Capture Packets with tcpdump

tcpdump is a powerful network debugging tool that you can use to intercept and display packets on a network interface. An important feature of tcpdump is the filter that enables you to display only the packets you want to see.

Install tcpdump

This example uses Ubuntu® 18.04, but the installation steps are similar for other Linux® distributions. Use the following command to install tcpdump on a server running the Ubuntu operating system:

sudo apt-get install tcpdump 

Use tcpdump

sudo tcpdump [options] [filter expression]

By default, tcpdump captures packets on eth0. To specify a different interface, use the -i command line flag. The following command captures all packets on the eth1 interface:

sudo tcpdump -i eth1

Use the following command to listen to all UDP connections:

sudo tcpdump udp

Use the following command to capture packets for a specific port:

sudo tcpdump port 80

The preceding command returns all packets that have port 80 as their destination or source port.

Suppose you want be more specific and capture only packets with destination port 80. If you have a web server on your cloud, you can use the folloiwng command to see incoming packets.

sudo tcpdump dst port 80

You can also capture packets for a specific host. The following command catches packets coming only from IP address

sudo tcpdump src host

tcpdump can take logical arguments such as and or or. You can use logical statements in a tcpdump command. For example, the following command catches all the Secure Shell (SSH) packets going from an SSH server to a client with IP address

sudo  tcpdump "src port 22" and "dst host" 

You can conveniently save raw packets to a file by using the -w option:

tcpdump host -w /home/users/demo/demo.dump

To read the saved file, use the following command:

tcpdump -r /home/users/demo/demo.dump


System administrators commonly use tcpdump, a powerful packet sniffer tool, to solve network problems and investigate traffic. You can use with Boolean expressions to capture the packets that you want to examine.