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In Ubuntu, how can I check what information is being sent through the network connection, what programs are doing it, and what sites is my computer connecting to?

I am not paranoid about security, but who knows?

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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I would recommend iptraf or iftop if you don't need that much functionality. From the iptraf homepage:

IPTraf is a console-based network statistics utility for Linux. It gathers a variety of figures such as TCP connection packet and byte counts, interface statistics and activity indicators, TCP/UDP traffic breakdowns, and LAN station packet and byte counts. Features

  • An IP traffic monitor that shows information on the IP traffic passing over your network. Includes TCP flag information, packet and byte counts, ICMP details, OSPF packet types.
  • General and detailed interface statistics showing IP, TCP, UDP, ICMP, non-IP and other IP packet counts, IP checksum errors, interface activity, packet size counts.
  • A TCP and UDP service monitor showing counts of incoming and outgoing packets for common TCP and UDP application ports
  • A LAN statistics module that discovers active hosts and shows statistics showing the data activity on them
  • TCP, UDP, and other protocol display filters, allowing you to view only traffic you're interested in.
  • Logging
  • Supports Ethernet, FDDI, ISDN, SLIP, PPP, and loopback interface types.
  • Utilizes the built-in raw socket interface of the Linux kernel, allowing it to be used over a wide range of supported network cards.
  • Full-screen, menu-driven operation.

Screenshot of the iptraf main menu:

iptraf main menu

This is a screenshot if iftop:

iftop

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Things like the bro IDS would analyse the traffic that goes through a network interface and log all sorts of things like connections and their traffic amount, protocols found and per-protocol information (like HTTP requests, mails sent, DNS requests, SSL certificate common names...). It wouldn't tell you what application did it though (except by logging user agents like for HTTP browsers). Because it sniffs the packet, it may miss some data if it can't keep up with the amount of data being exchanged (though it would report if it does).

conntrackd can be used to log every connection tracked by the stateful firewall and as much data was exchanged. It would work whatever the amount of data going through the system, but would not report data not going through the firewall like bridged traffic if excluded from netfilter or raw socket traffic.

You can also use firewall rules to log traffic using the LOG target or the ULOG one in combination with ulogd.

To log what pid does the connection, you'd need to use the audit system (auditd/auditctl), but that would be very verbose and not easily analysed.

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You could save the outgoing data using tcpdump, but that is so much (and much of it is encrypted) that it won't be of any real use.

Better than finding out how you were burglarized after the fact is to make burglary harder... check what is installed, make sure it is up to date, delete unneeded stuff, get rid of non-official software (and repositories), configure the local firewall, do not disable SELinux or similar security, use good passwords, be careful with the websites you visit, all the normal hygiene.

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