the interface defined by the destination address.

SOCK_DGRAM operates on a slightly higher level. The physical header is removed before the packet is passed to the user. Packets sent through a SOCK_DGRAM packet socket get a suitable physical layer header based on the information in the sockaddr_ll destination address before they are queued.

By default, all packets of the specified protocol type are passed to a packet socket. To only get packets from a specific interface use bind specifying an address in a struct sockaddr_ll to bind the packet socket to an interface. Only the sll_protocol and the sll_ifindex address fields are used for purposes of binding.

The connect(3C) operation is not supported on packet sockets.

Address Types

The sockaddr_ll is a device independent physical layer address.

struct sockaddr_ll {
   unsigned short sll_family; /* Always AF_PACKET */
   unsigned short  sll_protocol;  /* Physical layer protocol */
   int             sll_ifindex;   /* Interface number */
   unsigned short  sll_hatype;    /* Header type */
   unsigned char   sll_pkttype;   /* Packet type */
   unsigned char   sll_halen;     /* Length of address */
   unsigned char   sll_addr[8];   /* Physical layer address */

sll_protocol is the standard Ethernet protocol type in network order as defined in the sys/ethernet.h include file. It defaults to the socket's protocol. sll_ifindex is the interface index of the interface. sll_hatype is a ARP type as defined in the sys/ethernet.h include file. sll_pkttype contains the packet type. Valid types are PACKET_HOST for a packet addressed to the local host, PACKET_BROADCAST for a physical layer broadcast packet, PACKET_MULTICAST for a packet sent to a physical layer multicast address, PACKET_OTHERHOST for a packet to some other host that has been caught by a device driver in promiscuous mode, and PACKET_OUTGOING for a packet originated from the local host that is looped back to a packet socket. These types make only sense for receiving. sll_addr and sll_halen contain the physical layer, for example, IEEE 802.3, address and its length. The exact interpretation depends on the device.

When you send packets it is enough to specify sll_family, sll_addr, sll_halen, sll_ifindex. The other fields should be 0. sll_hatype and sll_pkttype are set on received packets for your information. For bind only sll_protocol and sll_ifindex are used.

Socket Options

Packet sockets can be used to configure physical layer multicasting and promiscuous mode. It works by calling setsockopt(3C) on a packet socket for SOL_PACKET and one of the options PACKET_ADD_MEMBERSHIP to add a binding or PACKET_DROP_MEMBERSHIP to drop it. They both expect a packet_mreq structure as argument:

struct packet_mreq
   int             mr_ifindex;    /* interface index */
   unsigned short  mr_type;       /* action */
   unsigned short  mr_alen;       /* address length */
   unsigned char   mr_address[8]; /* physical layer address */

mr_ifindex contains the interface index for the interface whose status should be changed. The mr_type parameter specifies which action to perform. PACKET_MR_PROMISC enables receiving all packets on a shared medium often known as promiscuous mode, PACKET_MR_MULTICAST binds the socket to the physical layer multicast group specified in mr_address and mr_alen. PACKET_MR_ALLMULTI sets the socket up to receive all multicast packets arriving at the interface.

In addition the traditional ioctls, SIOCSIFFLAGS, SIOCADDMULTI, and SIOCDELMULTI can be used for the same purpose.

See Also

connect(3C), setsockopt(3C)


For portable programs it is suggested to use pcap(3pcap) instead of PF_PACKET; although this only covers a subset of the PF_PACKET features.

The SOCK_DGRAM packet sockets make no attempt to create or parse the IEEE 802.2 LLC header for a IEEE 802.3 frame. When ETH_P_802_3 is specified as protocol for sending the kernel creates the 802.3 frame and fills out the length field; the user has to supply the LLC header to get a fully conforming packet. Incoming 802.3 packets are not multiplexed on the DSAP/SSAP protocol fields; instead they are supplied to the user as protocol ETH_P_802_2 with the LLC header prepended. It is therefore not possible to bind to ETH_P_802_3; bind to ETH_P_802_2 instead and do the protocol multiplex yourself. The default for sending is the standard Ethernet DIX encapsulation with the protocol filled in.

Packet sockets are not subject to the input or output firewall chains.