New Suricata release model

suri-400x400As the team is back from a very successful week in Barcelona, I’d like to take a moment on what we discussed and decided on with regards to development.

One thing no one was happy with is how the release schedules are working. Releases were meant to reasonably frequent, but the time between major releases was growing longer and longer. The 2.0 branch for example, is closing in on 2 years as the stable branch. The result is that many people are missing out on many of the improvements we’ve been doing. Currently many people using Suricata actually use a beta version, of even our git master, in production!

What we’re going to try is time based releases. Pretty much releases will be more like snapshots of the development branch. We think this can work as our dev branch is more and more stable due to our extensive QA setup.

Of course, we’ll have to make sure we’re not going to merge super intrusive changes just before a release. We’ll likely get into some pattern of merge windows and (feature) freezes, but how this will exactly play out is something we’ll figure out as we go.

We’re going to try to shoot for 3 of such releases per year.

In our redmine ticket tracker, I’ve also created a new pseudo-version ‘Soon’. Things we think should be addressed for the next release, will be added there. But we’ll retarget the tickets when they are actually implemented.

Since it’s already almost 2 years since we’ve done 2.0, we think the next release warrants a larger jump in the versioning. So we’re going to call it 3.0. The first release candidate will likely be released this week hopefully followed by a stable in December.

Get paid to work on Suricata?

If you like fiddling with Suricata development, maybe you can get paid to do it.

Companies ask me regularly if I can recommend Suricata developers. I’m going to assemble a list of people who are interested in such work. If you like me to consider you in such cases, drop me an email.

If you really want me to *recommend* you, it’s important that I actually know you somewhat. So becoming a (volunteer) contributor will help a lot.

Things to mention in your email:
– interests
– github profile
– open source contributions
– social media, blog links
– availability, whether you’re a contractor or looking for a real J-O-B

Who knows, maybe something good will come from it!

Btw, if you’re not a dev but great at research, or deployments and tuning, I know some ppl that are always looking for such new hires as well!

Domain back up

Due to a ‘administrative problem’ between my registrar Xs4all and their US-partner Network Solutions, my domain has been offline since Sunday. Resolving the issue took them some time, and there was a technical issue after the administrative one was resolved. Add long DNS TTL values into the mix, and the disruption was quite lengthy. The domain is back up, although it may still take some hours for everyone to see it due to DNS caching.

Sadly, every email that has been sent to my domain during this time is lost. You should have gotten an error from Network Solutions. A very ugly error for that matter, looking more like spam or even something malicious. Sadly, that was completely out of my control.

So if you have something to send me you can probably do so now again. If not, please wait a few more hours.

I did like the silence though, so not all at once please! :-P

Suricata has been added to Debian Backports

Thanks to the hard work of Arturo Borrero Gonzalez, Suricata has just been added to the openlogo-100Debian ‘backports’ repository. This allows users of Debian stable to run up to date versions of Suricata.

The ‘Backports’ repository makes the Suricata and libhtp packages from Debian Testing available to ‘stable’ users. As ‘testing’ is currently in a freeze, it may take a bit of time before 2.0.5 and libhtp 0.5.16 appear.

Anyway, here is how to use it.


First add backports repo to your sources:

# echo "deb wheezy-backports main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/backports.list
# apt-get update

As explained here, this will not affect your normal packages.

To prove this, check:

# apt-get install suricata -s
Conf libhtp1 (0.2.6-2 Debian:7.7/stable [amd64])
Conf suricata (1.2.1-2 Debian:7.7/stable [amd64])

Not what we want, as that is still the old version.

To install Suricata from backports, we need to specify the repo:

# apt-get install -t wheezy-backports suricata -s
Conf libhtp1 (0.5.15-1~bpo70+1 Debian Backports:/wheezy-backports [amd64])
Conf suricata (2.0.4-1~bpo70+1 Debian Backports:/wheezy-backports [amd64])

Let’s do it!

# apt-get install -t wheezy-backports suricata
Setting up suricata (2.0.4-1~bpo70+1) ...
[FAIL] suricata disabled, please adjust the configuration to your needs ... failed!
[FAIL] and then set RUN to 'yes' in /etc/default/suricata to enable it. ... failed!

Suricata 2.0.4 is now installed, but it’s not yet running.
To see what features have been compiled in, run:

# suricata --build-info
This is Suricata version 2.0.4 RELEASE

Suricata Configuration:
  AF_PACKET support:                       yes
  PF_RING support:                         no
  NFQueue support:                         yes
  NFLOG support:                           no
  IPFW support:                            no
  DAG enabled:                             no
  Napatech enabled:                        no
  Unix socket enabled:                     yes
  Detection enabled:                       yes

  libnss support:                          yes
  libnspr support:                         yes
  libjansson support:                      yes
  Prelude support:                         yes
  PCRE jit:                                yes
  LUA support:                             yes
  libluajit:                               yes
  libgeoip:                                no
  Non-bundled htp:                         yes
  Old barnyard2 support:                   no
  CUDA enabled:                            no

  Suricatasc install:                      yes

It has Luajit enabled, libjansson for the JSON output, NFQ and AF_PACKET IPS modes, NSS for MD5 checksums and unix sockets. Quite a good feature set.


To get it running, we need a few more steps:

Edit /etc/default/suricata:

1. Change RUN=no to RUN=yes
2. Change LISTENMODE to “af-packet”:

Now lets start it.

# service suricata start
Starting suricata in IDS (af-packet) mode... done.

And confirm that it’s running.

# ps aux|grep suricata
root     20295  1.8  4.1 200212 42544 ?        Ssl  00:50   0:00 /usr/bin/suricata -c /etc/suricata/suricata-debian.yaml --pidfile /var/run/ --af-packet -D

Check if we’re seeing traffic:

# tail /var/log/suricata/stats.log -f|grep capture
capture.kernel_packets    | RxAFPeth01                | 406
capture.kernel_drops      | RxAFPeth01                | 0
capture.kernel_packets    | RxAFPeth11                | 0
capture.kernel_drops      | RxAFPeth11                | 0
capture.kernel_packets    | RxAFPeth01                | 411
capture.kernel_drops      | RxAFPeth01                | 0
capture.kernel_packets    | RxAFPeth11                | 0
capture.kernel_drops      | RxAFPeth11                | 0
capture.kernel_packets    | RxAFPeth01                | 417
capture.kernel_drops      | RxAFPeth01                | 0
capture.kernel_packets    | RxAFPeth11                | 0
capture.kernel_drops      | RxAFPeth11                | 0
capture.kernel_packets    | RxAFPeth01                | 587
capture.kernel_drops      | RxAFPeth01                | 0
capture.kernel_packets    | RxAFPeth11                | 0
capture.kernel_drops      | RxAFPeth11                | 0
capture.kernel_packets    | RxAFPeth01                | 593
capture.kernel_drops      | RxAFPeth01                | 0
capture.kernel_packets    | RxAFPeth11                | 0
capture.kernel_drops      | RxAFPeth11                | 0


As the init script starts Suricata in daemon mode, we need to enable logging to file:

Edit /etc/suricata/suricata-debian.yaml and go to the “logging:” section, there change the “file” portion to look like:

  - file:
      enabled: yes
      filename: /var/log/suricata/suricata.log

Note: in the YAML indentation matters, so make sure it’s exactly right.


Oinkmaster is automatically installed, so lets use that:

First create the rules directory:

mkdir /etc/suricata/rules/

Open /etc/oinkmaster.conf in your editor and add:

url =

Then run:

# oinkmaster -C /etc/oinkmaster.conf -o /etc/suricata/rules
Loading /etc/oinkmaster.conf
Downloading file from done.

Edit /etc/suricata/suricata-debian.yaml and change “default-rule-path” to:

default-rule-path: /etc/suricata/rules

Finally, restart to load the new rules:

# service suricata restart


Now that Suricata is running with rules, lets see if it works:

# wget
--2015-01-08 01:21:30--
Resolving (

This should trigger a specific rule:

# tail /var/log/suricata/fast.log 
01/08/2015-01:21:30.870346  [**] [1:2100498:7] GPL ATTACK_RESPONSE id check returned root [**] [Classification: Potentially Bad Traffic] [Priority: 2] {TCP} ->

Success! :)


Thanks to Arturo Borrero Gonzalez for taking on this work for us. Also many thanks for Pierre Chifflier for maintaining the Suricata and libhtp packages in Debian.

Profiling Suricata with JEMALLOC

JEMALLOC is a memory allocation library:

It offers many interesting things for a tool like Suricata. Ken Steele of EZchip (formerly Tilera) made me aware of it. In Ken’s testing it helps performance.


tar xvfj jemalloc-3.6.0.tar.bz2
cd jemalloc-3.6.0
./configure --prefix=/opt/jemalloc/
sudo make install

Then use it by preloading it:

LD_PRELOAD=/opt/jemalloc/lib/ ./src/suricata -c suricata.yaml -l tmp/ -r ~/sync/pcap/sandnet.pcap -S emerging-all.rules -v

I haven’t benchmarked this, but if you’re running a high performance setup it may certainly be worth a shot.


The library comes with many interesting profiling and debugging features.

make clean
./configure --prefix=/opt/jemalloc-prof/ --enable-prof
sudo make install

Start Suricata like this:

LD_PRELOAD=/opt/jemalloc-prof/lib/ ./src/suricata -c suricata.yaml -l tmp/ -r ~/sync/pcap/sandnet.pcap -S emerging-all.rules -v

Now we don’t see any change as we need to tell jemalloc what we want.

Exit stats

Dumps a lot of stats to the screen.

MALLOC_CONF=stats_print:true LD_PRELOAD=/opt/jemalloc-prof/lib/ ./src/suricata -c suricata.yaml -l tmp/ -r ~/sync/pcap/sandnet.pcap -S emerging-all.rules -v

Memory leak checks

MALLOC_CONF=prof_leak:true,lg_prof_sample:0 LD_PRELOAD=/opt/jemalloc-prof/lib/ ./src/suricata -c suricata.yaml -l tmp/ -r ~/sync/pcap/sandnet.pcap -S emerging-all.rules -v
[... suricata output ...]
<jemalloc>: Leak summary: 2011400 bytes, 4523 objects, 645 contexts
<jemalloc>: Run pprof on "jeprof.22760.0.f.heap" for leak detail

Then use the pprof tool that comes with jemalloc to inspect the dumped stats.

$ /opt/jemalloc-prof/bin/pprof --show_bytes ./src/suricata jeprof.22760.0.f.heap
Using local file ./src/suricata.
Using local file jeprof.22760.0.f.heap.
Welcome to pprof!  For help, type 'help'.
(pprof) top
Total: 2011400 B
1050112  52.2%  52.2%  1050112  52.2% PacketGetFromAlloc
600064  29.8%  82.0%   600064  29.8% SCProfilePacketStart
103936   5.2%  87.2%   103936   5.2% SCACCreateDeltaTable
65536   3.3%  90.5%    66192   3.3% pcap_fopen_offline
35520   1.8%  92.2%    35520   1.8% ConfNodeNew
26688   1.3%  93.6%    26688   1.3% __GI___strdup
20480   1.0%  94.6%    20480   1.0% MemBufferCreateNew
20480   1.0%  95.6%    20480   1.0% _TmSlotSetFuncAppend
14304   0.7%  96.3%    14304   0.7% pcre_compile2
14064   0.7%  97.0%    25736   1.3% SCPerfRegisterQualifiedCounter

So it seems we don’t properly clean up our packet pools yet.

Create a PDF of this info:

$ /opt/jemalloc-prof/bin/pprof --show_bytes --pdf ./src/suricata jeprof.22760.0.f.heap > jemalloc.pdf

Dumping stats during runtime

Dump stats after every 16MiB of allocations (lg_prof_interval:24, means every 2^24 bytes, so 16MiB)

I’ve done this in a separate directory since it dumps many files.

$ mkdir jemalloc-profile
$ cd jemalloc-profile/
$ MALLOC_CONF="prof:true,prof_prefix:victor.out,lg_prof_interval:24" LD_PRELOAD=/opt/jemalloc-prof/lib/ ../src/suricata -c ../suricata.yaml -l ../tmp/ -r ~/sync/pcap/sandnet.pcap -S ../emerging-all.rules -v

Then you should see new *.heap files appear, many during startup. But after some time it should slow down.

You can then visualize the diff between two dumps:

$ /opt/jemalloc-prof/bin/pprof --show_bytes --pdf ../src/suricata --base victor.out.24159.150.i150.heap victor.out.24159.200.i200.heap > jemalloc.pdf

This creates a PDF of the 200th dump taking the 150th dump as a baseline. As we dump every ~16MiB, this covers about 50 * 16 = 800MiB worth of allocations.

Further reading

Many thanks to Ken Steele for pointing me to the lib and providing me with some good examples.

Crossing the Streams in Suricata

At it’s core, Suricata is a packet processor. It reads packets and pushes them through a configurable pipeline. The 2nd most important processing unit in Suricata is the flow. In Suricata we use the term flow for the bidirectional flows of packets with the same 5 tuple (proto, src ip, dst ip, sp, dp. Vlans can be added as well). In fact, much of Suricata’s threading effort revolves around the flow. In the 2 main runmodes, autofp and workers, flow based load balancing makes sure that a all packets of a single flow always go through the same threading pipeline. In workers this means one single thread, in autofp 2: the capture thread and a stream/detect/output thread.

Flows are the central unit for out ‘app layer’ parsing. Protocol parsers like HTTP don’t even have access to the original packet. It all runs on top of the stream engine, which tracks TCP flows in … our flow structure.

Another place where the flow is crucial is in many of the rules. Rules extensively use the concept of ‘flowbits’. This allows one rule to ‘flag’ a flow, and then another to check this flag. In Emerging Threats many hundreds of rules use this logic.

Ever since we started Suricata, we’ve been talking about what some called ‘global flowbits’. A bit of a strange and contradictory name, but pretty much rule writers wanted the logic of flowbits, but then applied to other units as well. So a few weeks ago I (finally) decided to check if I could quickly implement ‘hostbits’. As Suricata already has a scalable ‘host table’, it was easy add the storage of ‘bits’ there. In a few hours I had the basics working and made it public: see this pull request.

Although I got some nice feedback, I was mostly interested in what the ET folks would think, since they would be the main consumers. While presenting the work I also mentioned the xbits ideas by Michael Rash and the response was “wow, do we have ip_pair tracking now?”. Ehh, no, just ip/host based… “Ah well, I guess that is nice too”. Not exactly the response I hoped for :)

IP pair tracking is not something Suricata already did. But as the need was clear I decided to have a look at it. Turned out it was quite simple to do. The IPPair tracker is much like the Host tracking. It’s only done on demand, which sets it apart from the Flow tracking which is done unconditionally. In this case only the new keyword is making use of the IP Pair storage.

So, what I have implemented is pretty much ‘xbits’. It supports tracking by ‘ip_src’, ‘ip_dst’ and ‘ip_pair’. It uses the syntax as suggested by Michael Rash:

      track <ip_src|ip_dst|ip_pair>,expire <seconds>

It’s only lightly tested, so I would appreciate testing feedback!

You’ll find the code here in PR 1275 at github. This should normally end up in Suricata 2.1, which will come out early next year.

SMTP file extraction in Suricata

In 2.1beta2 the long awaited SMTP file extraction support for Suricata finally appeared. It has been a long development cycle. Originally started by BAE Systems, it was picked up by Tom Decanio of FireEye Forensics Group (formerly nPulse Technologies) followed by a last round of changes from my side. But it’s here now.

It contains:

  • a MIME decoder
  • updates to the SMTP parser to use the MIME decoder for extracting files
  • SMTP JSON log, integrated with EVE
  • SMTP message URL extraction and logging

As it uses the Suricata file handling API, it shares almost everything with the existing file handling for HTTP. The rule keyword work and the various logs work automatically with SMTP as well.

Trying it out

To enable the file extraction, make sure that the MIME decoder is enabled:

      enabled: yes
      # Configure SMTP-MIME Decoder
        # Decode MIME messages from SMTP transactions
        # (may be resource intensive)
        # This field supercedes all others because it turns the entire
        # process on or off
        decode-mime: yes

        # Decode MIME entity bodies (ie. base64, quoted-printable, etc.)
        decode-base64: yes
        decode-quoted-printable: yes

        # Maximum bytes per header data value stored in the data structure
        # (default is 2000)
        header-value-depth: 2000

        # Extract URLs and save in state data structure
        extract-urls: yes

Like with HTTP, SMTP depends on the stream engine working correctly. So this page applies, although of course the HTTP specific settings are irrelevant to SMTP.

Troubleshooting (SMTP) file extraction issues should always start here:


Enabling the SMTP logging is simple, just add ‘smtp’ to the list of types in your EVE config, like so:

  # Extensible Event Format (nicknamed EVE) event log in JSON format
  - eve-log:
      enabled: yes
      filetype: regular #regular|syslog|unix_dgram|unix_stream
      filename: eve.json
      # the following are valid when type: syslog above
      #identity: "suricata"
      #facility: local5
      #level: Info ## possible levels: Emergency, Alert, Critical,
                   ## Error, Warning, Notice, Info, Debug
        - alert:
            # payload: yes           # enable dumping payload in Base64
            # payload-printable: yes # enable dumping payload in printable (lossy) format
            # packet: yes            # enable dumping of packet (without stream segments)
            # http: yes              # enable dumping of http fields
        - http:
            extended: yes     # enable this for extended logging information
            # custom allows additional http fields to be included in eve-log
            # the example below adds three additional fields when uncommented
            #custom: [Accept-Encoding, Accept-Language, Authorization]
        - dns
        - tls:
            extended: yes     # enable this for extended logging information
        - files:
            force-magic: no   # force logging magic on all logged files
            force-md5: no     # force logging of md5 checksums
        #- drop
        - smtp
        - ssh
        # bi-directional flows
        #- flow
        # uni-directional flows
        #- newflow


As a bonus, the MIME decoder also extracts URL’s from the SMTP message body (not attachments) and logs them in the SMTP log. This should make it easy to post process them. Currently only ‘HTTP’ URLS are extracted, starting with ‘http://‘. So HTTPS/FTP or URLs that don’t have the protocol prefix aren’t logged.


Naturally, if you’re using SMTP over TLS or have STARTTLS enabled, as you should at least on public networks, none of this will work.

Please help us test this feature!