Sanitizing PCAP Files for Public Distrubution

It happens pretty often that I’ll come across an interesting PCAP file that I want to share with others. Unfortunately, divulging these packet captures can give away certain sensitive information such as an organizations internal IP range, IP addresses of sensitive company assets, MAC addresses of critical hardware that could identify the product vendors, and more.

Fortunately, there is a tool which helps alleviate some of these issues. The tool is called Tcprewrite and is actually a part of the Tcpreplay suite. Tcpreplay is used to send packets from a PCAP back across the wire, but the suite actually contains a few other useful tools.Tcprewrite itself can be used to add and modify packet fields within PCAP files. For example, if you wanted to replace the layer two addressing information within a PCAP so that all of the packets have a specified source and destination MAC address you could use the following syntax:

tcprewrite --enet-dmac=00:55:22:AF:C6:37 --enet-smac=00:44:66:FC:29:AF --infile=input.pcap --outfile=output.pcap

Tcprewrite can do neat things at layer four as well, including remapping ports used in sessions. The following example will remap all port 80 traffic to port 8080.

tcprewrite --portmap=80:8080 --infile=input.pcap --outfile=output.pcap

The examples shown above were taken directly from the tcprewrite wiki page ( where you can find quite a few other usage examples.

The real value of tcprewrite, and the reason for this article, is its ability to randomize the addressing information in a PCAP file. This is done with the following syntax:

tcprewrite --seed=423 --infile=input.pcap --outfile=output.pcap

In this line, the seed option is used in the randomization of the addresses. This will replace all of the IP addresses in the IP headers of the packets and will also modify any ARP packets in the traffic accordingly.

From what I’ve been able to determine this option doesn’t randomize and rewrite and MAC addresses, which is a bit of a problem since MAC addresses can give away the vendor of a piece of hardware. The last thing I want is the entire world knowing that I use Cisco/Juniper/Enterasys/Etc based external firewalls. The ability to rewrite MAC addresses is there but its not random. What you can do in this case is to split a PCAP file into two separate files representing each direction of traffic. This can be done with tcpdump or tcpprep, which is a part of the tcprewrite suite as well. Using tcprewrite you can split the traffic like this:

tcpprep --auto=bridge --pcap=input.pcap --cachefile=input.cache

From there you can use syntax similar to what was shown above to replace the MAC addresses. This isn’t randomized so you will basically have to make something up. At the very least I’d recommend replacing the OUI section of the MACs. That syntax would look something like this:

tcprewrite --enet-dmac=00:44:66:FC:29:AF,00:55:22:AF:C6:37 --enet-smac=00:66:AA:D1:32:C2,00:22:55:AC:DE:AC --cachefile=input.cache --infile=input.pcap --outfile=output.pcap

It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to write a python script that uses tcpprep and tcprewrite to automate the randomization of MAC addresses as well.

You can download tcprewrite as part of the tcpreplay suite at or just apt-get/yum install tcpreply. The tool is Unix only (or you can use Cygwin if you are tied to Windows).

4 thoughts

  1. Sanitizing only works so far. It’s in intractable problem. Try this example with SIP or other protocols that embed domain/workstation names (DNS, MDNS, NBNS, DHCP, etc) and you’ll be surprised. Worst case you’ll end up with pcaps that are not valid at the application layer, but still very much leak confidential data.

  2. I agree with you. I didn’t address sanitizing layer 7 data because I’m not aware of any means to do so effectively. I’d love to see something that could handle sanitizing at least some of the more common layer 7 traffic (HTTP, DNS, DHCP, etc). However, it would take a much better programmer than myself.

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