3.3. Software Testing with pingThus far, I have described ways to examine electrical and mechanical problems. The tools described in this section, ping and its variants, focus primarily on the software problems and the interaction of software with hardware. When these tools successfully communicate with remote systems, you have established basic connectivity. Your problem is almost certainly at a higher level in your system. With these tools, you begin with the presumption that your hardware is working correctly. If the link light is out on the local host, these tools will tell you nothing you don't already know. But if you simply suspect a hardware problem somewhere on your network, these tools may help you locate the problem. Once you know the location of the problem, you will use the techniques previously described to resolve it. These tools can also provide insight when your hardware is marginal or when you have intermittent failures.
3.3.1. pingWhile there are several useful programs for analyzing connectivity, unquestionably ping is the most commonly used program. As it is required by the IP RFC, it is almost always available as part of the networking software supplied with any system. In addition, numerous enhanced versions of ping are available at little or no cost. There are even web sites that will allow you to run ping from their sites. Moreover, the basic idea has been adapted from IP networks to other protocols. For example, Cisco's implementation of ping has an optional keyword to check connectivity among routers using AppleTalk, DECnet, or IPX. ping is nearly universal. ping was written by Mike Muuss. Inspired by echo location, the name comes from sounds sonar makes. The name ping is frequently described as an acronym for Packet InterNet Groper. But, according to Muuss's web page, the acronym was applied to the program after the fact by someone else.
For more on the background of ping as well as a review of the book The Story About Ping, an alleged allegory of the ping program, visit Muuss's web page at http://ftp.arl.mil/~mike/ping.html.
3.3.2. How ping WorksIt is, in essence, a simple program based on a simple idea. (Muuss describes it as a 1000-line hack that was completed in about one evening.) One network device sends a request for a reply to another device and records the time the request was sent. The device receiving the request sends a packet back. When the reply is received, the round-trip time for packet propagation can be calculated. The receipt of a reply indicates a working connection. This elapsed time provides an indication of the length of the path. Consistency among repeated queries gives an indication of the quality of the connection. Thus, ping answers two basic questions. Do I have a connection? How good is that connection? In this chapter, we will focus on the first question, returning to the second question in the next chapter. Clearly, for the program to work, the networking protocol must support this query/response mechanism. The ping program is based on Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), part of the TCP/IP protocol. ICMP was designed to pass information about network performance between network devices and exchange error messages. It supports a wide variety of message types, including this query/response mechanism. The normal operation of ping relies on two specific ICMP messages, ECHO_REQUEST and ECHO_REPLY, but it may respond to ICMP messages other than ECHO_REPLY when appropriate. In theory, all TCP/IP-based network equipment should respond to an ECHO_REQUEST by returning the packet to the source, but this is not always the case.
184.108.40.206. Simple examplesThe default behavior of ping will vary among implementations. Typically, implementations have a wide range of command-line options so that the behavior discussed here is generally available. For example, implementations may default to sending a single packet, a small number of packets, or a continuous stream of packets. They may respond with a set of round-trip transmission times or with a simple message. The version of ping that comes with the Solaris operating system sends, by default, a single ICMP packet. It responds that the destination is alive or that no answer was received. In this example, an ECHO_REPLY was received:
In this example, no response was received before the program timed out:sol1# ping 220.127.116.11 18.104.22.168 is alive sol1#
Note that ping can be used with an IP number or with a hostname, as shown by these examples. Other implementations will, by default, repeatedly send ECHO_REQUESTs until interrupted. FreeBSD is an example:sol1# ping www.microsoft.com no answer from microsoft.com sol1#
The execution of the program was interrupted with a Ctrl-C, at which point the summary statistics were printed. Without an interrupt, the program will continue indefinitely. With the appropriate command-line option, -s, similar output can be obtained with Solaris.bsd1# ping www.bay.com PING www.bay.com (22.214.171.124): 56 data bytes 64 bytes from 126.96.36.199: icmp_seq=0 ttl=112 time=180.974 ms 64 bytes from 188.8.131.52: icmp_seq=1 ttl=112 time=189.810 ms 64 bytes from 184.108.40.206: icmp_seq=2 ttl=112 time=167.653 ms ^C --- www.bay.com ping statistics --- 3 packets transmitted, 3 packets received, 0% packet loss round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 167.653/179.479/189.810/9.107 ms bsd1#
220.127.116.11. Interpreting resultsBefore I go into the syntax of ping and the ways it might be used, it is worth getting a clear understanding of what results might be returned by ping. The simplest results are seen with Solaris, a message simply stating, in effect, that the reply packet was received or was not received. With FreeBSD, we receive a great deal more information. It repeatedly sends packets and reports results for each packet, as well as providing a summary of results. In particular, for each packet we are given the size and source of each packet, an ICMP sequence number, a Time-To-Live (TTL) count, and the round-trip times. (The TTL field is explained later.) Of these, the sequence number and round-trip times are the most revealing when evaluating basic connectivity. When each ECHO_REQUEST packet is sent, the time the packet is sent is recorded in the packet. This is copied into the corresponding ECHO_REPLY packet by the remote host. When an ECHO_REPLY packet is received, the elapsed time is calculated by comparing the current time to the time recorded in the packet, i.e., the time the packet was sent. This difference, the elapsed time, is reported, along with the sequence number and the TTL, which comes from the packet's header. If no ECHO_REPLY packet is received that matches a particular sequence number, that packet is presumed lost. The size and the variability of elapsed times will depend on the number and speed of intermediate links as well as the congestion on those links. An obvious question is "What values are reasonable?" Typically, this is highly dependent on the networks you cross and the amount of activity on those networks. For example, these times are taken from a PPP link with a 28.8-Kbps modem:
The following times were for the same link only moments later:64 bytes from 18.104.22.168: icmp_seq=0 ttl=30 time=225.620 ms 64 bytes from 22.214.171.124: icmp_seq=1 ttl=30 time=213.652 ms 64 bytes from 126.96.36.199: icmp_seq=2 ttl=30 time=215.306 ms 64 bytes from 188.8.131.52: icmp_seq=3 ttl=30 time=194.782 ms 64 bytes from 184.108.40.206: icmp_seq=4 ttl=30 time=199.562 ms ...
There is nothing wrong here. The difference is that a file download was in progress on the link during the second set of measurements. In general, you can expect very good times if you are staying on a LAN. Typically, values should be well under 100 ms and may be less than 10 ms. Once you move onto the Internet, values may increase dramatically. A coast-to-coast, round-trip time will take at least 60 ms when following a mythical straight-line path with no congestion. For remote sites, times of 200 ms may be quite good, and times up to 500 ms may be acceptable. Much larger times may be a cause for concern. Keep in mind these are very rough numbers. You can also use ping to calculate a rough estimate of the throughput of a connection. (Throughput and related concepts are discussed in greater detail in Chapter 4, "Path Characteristics".) Send two packets with different sizes across the path of interest. This is done with the -s option, which is described later in this chapter. The difference in times will give an idea of how much longer it takes to send the additional data in the larger packet. For example, say it takes 30 ms to ping with 100 bytes and 60 ms with 1100 bytes. Thus, it takes an additional 30 ms round trip or 15 ms in one direction to send the additional 1000 bytes or 8000 bits. The throughput is roughly 8000 bits per 15 ms or 540,000 bps. The difference between two measurements is used to eliminate overhead. This is extremely crude. It makes no adjustment for other traffic and gives a composite picture for all the links on a path. Don't try to make too much out of these numbers. It may seem that the TTL field could be used to estimate the number of hops on a path. Unfortunately, this is problematic. When a packet is sent, the TTL field is initialized and is subsequently decremented by each router along the path. If it reaches zero, the packet is discarded. This imposes a finite lifetime on all packets, ensuring that, in the event of a routing loop, the packet won't remain on the network indefinitely. Unfortunately, the TTL field may or may not be reset at the remote machine and, if reset, there is little consistency in what it is set to. Thus, you need to know very system-specific information to use the TTL field to estimate the number of hops on a path. A steady stream of replies with reasonably consistent times is generally an indication of a healthy connection. If packets are being lost or discarded, you will see jumps in the sequence numbers, the missing numbers corresponding to the lost packets. Occasional packet loss probably isn't an indication of any real problem. This is particularly true if you are crossing a large number of routers or any congested networks. It is particularly common for the first packet in a sequence to be lost or have a much higher elapsed time. This behavior is a consequence of the need to do ARP resolution at each link along the path for the first packet. Since the ARP data is cached, subsequent packets do not have this overhead. If, however, you see a large portion of the packets being lost, you may have a problem somewhere along the path. The program will also report duplicate and damaged packets. Damaged packets are a cause for real concern. You will need to shift into troubleshooting mode to locate the source of the problem. Unless you are trying to ping a broadcast address, you should not see duplicate packets. If your computers are configured to respond to ECHO_REQUESTs sent to broadcast addresses, you will see lots of duplicate packets. With normal use, however, duplicate responses could indicate a routing loop. Unfortunately, ping will only alert you to the problem; its underlying mechanism cannot explain the cause of such problems. In some cases you may receive other ICMP error messages. Typically from routers, these can be very informative and helpful. For example, in the following, an attempt is made to reach a device on a nonexistent network:64 bytes from 220.127.116.11: icmp_seq=0 ttl=30 time=1037.367 ms 64 bytes from 18.104.22.168: icmp_seq=1 ttl=30 time=2119.615 ms 64 bytes from 22.214.171.124: icmp_seq=2 ttl=30 time=2269.448 ms 64 bytes from 126.96.36.199: icmp_seq=3 ttl=30 time=2209.715 ms 64 bytes from 188.8.131.52: icmp_seq=4 ttl=30 time=2493.881 ms ...
Since the router has no path to the network, it returns the ICMP DESTINATION_HOST_UNREACHABLE message. In general, you will receive a Destination Host Unreachable warning or a Destination Network Unreachable warning if the problem is detected on the machine where ping is being run. If the problem is detected on a device trying to forward a packet, you will receive only a Destination Host Unreachable warning. In the next example, an attempt is being made to cross a router that has been configured to deny traffic from the source:bsd1# ping 172.16.4.1 PING 172.16.4.1 (172.16.4.1): 56 data bytes 36 bytes from 172.16.2.1: Destination Host Unreachable Vr HL TOS Len ID Flg off TTL Pro cks Src Dst 4 5 00 5400 5031 0 0000 fe 01 0e49 172.16.2.13 172.16.4.1 36 bytes from 172.16.2.1: Destination Host Unreachable Vr HL TOS Len ID Flg off TTL Pro cks Src Dst 4 5 00 5400 5034 0 0000 fe 01 0e46 172.16.2.13 172.16.4.1 ^C --- 172.16.4.1 ping statistics --- 2 packets transmitted, 0 packets received, 100% packet loss
The warning Communication prohibited by filter indicates the packets are being discarded. Be aware that you may be blocked by filters without seeing this message. Consider the following example:bsd1# ping 172.16.3.10 PING 172.16.3.10 (172.16.3.10): 56 data bytes 36 bytes from 172.16.2.1: Communication prohibited by filter Vr HL TOS Len ID Flg off TTL Pro cks Src Dst 4 5 00 5400 5618 0 0000 ff 01 0859 172.16.2.13 172.16.3.10 36 bytes from 172.16.2.1: Communication prohibited by filter Vr HL TOS Len ID Flg off TTL Pro cks Src Dst 4 5 00 5400 561b 0 0000 ff 01 0856 172.16.2.13 172.16.3.10 ^C --- 172.16.3.10 ping statistics --- 2 packets transmitted, 0 packets received, 100% packet loss
The same filter was used on the router, but it was applied to traffic leaving the network rather than inbound traffic. Hence, no messages were sent. Unfortunately, ping will often be unable to tell you why a packet is unanswered. While these are the most common ICMP messages you will see, ping may display a wide variety of messages. A listing of ICMP messages can be found in RFC 792. A good discussion of the more common messages can be found in Eric A. Hall's Internet Core Protocols: The Definitive Guide. Most ICMP messages are fairly self-explanatory if you are familiar with TCP/IP.bsd1# ping 172.16.3.10 PING 172.16.3.10 (172.16.3.10): 56 data bytes ^C --- 172.16.3.10 ping statistics --- 6 packets transmitted, 0 packets received, 100% packet loss
184.108.40.206. OptionsA number of options are generally available with ping. These vary considerably from implementation to implementation. Some of the more germane options are described here. Several options control the number of or the rate at which packets are sent. The -c option will allow you to specify the number of packets you want to send. For example, ping -c10 would send 10 packets and stop. This can be very useful if you are running ping from a script. The commands -f and -l are used to flood packets onto a network. The -f option says that packets should be sent as fast as the receiving host can handle them. This can be used to stress-test a link or to get some indication of the comparative performance of interfaces. In this example, the program is run for about 10 seconds on each of two different destinations:
In the first case, the destination was a 200-MHz Pentium with a PCI adapter. In the second, the destination was a 50-MHz 486 with an ISA adapter. It is not surprising that the first computer was more than five times faster. But remember, it may not be clear whether the limiting factor is the source or the receiver unless you do multiple tests. Clearly, use of this option could cripple a host. Consequently, the option requires root privileges to run and may not be included in some implementations. The -l option takes a count and sends out that many packets as fast as possible. It then falls back to normal mode. This could be used to see how the router handles a flood of packets. Use of this command is also restricted to root. The -i option allows the user to specify the amount of time in seconds to wait between sending consecutive packets. This could be a useful way to space out packets for extended runs or for use with scripts. In general, the effect of an occasional ping packet is negligible when compared to the traffic already on all but the slowest of links. Repeated packets or packet flooding can, however, add considerably to traffic and congestion. For that reason, you should be very circumspect in using any of these options (and perhaps ping in general). The amount and form of the data can be controlled to a limited extent. The -n option restricts output to numeric form. This is useful if you are having DNS problems. Implementations also typically include options for more detailed output, typically -v for verbose output, and for fewer details, typically -q and -Q for quiet output. The amount and nature of the data in the frame can be controlled using the -s and -p options. The packet size option, -s, allows you to specify how much data to send. If set too small, less than 8, there won't be space in the packet for a timestamp. Setting the packet size can help in diagnosing a problem caused by path Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU) settings (the largest frame size that can be sent on the path) or fragmentation problems. (Fragmentation is dividing data among multiple frames when a single packet is too large to cross a link. It is handled by the IP portion of the protocol stack.) The general approach is to increase packet sizes up to the maximum allowed to see if at some point you have problems. When this option isn't used, ping defaults to 64 bytes, which may be too small a packet to reveal some problems. Also remember that ping does not count the IP or ICMP header in the specified length so your packets will be 28 bytes larger than you specify. You could conceivably see MTU problems with protocols, such as PPP, that use escaped characters as well. With escaped characters, a single character may be replaced by two characters. The expansion of escaped characters increases the size of the data frame and can cause problems with MTU restrictions or fragmentation.bsd1# ping -f 172.16.2.12 PING 172.16.2.12 (172.16.2.12): 56 data bytes ..^C --- 172.16.2.12 ping statistics --- 27585 packets transmitted, 27583 packets received, 0% packet loss round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 0.303/0.310/0.835/0.027 ms bsd1# ping -f 172.16.2.20 PING 172.16.2.20 (172.16.2.20): 56 data bytes .^C --- 172.16.2.20 ping statistics --- 5228 packets transmitted, 5227 packets received, 0% packet loss round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 1.535/1.736/6.463/0.363 ms
Generally there are better ways to deal with problems with PPP. For more information, see Chapter 15 in Using and Managing PPP, by Andrew Sun.The -p option allows you to specify a pattern for the data included within the packet after the timestamp. You might use this if you think you have data-dependent problems. The FreeBSD manpage for ping notes that this sort of problem might show up if you lack sufficient "transitions" in your data, i.e., your data is all or almost all ones or all or almost all zeros. Some serial links are particularly vulnerable to this sort of problem. There are a number of other options not discussed here. These provide control over what interfaces are used, the use of multicast packets, and so forth. The flags presented here are from FreeBSD and are fairly standard. Be aware, however, that different implementations may use different flags for these options. Be sure to consult your documentation if things don't work as expected.
220.127.116.11. Using pingTo isolate problems using ping, you will want to run it repeatedly, changing your destination address so that you work your way through each intermediate device to your destination. You should begin with your loopback interface. Use either localhost or 127.0.0.1. Next, ping your interface by IP number. (Run ifconfig -a if in doubt.) If either of these fails, you know that you have a problem with the host. Next, try a host on a local network that you know is operational. Use its IP address rather than its hostname. If this fails, there are several possibilities. If other hosts are able to communicate on the local network, then you likely have problems with your connection to the network. This could be your interface, the cable to your machine, or your connection to a hub or switch. Of course, you can't rule out configuration errors such as media type on the adapter or a bad IP address or mask. Next, try to reach the same host by name rather than number. If this fails, you almost certainly have problems with name resolution. Even if you have this problem, you can continue using ping to check your network, but you will need to use IP addresses. Try reaching the near and far interfaces of your router. This will turn up any basic routing problems you may have on your host or connectivity problems getting to your router. If all goes well here, you are ready to ping remote computers. (You will need to know the IP address of the intermediate devices to do this test. If in doubt, read the section on traceroute in the next chapter.) Realize, of course, that if you start having failures at this point, the problem will likely lie beyond your router. For example, your ICMP ECHO_REQUEST packets may reach the remote machine, but it may not have a route to your machine to use for the ICMP ECHO_REPLY packets. When faced with failure at this point, your response will depend on who is responsible for the machines beyond your router. If this is still part of your network, you will want to shift your tests to machines on the other side of the router and try to work in both directions. If these machines are outside your responsibility or control, you will need to enlist the help of the appropriate person. Before you contact this person, however, you should collect as much information as you can. There are three things you may want to do. First, go back to using IP numbers if you have been using names. As said before, if things start working, you have a name resolution problem. Second, if you were trying to ping a device several hops beyond your router, go back to closer machines and try to zero in on exactly where you first encountered the problem. Finally, be sure to probe from more than one machine. While you may have a great deal of confidence in your local machine at this point, your discussion with the remote administrator may go much more smoothly if you can definitely say that you are seeing this problem from multiple machines instead of just one. In general, this stepwise approach is the usual approach for this type of problem. Sometimes, you may be more interested in investigating connectivity over time. For example, you might have a connection that seems to come and go. By running ping in the background or from a script, you may be able to collect useful information. For example, with some routing protocols, updates have a way of becoming synchronized, resulting in periodic loading on the network. If you see increased delays, for example every 30 seconds, you might be having that sort of problem. Or, if you lose packets every time someone uses the elevator, you might look at the path your cable takes. If you are looking at performance over a long period of time, you will almost certainly want to use the -i option to space out your packets in a more network- friendly manner. This is a reasonable approach to take if you are experiencing occasional outages and need to document the time and duration of the outages. You should also be aware that over extended periods of time, you may see changes in the paths the packets follow.
3.3.3. Problems with pingUp to this point, I have been describing how ping is normally used. I now describe some of the complications faced when using ping. First, the program does not exist in isolation, but depends on the proper functioning of other elements of the network. In particular, ping usually depends upon ARP and DNS. As previously noted, if you are using a hostname rather than an IP address as your destination, the name of the host will have to be resolved before ping can send any packets. You can bypass DNS by using IP addresses. It is also necessary to discover the host's link-level address for each host along the path to the destination. Although this is rarely a problem, should ARP resolution fail, then ping will fail. You could avoid this problem, in part, by using static ARP entries to ensure that the ARP table is correct. A more common problem is that the time reported by ping for the first packet sent will often be distorted since it reflects both transit times and ARP resolution times. On some networks, the first packet will often be lost. You can avoid this problem by sending more than one packet and ignoring the results for the first packet. The correct operation of your network will depend on considerations that do not affect ping. In such situations, ping will work correctly, but you will still have link problems. For example, if there are problems with the configuration of the path MTU, smaller ping packets may zip through the network while larger application packets may be blocked. S. Lee Henry described a problem in which she could ping remote systems but could not download web pages. While her particular problem was highly unusual, it does point out that a connection can appear to be working, but still have problems.
"Systems Administration: You Can't Get There from Here," Server/Workstation Expert, May 1999. This article can be found in PDF format at http://sw.expert.com/C4/SE.C4.MAY.99.pdf.The opposite can be true as well. Often ping will fail when the connection works for other uses. For various reasons, usually related to security, some system administrators may block ICMP packets in general or ECHO_REQUEST packets in particular. Moreover, this practice seems to be increasing. I've even seen a site block ping traffic at its DNS server.
18.104.22.168. Security and ICMPUnfortunately, ping in particular, and ICMP packets in general, have been implicated in several recent denial-of-service attacks. But while these attacks have used ping, they are not inherently problems with ping. Nonetheless, network administrators have responded as though ping was the problem (or at least the easiest way to deal with the problem), and this will continue to affect how and even if ping can be used in some contexts.
22.214.171.124. Smurf AttacksIn a Smurf Attack, ICMP ECHO_REQUEST packets are sent to the broadcast address of a network. Depending on how hosts are configured on the network, some may attempt to reply to the ECHO_REQUEST. The resulting flood of responses may degrade the performance of the network, particularly at the destination host. With this attack, there are usually three parties involved -- the attacker who generates the original request; an intermediary, sometimes called a reflector or multiplier, that delivers the packet onto the network; and the victim. The attacker uses a forged source address so that the ECHO_REPLY packets are returned, not to the attacker, but to a "spoofed" address, i.e., the victim. The intermediary may be either a router or a compromised host on the destination network. Because there are many machines responding to a single request, little of the attacker's bandwidth is used, while much of the victim's bandwidth may be used. Attackers have developed tools that allow them to send ECHO_REQUESTs to multiple intermediaries at about the same time. Thus, the victim will be overwhelmed by ECHO_REPLY packets from multiple sources. Notice also that congestion is not limited to just the victim but may extend through its ISP all the way back to the intermediaries' networks. The result of these attacks is that many sites are now blocking ICMP ECHO_REQUEST traffic into their network. Some have gone as far as to block all ICMP traffic. While understandable, this is not an appropriate response. First, it blocks legitimate uses of these packets, such as checking basic connectivity. Second, it may not be effective. In the event of a compromised host, the ECHO_REQUEST may originate within the network. At best, blocking pings is only a temporary solution. A more appropriate response requires taking several steps. First, you should configure your routers so they will not forward broadcast traffic onto your network from other networks. How you do this will depend on the type of router you have, but solutions are available from most vendors. Second, you may want to configure your hosts so they do not respond to ECHO_REQUESTs sent to broadcast addresses. It is easy to get an idea of which hosts on your network respond to these broadcasts. First, examine your ARP table, then ping your broadcast address, and then look at your ARP table again for new entries.
At one time, you could test your site by going to http://www.netscan.org, but this site seems to have disappeared.Finally, as a good network citizen, you should install filters on your access router to prevent packets that have a source address not on your network from leaving your network. This limits not only Smurf Attacks but also other attacks based on spoofed addresses from originating on your network. These filters should also be applied to internal routers as well as access routers. (This assumes you are providing forwarding for other networks!) If you follow these steps, you should not have to disable ICMP traffic. For more information on Smurf Attacks, including information on making these changes, visit http://www.cert.org/advisories/CA-1998-01.html. You might also look at RFC 2827.
126.96.36.199. Ping of DeathThe specifications for TCP/IP have a maximum packet size of 65536 octets or bytes. Unfortunately, some operating systems behave in unpredictable ways if they receive a larger packet. Systems may hang, crash, or reboot. With a Ping of Death (or Ping o' Death) Attack, the packet size option for ping is used to send a slightly oversized packet to the victim's computer. For example, on some older machines, the command ping -s 65510 172.16.2.1 (use -l rather than -s on old Windows systems) will send a packet, once headers are added, that causes this problem to the host 172.16.2.1. (Admittedly, I have some misgivings about giving an explicit command, but this has been widely published and some of you may want to test your systems.) This is basically an operating system problem. Large packets must be fragmented when sent. The destination will put the pieces in a buffer until all the pieces have arrived and the packet can be reassembled. Some systems simply don't do adequate bounds checking, allowing memory to be trashed. Again, this is not really a problem with ping. Any oversized packet, whether it is an ICMP packet, TCP packet, or UDP packet, will cause the same problem in susceptible operating systems. (Even IPX has been mentioned.) All ping does is supply a trivial way to exploit the problem. The correct way to deal with this problem is to apply the appropriate patch to your operating system. Blocking ICMP packets at your router will not protect you from other oversized packets. Fortunately, most systems have corrected this problem, so you are likely to see it only if you are running older systems.
For more information on this attack, see http://www.cert.org/advisories/CA-1996-26.html.
188.8.131.52. Other problemsOf course, there may be other perceived problems with ping. Since it can be used to garner information about a network, it can be seen as a threat to networks that rely on security through obscurity. It may also be seen as generating unwanted or unneeded traffic. For these and previously cited reasons, ICMP traffic is frequently blocked at routers. Blocking is not the only difficulty that routers may create. Routers may assign extremely low priorities to ICMP traffic rather than simply block such traffic. This is particularly true for routers implementing quality of service protocols. The result can be much higher variability in traffic patterns. Network Address Translation (NAT) can present other difficulties. Cisco's implementation has the router responding to ICMP packets for the first address in the translation pool regardless of whether it is being used. This might not be what you would have expected. In general, blocking ICMP packets, even just ECHO_REQUEST packets, is not desirable. You lose a valuable source of information about your network and inconvenience users who may have a legitimate need for these messages. This is often done as a stopgap measure in the absence of a more comprehensive approach to security. Interestingly, even if ICMP packets are being blocked, you can still use ping to see if a host on the local subnet is up. Simply clear the ARP table (typically arp -ad), ping the device, and then examine the ARP table. If the device has been added to the ARP table, it is up and responding. One final note about ping. It should be obvious, but ping checks only connectivity, not the functionality of the end device. During some network changes, I once used ping to check to see if a networked printer had been reconnected yet. When I was finally able to ping the device, I sent a job to the printer. However, my system kept reporting that the job hadn't printed. I eventually got up and walked down the hall to the printer to see what was wrong. It had been reconnected to the network, but someone had left it offline. Be warned, it is very easy to read too much into a successful ping.
3.3.4. Alternatives to pingVariants to ping fall into two general categories, those that add to ping's functionality and those that are alternatives to ping. An example of the first is fping, and an example of the second is echoping.
184.108.40.206. fpingWritten by Roland Schemers of Stanford University, fping extends ping to support multiple hosts in parallel. Typical output is shown in this example:
Notice that five hosts are being probed at the same time and that the results are reported in the order replies are received. This works the same way ping works, through sending and receiving ICMP messages. It is primarily designed to be used with files. Several command-line options are available, including the -f option for reading a list of devices to probe from a file and the -u option used to print only those systems that are unreachable. For example:bsd1# fping 172.16.2.10 172.16.2.11 172.16.2.12 172.16.2.13 172.16.2.14 172.16.2.13 is alive 172.16.2.10 is alive 172.16.2.12 is alive 172.16.2.14 is unreachable 172.16.2.11 is unreachable
The utility of this form in a script should be self-evident.bsd1# fping -u 172.16.2.10 172.16.2.11 172.16.2.12 172.16.2.13 172.16.2.14 172.16.2.14 172.16.2.11
220.127.116.11. echopingSeveral tools similar to ping don't use ICMP ECHO_REQUEST and ECHO_REPLY packets. These may provide an alternative to ping in some contexts. One such program is echoping. It is very similar to ping. It works by sending packets to one of several services that may be offered over TCP and UDP -- ECHO, DISCARD, CHARGEN, and HTTP. Particularly useful when ICMP messages are being blocked, echoping may work where ping fails. If none of these services is available, echoping cannot be used. Unfortunately, ECHO and CHARGEN have been used in the Fraggle denial of service attacks. By sending the output from CHARGEN (a character-generation protocol) to ECHO, the network can be flooded. Consequently, many operating systems are now shipped with these services disabled. Thus, the program may not be as useful as ping. With Unix, these services are controlled by inetd and could be enabled if desired and if you have access to the destination machine. But these services have limited value, and you are probably better off disabling them. In this example, I have previously enabled ECHO on lnx1:
This provides basically the same information as ping. The -v option simply provides a few more details. The program defaults to TCP and ECHO. Command-line options allow UDP packet or the other services to be selected. When ping was first introduced in this chapter, we saw that www.microsoft.com could not be reached by ping. Nor can it be reached using echoping in its default mode. But, as a web server, port 80 should be available. This is in fact the case:bsd1# echoping -v lnx1 This is echoping, version 2.2.0. Trying to connect to internet address 18.104.22.168 to transmit 256 bytes... Connected... Sent (256 bytes)... 256 bytes read from server. Checked Elapsed time: 0.004488 seconds
Clearly, Microsoft is blocking ICMP packets. In this example, we could just as easily have turned to our web browser. Sometimes, however, this is not the case. An obvious question is "Why would you need such a tool?" If you have been denied access to a network, should you be using such probes? On the other hand, if you are responsible for the security of a network, you may want to test your configuration. What can users outside your network discover about your network? If this is the case, you'll need these tools to test your network.bsd1# echoping -v -h /ms.htm www.microsoft.com:80 This is echoping, version 2.2.0. Trying to connect to internet address 22.214.171.124 (port 80) to transmit 100 bytes... Connected... Sent (100 bytes)... 2830 bytes read from server. Elapsed time: 0.269319 seconds
126.96.36.199. arpingAnother interesting and useful variant of ping is arping. arping uses ARP requests and replies instead of ICMP packets. Here is an example:
In this case, I've used the MAC address, but the IP address could also be used. The -v option is for verbose, while -c3 limits the run to three probes. Verbose doesn't really add a lot to the default output, just the first line identifying the source. If you just want the packets sent, you can use the -q, or quiet, option. This tool has several uses. First, it is a way to find which IP addresses are being used. It can also be used to work backward, i.e., to discover IP addresses given MAC addresses. For example, if you have captured non-IP traffic (e.g., IPX, etc.) and you want to know the IP address for the traffic's source, you can use arping with the MAC address. If you just want to check connectivity, arping is also a useful tool. Since ARP packets won't be blocked, this should work even when ICMP packets are blocked. You could also use this tool to probe for ARP entries in a router. Of course, due to the nature of ARP, there is not a lot that this tool can tell you about devices not on the local network.bsd2# arping -v -c3 00:10:7b:66:f7:62 This box: Interface: ep0 IP: 172.16.2.236 MAC address: 00:60:97:06:22:22 ARPING 00:10:7b:66:f7:62 60 bytes from 172.16.2.1 (00:10:7b:66:f7:62): icmp_seq=0 60 bytes from 172.16.2.1 (00:10:7b:66:f7:62): icmp_seq=1 60 bytes from 172.16.2.1 (00:10:7b:66:f7:62): icmp_seq=2 --- 00:10:7b:66:f7:62 statistics --- 3 packets transmitted, 3 packets received, 0% unanswered 2 packets transmitted, 2 packets received, 0% unanswered
188.8.131.52. Other programsThere are other programs that can be used to check connectivity. Two are described later in this book. nmap is described in Chapter 6, "Device Discovery and Mapping", and hping is described in Chapter 9, "Testing Connectivity Protocols". Both are versatile tools that can be used for many purposes. A number of ping variants and extended versions of ping are also available, both freely and commercially. Some extend ping's functionality to the point that the original functionality seems little more than an afterthought. Although only a few examples are described here, don't be fooled into believing that these are all there are. A casual web search should turn up many, many more. Finally, don't forget the obvious. If you are interested in checking only basic connectivity, you can always try programs like telnet or your web browser. While this is generally not a recommended approach, each problem is different, and you should use whatever works. (For a discussion of the problems with this approach, see the sidebar "Using Applications to Test Connectivity".)
Copyright © 2002 O'Reilly & Associates. All rights reserved.