21.4. eBPF and XDP

21.4.1. Introduction

eBPF stands for extended BPF. This is an extended version of Berkeley Packet Filter available in recent Linux kernel versions.

It provides more advanced features with eBPF programs developed in C and capability to use structured data shared between kernel and userspace.

eBPF is used for three things in Suricata:

  • eBPF filter: any BPF like filter can be developed. An example of filter accepting only packet for some VLANs is provided. A bypass implementation is also provided.

  • eBPF load balancing: provide programmable load balancing. Simple ippair load balancing is provided.

  • XDP programs: Suricata can load XDP programs. A bypass program is provided.

Bypass can be implemented in eBPF and XDP. The advantage of XDP is that the packets are dropped at the earliest stage possible. So performance is better. But bypassed packets don't reach the network so you can't use this on regular traffic but only on duplicated/sniffed traffic.

The bypass implementation relies on one of the most powerful concept of eBPF: maps. A map is a data structure shared between user space and kernel space/hardware. It allows user space and kernel space to interact, pass information. Maps are often implemented as arrays or hash tables that can contain arbitrary key, value pairs. XDP

XDP provides another Linux native way of optimising Suricata's performance on sniffing high speed networks:

XDP or eXpress Data Path provides a high performance, programmable network data path in the Linux kernel as part of the IO Visor Project. XDP provides bare metal packet processing at the lowest point in the software stack which makes it ideal for speed without compromising programmability. Furthermore, new functions can be implemented dynamically with the integrated fast path without kernel modification.

More info about XDP:

21.4.2. Requirements

You will need a kernel that supports XDP and, for the most performance improvement, a network card that support XDP in the driver.

Suricata XDP code has been tested with 4.13.10 but 4.15 or later is necessary to use all features like the CPU redirect map.

If you are using an Intel network card, you will need to stay with in tree kernel NIC drivers. The out of tree drivers do not contain the XDP support.

Having a network card with support for RSS symmetric hashing is a good point or you will have to use the XDP CPU redirect map feature.

21.4.3. Prerequisites

This guide has been confirmed on Debian/Ubuntu "LTS" Linux. Disable irqbalance

irqbalance may cause issues in most setups described here, so it is recommended to deactivate it

systemctl stop irqbalance
systemctl disable irqbalance Kernel

You need to run a kernel 4.13 or newer. Clang and dependencies

Make sure you have clang (>=3.9) installed on the system

sudo apt install clang libbpf

Suricata uses libbpf to interact with eBPF and XDP

sudo apt install libbpf-dev

If the libbpf package is unavailable, it can be cloned from the repository

git clone https://github.com/libbpf/libbpf.git

Now, you can build and install the library

cd libbpf/src/
make && sudo make install

sudo make install_headers
sudo ldconfig

In some cases your system will not find the libbpf library that is installed under /usr/lib64 so you may need to modify your ldconfig configuration.

21.4.4. Compile and install Suricata

To get Suricata source, you can use the usual

git clone https://github.com/OISF/suricata.git
cd suricata && ./scripts/bundle.sh


Then you need to add the eBPF flags to configure and specify the Clang compiler for building all C sources, including the eBPF programs

CC=clang ./configure --prefix=/usr/ --sysconfdir=/etc/ --localstatedir=/var/ \
--enable-ebpf --enable-ebpf-build

make clean && make
sudo make install-full
sudo ldconfig
sudo mkdir /usr/libexec/suricata/ebpf/

The clang compiler is needed if you want to build eBPF files as the build is done via a specific eBPF backend available only in llvm/clang suite. If you don't want to use Clang for building Suricata itself, you can still specify it separately, using the --with-clang parameter

./configure --prefix=/usr/ --sysconfdir=/etc/ --localstatedir=/var/ \
--enable-ebpf --enable-ebpf-build --with-clang=/usr/bin/clang

21.4.5. Setup bypass

If you plan to use eBPF or XDP for a kernel/hardware level bypass, you need to enable some of the following features:

First, enable bypass in the stream section in suricata.yaml

  bypass: true

This will bypass flows as soon as the stream depth will be reached.

If you want, you can also bypass encrypted flows by setting encryption-handling to bypass in the app-layer tls section

      enabled: yes
        dp: 443

      encryption-handling: bypass

Another solution is to use a set of signatures using the bypass keyword to obtain a selective bypass. Suricata traffic ID defines flowbits that can be used in other signatures. For instance one could use

alert any any -> any any (msg:"bypass video"; flowbits:isset,traffic/label/video; noalert; bypass; sid:1000000; rev:1;)
alert any any -> any any (msg:"bypass Skype"; flowbits:isset,traffic/id/skype; noalert; bypass; sid:1000001; rev:1;)

21.4.6. Setup eBPF filter

The file ebpf/vlan_filter.c contains a list of VLAN id in a switch that you need to edit to get something adapted to your network. Another filter dropping packets from or to a set of IPv4 address is also available in ebpf/filter.c. See Pinned maps usage for more information.

Suricata can load as eBPF filter any eBPF code exposing a filter section.

Once modifications and build via make are complete, you can copy the resulting eBPF filter as needed

cp ebpf/vlan_filter.bpf /usr/libexec/suricata/ebpf/

Then setup the ebpf-filter-file variable in af-packet section in suricata.yaml

- interface: eth3
  threads: 16
  cluster-id: 97
  cluster-type: cluster_flow # choose any type suitable
  defrag: yes
  # eBPF file containing a 'filter' function that will be inserted into the
  # kernel and used as load balancing function
  ebpf-filter-file:  /usr/libexec/suricata/ebpf/vlan_filter.bpf
  use-mmap: yes
  ring-size: 200000

You can then run Suricata normally

/usr/bin/suricata --pidfile /var/run/suricata.pid  --af-packet=eth3 -vvv

21.4.7. Setup eBPF bypass

You can also use eBPF bypass. To do that load the bypass_filter.bpf file and update af-packet configuration in suricata.yaml to set bypass to yes

- interface: eth3
  threads: 16
  cluster-id: 97
  cluster-type: cluster_qm # symmetric RSS hashing is mandatory to use this mode
  # eBPF file containing a 'filter' function that will be inserted into the
  # kernel and used as packet filter function
  ebpf-filter-file:  /usr/libexec/suricata/ebpf/bypass_filter.bpf
  bypass: yes
  use-mmap: yes
  ring-size: 200000

Constraints on eBPF code to have a bypass compliant code are stronger than for regular filters. The filter must expose flow_table_v4 and flow_table_v6 per CPU array maps with similar definitions as the one available in bypass_filter.c. These two maps will be accessed and maintained by Suricata to handle the lists of flows to bypass.

If you are not using VLAN tracking (vlan.use-for-tracking set to false in suricata.yaml) then you also have to set the VLAN_TRACKING define to 0 in bypass_filter.c.

21.4.8. Setup eBPF load balancing

eBPF load balancing allows to load balance the traffic on the listening sockets With any logic implemented in the eBPF filter. The value returned by the function tagged with the loadbalancer section is used with a modulo on the CPU count to know in which socket the packet has to be send.

An implementation of a simple symmetric IP pair hashing function is provided in the lb.bpf file.

Copy the resulting eBPF filter as needed

cp ebpf/lb.bpf /usr/libexec/suricata/ebpf/

Then use cluster_ebpf as load balancing method in the interface section of af-packet and point the ebpf-lb-file variable to the lb.bpf file

- interface: eth3
  threads: 16
  cluster-id: 97
  cluster-type: cluster_ebpf
  defrag: yes
  # eBPF file containing a 'loadbalancer' function that will be inserted into the
  # kernel and used as load balancing function
  ebpf-lb-file:  /usr/libexec/suricata/ebpf/lb.bpf
  use-mmap: yes
  ring-size: 200000

21.4.9. Setup XDP bypass

XDP bypass allows Suricata to tell the kernel that packets for some flows have to be dropped via the XDP mechanism. This is an early drop that occurs before the datagram reaches the Linux kernel network stack.

Linux 4.15 or newer are recommended to use that feature. You can use it on older kernel if you set BUILD_CPUMAP to 0 in ebpf/xdp_filter.c.

Copy the resulting XDP filter as needed:

cp ebpf/xdp_filter.bpf /usr/libexec/suricata/ebpf/

Setup af-packet section/interface in suricata.yaml.

We will use cluster_qm as we have symmetric hashing on the NIC, xdp-mode: driver and we will also use the /usr/libexec/suricata/ebpf/xdp_filter.bpf (in our example TCP offloading/bypass)

- interface: eth3
  threads: 16
  cluster-id: 97
  cluster-type: cluster_qm # symmetric hashing is a must!
  defrag: yes
  # Xdp mode, "soft" for skb based version, "driver" for network card based
  # and "hw" for card supporting eBPF.
  xdp-mode: driver
  xdp-filter-file:  /usr/libexec/suricata/ebpf/xdp_filter.bpf
  # if the ebpf filter implements a bypass function, you can set 'bypass' to
  # yes and benefit from these feature
  bypass: yes
  use-mmap: yes
  ring-size: 200000
  # Uncomment the following if you are using hardware XDP with
  # a card like Netronome (default value is yes)
  # use-percpu-hash: no

XDP bypass is compatible with AF_PACKET IPS mode. Packets from bypassed flows will be send directly from one card to the second card without going by the kernel network stack.

If you are using hardware XDP offload you may have to set use-percpu-hash to false and build and install the XDP filter file after setting USE_PERCPU_HASH to 0.

In the XDP filter file, you can set ENCRYPTED_TLS_BYPASS to 1 if you want to bypass the encrypted TLS 1.2 packets in the eBPF code. Be aware that this will mean that Suricata will be blind on packets on port 443 with the correct pattern.

If you are not using VLAN tracking (vlan.use-for-tracking set to false in suricata.yaml) then you also have to set the VLAN_TRACKING define to 0 in xdp_filter.c. Intel NIC setup

Intel network card don't support symmetric hashing but it is possible to emulate it by using a specific hashing function.

Follow these instructions closely for desired result:

ifconfig eth3 down

Use in tree kernel drivers: XDP support is not available in Intel drivers available on Intel website.

Enable symmetric hashing

ifconfig eth3 down
ethtool -L eth3 combined 16 # if you have at least 16 cores
ethtool -K eth3 rxhash on
ethtool -K eth3 ntuple on
ifconfig eth3 up
./set_irq_affinity 0-15 eth3
ethtool -X eth3 hkey 6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A:6D:5A equal 16
ethtool -x eth3
ethtool -n eth3

In the above setup you are free to use any recent set_irq_affinity script. It is available in any Intel x520/710 NIC sources driver download.

NOTE: We use a special low entropy key for the symmetric hashing. More info about the research for symmetric hashing set up Disable any NIC offloading

Run the following command to disable offloading

for i in rx tx tso ufo gso gro lro tx nocache copy sg txvlan rxvlan; do
       /sbin/ethtool -K eth3 $i off 2>&1 > /dev/null;
done Balance as much as you can

Try to use the network card's flow balancing as much as possible

for proto in tcp4 udp4 ah4 esp4 sctp4 tcp6 udp6 ah6 esp6 sctp6; do
   /sbin/ethtool -N eth3 rx-flow-hash $proto sd

This command triggers load balancing using only source and destination IPs. This may be not optimal in term of load balancing fairness but this ensures all packets of a flow will reach the same thread even in the case of IP fragmentation (where source and destination port will not be available for some fragmented packets). The XDP CPU redirect case

If ever your hardware is not able to do a symmetric load balancing but support XDP in driver mode, you can then use the CPU redirect map support available in the xdp_filter.bpf and xdp_lb.bpf file. In this mode, the load balancing will be done by the XDP filter and each CPU will handle the whole packet treatment including the creation of the skb structure in kernel.

You will need Linux 4.15 or newer to use that feature.

To do so set the xdp-cpu-redirect variable in af-packet interface configuration to a set of CPUs. Then use the cluster_cpu as load balancing function. You will also need to set the affinity to be certain that CPU cores that have the skb assigned are used by Suricata.

Also to avoid out of order packets, you need to set the RSS queue number to 1. So if our interface is eth3

/sbin/ethtool -L eth3 combined 1

In case your system has more then 64 core, you need to set CPUMAP_MAX_CPUS to a value greater than this number in xdp_lb.c and xdp_filter.c.

A sample configuration for pure XDP load balancing could look like

- interface: eth3
  threads: 16
  cluster-id: 97
  cluster-type: cluster_cpu
  xdp-mode: driver
  xdp-filter-file:  /usr/libexec/suricata/ebpf/xdp_lb.bpf
  xdp-cpu-redirect: ["1-17"] # or ["all"] to load balance on all CPUs
  use-mmap: yes
  ring-size: 200000

It is possible to use xdp_monitor to have information about the behavior of CPU redirect. This program is available in Linux tree under the samples/bpf directory and will be build by the make command. Sample output is the following

sudo ./xdp_monitor --stats
XDP-event       CPU:to  pps          drop-pps     extra-info
XDP_REDIRECT    11      2,880,212    0            Success
XDP_REDIRECT    total   2,880,212    0            Success
XDP_REDIRECT    total   0            0            Error
cpumap-enqueue   11:0   575,954      0            5.27       bulk-average
cpumap-enqueue  sum:0   575,954      0            5.27       bulk-average
cpumap-kthread  0       575,990      0            56,409     sched
cpumap-kthread  1       576,090      0            54,897     sched Start Suricata with XDP

You can now start Suricata with XDP bypass activated

/usr/bin/suricata -c /etc/suricata/xdp-suricata.yaml --pidfile /var/run/suricata.pid  --af-packet=eth3 -vvv

Confirm you have the XDP filter engaged in the output (example):

(runmode-af-packet.c:220) <Config> (ParseAFPConfig) -- Enabling locked memory for mmap on iface eth3
(runmode-af-packet.c:231) <Config> (ParseAFPConfig) -- Enabling tpacket v3 capture on iface eth3
(runmode-af-packet.c:326) <Config> (ParseAFPConfig) -- Using queue based cluster mode for AF_PACKET (iface eth3)
(runmode-af-packet.c:424) <Info> (ParseAFPConfig) -- af-packet will use '/usr/libexec/suricata/ebpf/xdp_filter.bpf' as XDP filter file
(runmode-af-packet.c:429) <Config> (ParseAFPConfig) -- Using bypass kernel functionality for AF_PACKET (iface eth3)
(runmode-af-packet.c:609) <Config> (ParseAFPConfig) -- eth3: enabling zero copy mode by using data release call
(util-runmodes.c:296) <Info> (RunModeSetLiveCaptureWorkersForDevice) -- Going to use 8 thread(s)

21.4.10. Pinned maps usage

Pinned maps stay attached to the system if the creating process disappears and they can also be accessed by external tools. In Suricata bypass case, this can be used to keep bypassed flow tables active, so Suricata is not hit by previously bypassed flows when restarting. In the socket filter case, this can be used to maintain a map from tools outside of Suricata.

To use pinned maps, you first have to mount the bpf pseudo filesystem

sudo mount -t bpf none /sys/fs/bpf

You can also add to your /etc/fstab

bpffs                      /sys/fs/bpf             bpf     defaults 0 0

and run sudo mount -a.

Pinned maps will be accessible as file from the /sys/fs/bpf directory. Suricata will pin them under the name suricata-$IFACE_NAME-$MAP_NAME.

To activate pinned maps for a interface, set pinned-maps to true in the af-packet configuration of this interface

- interface: eth3
  pinned-maps: true

21.4.11. XDP and pinned-maps

This option can be used to expose the maps of a socket filter to other processes. This allows for example, the external handling of a accept list or block list of IP addresses. See bpfctrl for an example of external list handling.

In the case of XDP, the eBPF filter is attached to the interface so if you activate pinned-maps the eBPF will remain attached to the interface and the maps will remain accessible upon Suricata start. If XDP bypass is activated, Suricata will try at start to open the pinned maps flow_v4_table and flow_v6_table. If they are present, this means the XDP filter is still there and Suricata will just use them instead of attaching the XDP file to the interface.

So if you want to reload the XDP filter, you need to remove the files from /sys/fs/bpf/ before starting Suricata.

In case, you are not using bypass, this means that the used maps are managed from outside Suricata. As their names are not known by Suricata, you need to specify a name of a map to look for, that will be used to check for the presence of the XDP filter

- interface: eth3
  pinned-maps: true
  pinned-maps-name: ipv4_drop
  xdp-filter-file: /usr/libexec/suricata/ebpf/xdp_filter.bpf

If XDP bypass is used in IPS mode stopping Suricata will trigger an interruption in the traffic. To fix that, the provided XDP filter xdp_filter.bpf is containing a map that will trigger a global bypass if set to 1. You need to use pinned-maps to benefit from this feature.

To use it you need to set #define USE_GLOBAL_BYPASS 1 (instead of 0) in the xdp_filter.c file and rebuild the eBPF code and install the eBPF file in the correct place. If you write 1 as key 0 then the XDP filter will switch to global bypass mode. Set key 0 to value 0 to send traffic to Suricata.

The switch must be activated on all sniffing interfaces. For an interface named eth0 the global switch map will be /sys/fs/bpf/suricata-eth0-global_bypass. Pinned maps and eBPF filter

Pinned maps can also be used with regular eBPF filters. The main difference is that the map will not persist after Suricata is stopped because it is attached to a socket and not an interface which is persistent.

The eBPF filter filter.bpf uses a ipv4_drop map that contains the set of IPv4 addresses to drop. If pinned-maps is set to true in the interface configuration then the map will be pinned under /sys/fs/bpf/suricata-eth3-ipv4_drop.

You can then use a tool like bpfctrl to manage the IPv4 addresses in the map.

21.4.12. Hardware bypass with Netronome

Netronome cards support hardware bypass. In this case the eBPF code is running in the card itself. This introduces some architectural differences compared to driver mode and the configuration and eBPF filter need to be updated.

On eBPF side, as of Linux 4.19 CPU maps and interfaces redirect are not supported and these features need to be disabled. By architecture, per CPU hash should not be used and has to be disabled. To achieve this, edit the beginning of ebpf/xdp_filter.c and do

#define BUILD_CPUMAP        0
/* Increase CPUMAP_MAX_CPUS if ever you have more than 64 CPUs */
#define CPUMAP_MAX_CPUS     64

#define USE_PERCPU_HASH    0
#define GOT_TX_PEER    0

Then build the bpf file with make and install it in the expected place.

The Suricata configuration is rather simple as you need to activate hardware mode and the use-percpu-hash option in the af-packet configuration of the interface

xdp-mode: hw
use-percpu-hash: no

The load balancing will be done on IP pairs inside the eBPF code, so using cluster_qm as cluster type is a good idea

cluster-type: cluster_qm

As of Linux 4.19, the number of threads must be a power of 2. So set threads variable of the af-packet interface to a power of 2 and in the eBPF filter set the following variable accordingly

#define RSS_QUEUE_NUMBERS   32

21.4.13. Getting live info about bypass

You can get information about bypass via the stats event and through the unix socket. iface-stat will return the number of bypassed packets (adding packets for a flow when it timeout)

suricatasc -c "iface-stat enp94s0np0" | jq
  "message": {
    "pkts": 56529854964,
    "drop": 932328611,
    "bypassed": 1569467248,
    "invalid-checksums": 0
  "return": "OK"

iface-bypassed-stats command will return the number of elements in IPv4 and IPv6 flow tables for each interface

# suricatasc
>>> iface-bypassed-stats
    "enp94s0np0": {
       "ipv4_fail": 0,
       "ipv4_maps_count": 2303,
       "ipv4_success": 4232,
       "ipv6_fail": 0,
       "ipv6_maps_count": 13131,
       "ipv6_success": 13500


The stats entry also contains a stats.flow_bypassed object that has local and capture bytes and packets counters as well as a bypassed and closed flow counter

  "local_pkts": 0,
  "local_bytes": 0,
  "local_capture_pkts": 20,
  "local_capture_bytes": 25000,
  "closed": 84,
  "pkts": 4799,
  "bytes": 2975133

local_pkts and local_bytes are for Suricata bypassed flows. This can be because local bypass is used or because the capture method can not bypass more flows. pkts and bytes are counters coming from the capture method. They can take some time to appear due to the accounting at timeout. local_capture_pkts and local_capture_bytes are counters for packets that are seen by Suricata before the capture method efficiently bypass the traffic. There is almost always some for each flow because of the buffer in front of Suricata reading threads.