pcap_loop.3pcap - Man Page

process packets from a live capture or savefile

Synopsis

#include <pcap/pcap.h>

typedef void (*pcap_handler)(u_char *user, const struct pcap_pkthdr *h,
    			     const u_char *bytes);

int pcap_loop(pcap_t *p, int cnt,
    pcap_handler callback, u_char *user);
    int pcap_dispatch(pcap_t *p, int cnt,
    pcap_handler callback, u_char *user);

Description

pcap_loop() processes packets from a live capture or “savefile” until cnt packets are processed, the end of the “savefile” is reached when reading from a “savefile”, pcap_breakloop(3PCAP) is called, or an error occurs. It does not return when live packet buffer timeouts occur. A value of -1 or 0 for cnt is equivalent to infinity, so that packets are processed until another ending condition occurs.

pcap_dispatch() processes packets from a live capture or “savefile” until cnt packets are processed, the end of the current bufferful of packets is reached when doing a live capture, the end of the “savefile” is reached when reading from a “savefile”, pcap_breakloop() is called, or an error occurs. Thus, when doing a live capture, cnt is the maximum number of packets to process before returning, but is not a minimum number; when reading a live capture, only one bufferful of packets is read at a time, so fewer than cnt packets may be processed. A value of -1 or 0 for cnt causes all the packets received in one buffer to be processed when reading a live capture, and causes all the packets in the file to be processed when reading a “savefile”.

Note that, when doing a live capture on some platforms, if the read timeout expires when there are no packets available, pcap_dispatch() will return 0, even when not in non-blocking mode, as there are no packets to process.  Applications should be prepared for this to happen, but must not rely on it happening.

callback specifies a pcap_handler routine to be called with three arguments: a u_char pointer which is passed in the user argument to pcap_loop() or pcap_dispatch(), a const struct pcap_pkthdr pointer pointing to the packet time stamp and lengths, and a const u_char pointer to the first caplen (as given in the struct pcap_pkthdr a pointer to which is passed to the callback routine) bytes of data from the packet.  The struct pcap_pkthdr and the packet data are not to be freed by the callback routine, and are not guaranteed to be valid after the callback routine returns; if the code needs them to be valid after the callback, it must make a copy of them.

The bytes of data from the packet begin with a link-layer header.  The format of the link-layer header is indicated by the return value of the pcap_datalink(3PCAP) routine when handed the pcap_t value also passed to pcap_loop() or pcap_dispatch(). https://www.tcpdump.org/linktypes.html lists the values pcap_datalink() can return and describes the packet formats that correspond to those values.  The value it returns will be valid for all packets received unless and until pcap_set_datalink(3PCAP) is called; after a successful call to pcap_set_datalink(), all subsequent packets will have a link-layer header of the type specified by the link-layer header type value passed to pcap_set_datalink().

Do NOT assume that the packets for a given capture or ``savefile`` will have any given link-layer header type, such as DLT_EN10MB for Ethernet.  For example, the "any" device on Linux will have a link-layer header type of DLT_LINUX_SLL or DLT_LINUX_SLL2 even if all devices on the system at the time the "any" device is opened have some other data link type, such as DLT_EN10MB for Ethernet.

Return Value

pcap_loop() returns 0 if cnt is exhausted or if, when reading from a “savefile”, no more packets are available.  It returns PCAP_ERROR if an error occurs or PCAP_ERROR_BREAK if the loop terminated due to a call to pcap_breakloop() before any packets were processed. It does not return when live packet buffer timeouts occur; instead, it attempts to read more packets.

pcap_dispatch() returns the number of packets processed on success; this can be 0 if no packets were read from a live capture (if, for example, they were discarded because they didn't pass the packet filter, or if, on platforms that support a packet buffer timeout that starts before any packets arrive, the timeout expires before any packets arrive, or if the file descriptor for the capture device is in non-blocking mode and no packets were available to be read) or if no more packets are available in a “savefile.” It returns PCAP_ERROR if an error occurs or PCAP_ERROR_BREAK if the loop terminated due to a call to pcap_breakloop() before any packets were processed. If your application uses pcap_breakloop(), make sure that you explicitly check for PCAP_ERROR and PCAP_ERROR_BREAK, rather than just checking for a return value < 0.

If PCAP_ERROR is returned, pcap_geterr(3PCAP) or pcap_perror(3PCAP) may be called with p as an argument to fetch or display the error text.

Backward Compatibility

In libpcap versions before 1.5.0, the behavior when cnt was 0 was undefined; different platforms and devices behaved differently, so code that must work with these versions of libpcap should use -1, not 0, as the value of cnt.

See Also

pcap(3PCAP)

Referenced By

The man page pcap_dispatch.3pcap(3) is an alias of pcap_loop.3pcap(3).

22 August 2020