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Asio/Boost.Asio Raw Sockets Example

This is a simple demonstration of using Asio's basic_raw_socket template class to transmit packets with a custom transport layer header. In this example I have created a udp_header class for holding the contents of a UDP header, and I use the basic_raw_socket class to send UDP packets with the custom header.

This example should also work for Boost.Asio, but you'll have to change the namespaces from "asio" to "boost::asio" and the include files from "asio/FILE.hpp" to "boost/asio/FILE.hpp".

Clarification

Before you read any further, I think it's important to clarify what you can do with the basic_raw_socket class and what you can't do.

You CAN:

  • Transmit packets with a custom transport layer (TCP, UDP, ICMP, etc.) header.
  • Specify the constants you want to use for protocol type and family.
  • Send packets to a specified endpoint (IP address) even if the socket is not connected.

You CANNOT:

  • Inject packets with a custom Ethernet or IP header into the network.

When I first tried using the basic_raw_socket class, I was attempting to inject packets into the network because for my work at NASA we needed to be able to send AFDX packets over an Ethernet interface.

I chose the Asio library for this because it's cross-platform, and unlike Boost.Asio it does not require linking with any libraries. Unfortunately, I discovered you cannot inject network packets using Asio or Boost.Asio. I haven't tried it yet, but another library that might allow you to inject network packets while remaining cross-platform is libpnet6.

Warning

I'm still very much a beginner to network programming, and this is really the first time I've programmed in C++, let alone the Boost/Asio library, so please excuse any bad programming styles I've used or any mistakes I've made. If you find a mistake or have a suggestion for improving this example, please submit an issue or pull request and I'll be glad to use your feedback to make it better.

Dependencies

Before this example will compile, you must first download the following libraries and extract them to the same folder as this repository:

So right before you compile, your repository folder should look like this:

  • boost_1_50_0/
  • asio-1.4.8/
  • example.cpp
  • udp_header.hpp
  • raw.hpp
  • Makefile
  • README.md
  • LICENSE_1_0.txt

Compilation

To compile the example, just type:

make

And to run the example, type:

sudo ./example

The reason we have to use sudo (and therefore enter our user password) is because the SOCK_RAW protocol type requires root privileges.

Walkthrough

We start by initializing our udp_header object:

udp_header udph;

We then set its fields using methods:

udph.source_port(23);
udph.destination_port(23);
udph.length(11);
udph.checksum(0x00); //optional for IPv4 

We can print out the contents of the UDP header for debugging using the to_string() method:

udph.to_string();

We then create a small data payload for our packet, a simple string "---":

std::string body("---"); //create a small data payload

We create an asio io_service object:

asio::io_service io_service;

We then create our basic_raw_socket object, passing in the "raw" class defined in raw.hpp:

asio::basic_raw_socket<asio::ip::raw> socket_(io_service);

The raw class defines the protocol type and family for the basic_raw_socket to use. It's set to use SOCK_RAW for the protocol type, IPPPROTO_UDP for the protocol, and PF_INET/PF_INET6 depending on whether you use IPv4 or IPv6. By setting the protocol to be IPPPROTO_UDP, the appropriate Byte in the IP header will be set, so our custom UDP header will be recognized by the network.

We then create an asio::streambuf object:

asio::streambuf request_buffer;

And we use it to create an output stream:

std::ostream os(&request_buffer);

Now we can put our custom header and the data payload into the output stream:

os << udph << body;

Then we define the destination endpoint for our packet as an asio::ip::address_v4::bytes_type object:

asio::ip::address_v4::bytes_type b = {{127, 0, 0, 1}};

I use 127.0.0.1 (localhost) for testing.

Then we create the endpoint object using the bytes_type object:

asio::ip::raw::endpoint ep(asio::ip::address_v4(b), 23);

The 23 here is the destination port (telnet).

Finally, we open the socket:

socket_.open();

And we send our packet to the endpoint:

socket_.send_to(request_buffer.data(), ep);

I have these last two lines in a try/catch block so I can see any exceptions that might occur. For example, you might get "Operation not permitted" if you forget to run the program with sudo.

Wireshark

Wireshark is a terrific tool for looking at packets as they get sent across the network. You can use it to verify that this example program is actually sending packets.

When I run this example on my Macbook running Mac OSX 10.7.4, I see two items pop up in Wireshark:

  • A UDP packet addressed to 127.0.0.1:23.
  • An ICMP packet describing that the destination address and port are unreachable.

Wireshark says that the IP header checksum, which is 0x0000 in the packet, is incorrect. I believe this is caused by the fact that Wireshark is seeing the packet before the network card gets a chance to set the checksum (checksum offloading).

Also I believe it's fine that the ICMP packet says the destionation is unreachable, since we don't have anything listening for packets on port 23 running.

Acknowledgements

The Asio documentation, especially the ICMP ping example was very helpful for understanding how to use most of the Asio functions.

This PDF document written by the creator of Asio has even more information about how Asio/Boost.Asio works. There's an especially great table on page 19 that compares the BSD socket API to Asio.

Also thanks to Paul Gurniak for helping me understand how C++ template classes work.

License

Copyright (c) 2012 Kevin D. Conley (kcon at stanford dot edu)

Distributed under the Boost Software License, Version 1.0. (See accompanying file LICENSE_1_0.txt or copy at http://www.boost.org/LICENSE_1_0.txt)

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