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Traffic visibility library based on eBPF


libebpfflow is a traffic visibility library based on eBPF able to compute network flows. It can be used to:

  • enable network visibility
  • create a packet-less network probe
  • inspect host and container communications for different container runtimes

Main features

  • Ability to inspect TCP and UDP traffic
  • Container visibility
  • TCP latency computation
  • Process and user visibility

Supported Languages

  • Golang
  • C/C++


You need a modern eBPF-enabled Linux distribution.

On Ubuntu 16.04/18.04/20.04 Server LTS you can install the prerequisites (we assume that the compiler is already installed) as follows:

$ sudo apt-get install build-essential autoconf automake autogen libjson-c-dev pkg-config libzmq3-dev libcurl4-openssl-dev libbpfcc-dev


Generate makefile

$ ./

Now build averything

$ make

Go testing tool

make go_ebpflowexport


The library comes with two different tools: ebpflowexport and go_ebpflowexport. In the Build section is reported how to build the tools. Although both tools were developed to show potential library usage and to provide guidance on how to use the library, ebpflowexport displays all the information provided by libebpfflow and provides some options for filtering flow events while go_ebpflowexport displays only basic information concerning events.

$ sudo ./ebpflowexport -h
ebpflowexport: Traffic visibility tool based on libebpfflow. By default all events will be shown 
Usage: ebpflow [ OPTIONS ] 
   -h, --help      display this message 
   -t, --tcp       TCP events 
   -u, --udp       UDP events 
   -i, --in        incoming events (i.e. TCP accept and UDP receive) 
   -o, --on        outgoing events (i.e. TCP connect and UDP send) 
   -r, --retr      retransmissions events 
   -c, --tcpclose  TCP close events 
   -d, --docker    gather additional information concerning containers (default: enabled)
   -v, --verbose   vebose formatting (default: every event is shown) 
Note: please run as root 

What follows is a demostration of the execution of ebpflowexport in a system where both minikube with containerd as runtime and docker containers are running at the same time.

$ sudo ./ebpflowexport -tio
Welcome to ebpflowexport v.1.0.190407
(C) 2018-19
Initializing eBPF [Legacy API]...
eBPF initializated successfully
1554803923.684786 [lo][Sent][IPv4/TCP][pid/tid: 1446/496 [/usr/bin/kubelet], uid/gid: 0/0][father pid/tid: 1/0 [/lib/systemd/systemd], uid/gid: 0/0][addr: <->][latency: 0.10 msec]
1554803923.685139 [lo][Rcvd][IPv4/TCP][pid/tid: 2554/2329 [/usr/local/bin/kube-controller-manager], uid/gid: 0/0][father pid/tid: 2295/0 [/usr/local/bin/containerd-shim], uid/gid: 0/0][addr: <->][containerID: 275d71585e03][runtime: containerd][kube_pod: kube-controller-manager-minikube][kube_ns: kube-system][latency: 0.00 msec]
1554803924.781354 [eth0][Sent][IPv4/TCP][pid/tid: 30197/30197 [/usr/bin/curl], uid/gid: 0/0][father pid/tid: 26219/0 [/bin/bash], uid/gid: 0/0][addr: <->][containerID: cbd2540ec5be][runtime: docker][docker_name: sleepy_haibt][latency: 0.22 msec]
1554803929.257494 [enp0s3][Sent][IPv4/TCP][pid/tid: 30221/30221 [/usr/lib/apt/methods/http], uid/gid: 104/65534][father pid/tid: 30216/0 [/usr/bin/apt], uid/gid: 0/0][addr: <->][latency: 0.17 msec]

A basic example of usage in c++ can be found in the directory /examples whereas for the Go language the example provided is the one in /go/ebpf_flow.go. More details on how to use the library you can be found in the ntopng code or by inspecting the code of the tool ebpflowexport application.

Export eBPF Information to ntopng

Supposing to start both ebpflowexport and ntopng on the same host do

  • ntopng -i tcp://
  • ebpflowexport -z tcp://

Start as a Docker container

To use ebpflowexport as a Docker container first you have to build the tool. Once the tool has been built, build the docker image from the project root:

$ docker build -t ebpflowexport .

The container can then be run

$ docker run -it --rm --privileged \
  -v /lib/modules:/lib/modules:ro \
  -v /usr/src:/usr/src:ro \
  -v /etc/localtime:/etc/localtime:ro \
  -v /sys/kernel/debug:/sys/kernel/debug \
  -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock \
  -v /snap/bin/microk8s.ctr:/snap/bin/microk8s.ctr \

Open Issues

While the library is already usable in production, we plan to add some additional features including:

  • Implement periodic flow stats exports including bytes/packets/retransmissions