File extraction in Suricata

Today I pushed out a new feature in Suricata I’m very excited about. It has been long in the making and with over 6000 new lines of code it’s a significant effort. It’s available in the current git master. I’d consider it alpha quality, so handle with care.

So what is this all about? Simply put, we can now extract files from HTTP streams in Suricata. Both uploads and downloads. Fully controlled by the rule language. But thats not all. I’ve added a touch of magic. By utilizing libmagic (this powers the “file” command), we know the file type of files as well. Lots of interesting stuff that can be done there.

Rule keywords

Four new rule keywords were added: filename, fileext, filemagic and filestore.

Filename and fileext are pretty trivial: match on the full name or file extension of a file.

alert http any any -> any any (filename:”secret.xls”;)
alert http any any -> any any (fileext:”pdf”;)

More interesting is the filemagic keyword. It runs on the magic output of inspecting the (start of) a file. This value is for example:

GIF image data, version 89a, 1 x 1
PE32 executable for MS Windows (GUI) Intel 80386 32-bit
HTML document text
Macromedia Flash data (compressed), version 9
MS Windows icon resource – 2 icons, 16×16, 256-colors
PNG image data, 70 x 53, 8-bit/color RGBA, non-interlaced
JPEG image data, JFIF standard 1.01
PDF document, version 1.6

So how the filemagic keyword allows you to match on this is pretty simple:

alert http any any -> any any (filemagic:”PDF document”;)
alert http any any -> any any (filemagic:”PDF document, version 1.6″;)

Pretty cool, eh? You can match both very specifically and loosely. For example:

alert http any any -> any any (filemagic:”executable for MS Windows”;)

Will match on (among others) these types:

PE32 executable for MS Windows (DLL) (GUI) Intel 80386 32-bit
PE32 executable for MS Windows (GUI) Intel 80386 32-bit
PE32+ executable for MS Windows (GUI) Mono/.Net assembly

Finally there is the filestore keyword. It is the simplest of all: if the rule matches, the files will be written to disk.

Naturally you can combine the file keywords with the regular HTTP keywords, limiting to POST’s for example:

alert http $EXTERNAL_NET any -> $HOME_NET any (msg:”pdf upload claimed, but not pdf”; flow:established,to_server; content:”POST”; http_method; fileext:”pdf”; filemagic:!”PDF document”; filestore; sid:1; rev:1;)

This will alert on and store all files that are uploaded using a POST request that have a filename extension of pdf, but the actual file is not pdf.


The storage to disk is handled by a new output module called “file”. It’s config looks like this:

enabled: yes # set to yes to enable
log-dir: files # directory to store the files
force-magic: no # force logging magic on all stored files

It needs to be enabled for file storing to work.

The files are stored to disk as “file.1″, “file.2″, etc. For each of the files a meta file is created containing the flow information, file name, size, etc. Example:

TIME: 01/27/2010-17:41:11.579196
PCAP PKT NUM: 2847035
DST PORT: 56207
FILENAME: /msdownload/update/software/defu/2010/01/mpas-fe_7af9217bac55e4a6f71c989231e424a9e3d9055b.exe
MAGIC: PE32+ executable for MS Windows (GUI) Mono/.Net assembly
SIZE: 5204


The file extraction is for HTTP only currently, and works on top of our HTTP parser. As the HTTP parser runs on top of the stream reassembly engine, configuration parameters of both these parts of Suricata affect handling of files.

The stream engine option “stream.reassembly.depth” (default 1 Mb) controls the depth into a stream in which we look. Set to 0 for no limit.
The libhtp options request-body-limit and response-body-limit control how far into a HTTP request or response body we look. Again set to 0 for no limit. This can be controlled per HTTP server.


The file handling is fully streaming, so it’s very efficient. Nonetheless there will be an overhead for the extra parsing, book keeping, writing to disk, etc. Memory requirements appear to be limited as well. Suricata shouldn’t keep more than a few kb per flow in memory.


Lack of limits is a limitation. For file storage no limits have been implemented yet. So it’s easy to clutter your disk up with files. Example: 118Gb enterprise pcap storing just JPG’s extracted 400.000 files. Better use a separate partition if you’re on a life link.

Future work

Apart from stabilizing this code and performance optimizing it, the next step will be SMTP file extraction. Possibly other protocols, although nothing is set in stone there yet.

Suricata 1.1 released, 1.2 on the horizon

Today we released Suricata 1.1. This ends a rather long development cycle of more than a year. And it shows. Performance, accuracy and features were all greatly improved. I think it’s the best Suricata so far. If you’ve been looking at trying Suricata, now might be a good time to jump in.

The long development cycles should be something of the past. At our last brainstorm session, at RAID 2011, we decided to change our release policy. The aim of this policy is to do time based releases, roughly a “stable” every 2 months and a beta every other month. This way we’ll be making it much easier for users to stay current without have to run our “git master”.

Looking forward, we’ve started work on the 1.2 release, which should happen in about 2 months. Focus will be on performance. We’re planning to do a significant refactoring of our pattern matching engine, which should lead both to better performance and improved accuracy. Next to this, we’ll be finally adding the “file_data” keyword along with HTTP file carving — extracting files from HTTP requests. I am personally very excited about this.

We’re starting to see more and more community involvement. Not just on the user side, but also on the development side. As seen on the oisf-devel mailinglist, a large SSL/TLS patch set was contributed by Pierre Chifflier. This will make it’s way into the 1.2 release as well. Smaller contributions were accepted on PF_RING code and the HTTP code. I am very grateful for the contributions.

Eric Leblond and I will be doing a talk next week at DeepSec on Suricata. If you are able to, please come meet us!