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Capture and Review HTTP Traffic in Wireshark

Cowboy Denny

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The BIG-IP is a 'full' proxy. This means there are 2 separate and independent connections that are managed by the BIG-IP. We refer to those as the Clientside (incoming traffic) and Serverside (outgoing traffic). Whether the traffic originates on your external or internal side is irrelevant to a BIG-IP. It is where the connection originates and hits that virtual server (clientside) and exits the BIG-IP (serverside).

So, in most cases to track an issue or resolve a question you need the traffic for both connections and then be able to align that traffic. To do that there are 2 things that will help.

One is referred to as the 'p' flag. This will instruct the BIG-IP to catch the flow on both sides of the BIG-IP.

The other is to drop the capture into Wireshark and look at the F5 Ethernet headers. To gather those you need the interface modifier :nnn.

When using a 'p' flag in the capture syntax, and running the capture on the BIG-IP, it will instruct the BIG-IP to capture the traffic on both sides of the BIG-IP. The syntax is fairly simple to construct. For example, you want to track the traffic for a specific virtual server and its pool members, and it would look something like this... tcpdump -nni 0.0:nnnp -s0 --f5 ssl host or host or host or host or or -vw /var/tmp/tcpdump_VS-POOL_$(date +%d_%b_%H_%M_%S)_$HOSTNAME.pcap

Lets break that down...

-s0 is an Unlimited Snaplen.  SnapLen, Snap Length, or snapshot length is the amount of data for each frame that is actually captured by the network capturing tool and stored into the CaptureFile. This will provide the most data.

-nn Don’t convert host addresses to names. This is used to avoid DNS lookups.

i 0.0 Capture the traffic on interface 0.0 which tells the BIG-IP to use 'any' interface to gather this traffic on.

:nnnp Here you see the 'p' flag and what we call "full noise" by the use of the 'nnn'. This will create the information for the F5 Ethernet Trailers and the ‘p’ the traffic on both sides of the proxy.

‘host’ The IP of the virtual server or source IP. If the virtual server destination is (referred to as any:any) then the source IP is what will be needed.

‘port’ the specific port used by the virtual server. This helps to reduce the size of the capture. A virtual IP address can be used many times but must be used in conjunction with a port number to form a websocket. So, if you are using for ssl and then using it as for SNMP and for SMTP you would want to filter out the traffic you do not need to look at by specifying the port.

-v will add verbosity and provide and screen counter so you see if packets are being caught, how many, and how fast.

-w this will send it to the file location.

/var/tmp/hostname the path to the location and the file name. You can name it what you want. But remember it is a Linux system and there are format rules. The file does not need to be created before the capture is started as the system will do it for you.

.pcap is the file type. (.cap is still used but is not quite as effective and pcapng is the newest form. In most cases all will work)

Important: When using the 'p' flag simply typing Ctrl + c will not stop some background functions of the 'p' flag and this can cause some issues. To completely stop it you can kill the PID or simply stop it by typing...

killall tcpdump

Note: There are some times in which a 'p' flag cannot be used, such as when HTTP/2 and some other protocols are in play. In that case this article should help you deal with those circumstances...K87524842: The tcpdump 😛 option does not capture peer traffic on some types of flows

Note: Beginning in Wireshark 2.6.0, the f5ethtrailer dissector is built into the utility. To display TMM information in Wireshark 2.6.0 and later, navigate to Analyze > Enabled Protocols and search for f5ethtrailer. Click the options to enable the F5 Ethernet trailer. If you are using a Wireshark version before 2.6.0, F5 recommends upgrading your Wireshark to the latest version to make use of this feature. You can also use the TMM information to filter the dump using some additional F5 details. For example, the following Wireshark filter string shows traffic to and from TMM0 on Slot1:

f5ethtrailer.slot == 1 and f5ethtrailer.tmm == 0

A list of all F5 filters appears in Wireshark within Filter Expression.


Pre-REQ for SSL

tmsh modify sys db tcpdump.sslprovider value enable
  • Identify Client IP Address 
  • Identify Virtual Server IP Address
  • Identify Pool Members


BEGIN the capture

If you know the client ip address:

tcpdump -ni 0.0:nnnp -s0 --f5 ssl host [client ip address] -w /var/tmp/api-qa_tcpdump_client_$(date +%d_%b_%H_%M_%S)_$HOSTNAME.pcap

Otherwise, filter for the virtual ip and pool member ip(s):

tcpdump -ni 0.0:nnn -s0 --f5 ssl host [virtual server ip] or host [pool member ip] or host [pool member ip] -w /var/tmp/api-qa_tcpdump_VS_$(date +%d_%b_%H_%M_%S)_$HOSTNAME.pcap

When you open the capture file...

How to Filter HTTP Traffic in Wireshark

Filtering HTTP traffic in Wireshark is a fairly trivial task but it does require the use of a few different filters to get the whole picture.

Many people think the http filter is enough, but you end up missing the handshake and termination packets.

Wireshark HTTP Protocol Filter

To display packets using the HTTP protocol you can enter the following filter in the Display Filter Toolbar:



You’ll notice that all the packets in the list show HTTP for the protocol.

The unfortunate thing is that this filter isn’t showing the whole picture. You’re missing the setup handshakes and termination tcp packets.

To display all the HTTP traffic you need to use the following protocol and port display filter:

tcp.dstport == 443


Now you’ll see all the packets related to your browsing of any HTTPS sites you browsed while capturing.

Filtering HTTP Traffic to and from Specific IP Address in Wireshark

If you want to filter for all HTTP traffic exchanged with a specific you can use the “and” operator. If, for example, you wanted to see all HTTPS traffic related to a server with an IP of you could use the following filter:

tcp.dstport == 443 and ip.addr ==


Notice only packets with in either the source or destination columns is shown. You can also use the OR or || operators to create an “either this or that” filter.

tcp.dstport == 443 || ip.addr ==


Wireshark HTTP Method Filter

If you want to dig into your HTTP traffic you can filter for things like GET, PUT, POST, DELETE, HEAD, OPTIONS, CONNECT, and TRACE. To filter for these methods use the following filter syntax:

http.request.method == "requestmethod"

For example, if you wanted to filter for just the GET requests, enter the following filter in the Display Filter toolbar:

http.request.method == "GET"


Now you’re left with all of the GET requests for assets from the website.

Viewing HTTP Packet Information in Wireshark

Working with the GET Method Filter displayed above, click on a packet in the Packet List Pane and then look at the information in the Packet Details Pane. Expand the Hypertext Transfer Protocol detail:


Wireshark HTTP Response Filter

One of the many valuable bits of information in a HTTP conversation is the response. This is the code a website returns that tells the status of the asset that was requested. You’ve probably seen things like Error 404 (Not Found) and 403 (Forbidden). These are HTTP responses and only a couple of the many that exist.

To filter for all responses enter the following display filter:



Notice to the right of the protocol version information there is a column of numbers. These are your response codes. If you see 200 in this example which means the HTTP request was successful.

To filter for a specific response, such as a HTTP 200 (OK), HTTP 301 (Moved Permanently), or HTTP 404 (Not Found) use the following display filter:

http.response.code == 200


Change 200 to another code to search for that code.

Follow the Full HTTP Stream to Match Get Requests with Responses

A very handy feature of Wireshark is the ability to view streams in a human readable format from beginning to end. To this, pick a HTTP protocol packet such as the packet containing the 200 response that we saw earlier and right click on it. Click on Follow -> HTTP Stream.


You’ll now be presented with a window that shows the entire stream including the GET (red) and HTTP/1.1 200 OK (Blue)


As you can see, there is a lot to HTTP traffic and just filtering for the HTTP protocol doesn’t cut it.

If you really want to put the whole picture together when troubleshooting problems with accessing websites you have to take a multi-pronged approach.

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