Tools for visualizing IDS output


Platform independent, Java-based TNV [12], or Time-base Network Visualizer, can also consume libpcap-oriented output or capture from a system interface. John Goodall, of, created TNV as part of his graduate work.

You can make use of TNV right from DAVIX's Visualize menu. Notice that remote hosts in the left UI region and a matrix of local hosts on the right can be reordered. I made use of an old GTBot variant to generate gtbot.pcap (Figure 4). Listing 5 shows one of the Snort alerts triggered by the gtbot.pcap file.

Figure 4: Gtbot.cap in TNV.

Listing 5

Gtbot.cap in Snort


TNV is slow to load larger PCAP files, so patience is required. That said, you'll likely find the results useful.

The Snort alert called out IP address and source port of 5050 connecting to and destination port 1101. These findings are supported in all three TNV views, including ingress port-specific traffic (in the right pane) and connecting to (in the primary pane – exemplified by the thickened connection line and a pop-out box), and the Details for all packets view.

To spot malfeasance in smaller PCAP files, TNV typically offers instant gratification. Don't forget to declare a home network address range that matches the primary IP space found in the PCAP you are analyzing.


EtherApe [13] is yet another DAVIX offering found under the Visualize menu. EtherApe also loads PCAP files directly and, like its compatriot rumint, plays the PCAP back in real-time while displaying the results.

Again utilizing a PCAP sample downloaded from, I received the alert in Listing 6 from Snort after it read anon_sid_2000345_2003603.pcap.

Listing 6

Virut.pcap in Snort


I renamed the PCAP file virut.pcap for the W32.Virut.A virus uncovered in the output. W32.Virut.A injects its code into all running processes, opens a backdoor at port 65520 on the compromised machine, and then attempts to connect to IRC servers.

I read virut.pcap with EtherApe and the results are shown in Figure 5. is a compromised host clearly showing the backdoor opened on TCP port 65520. Raw session data from this PCAP as available on EvilFingers also confirms the Snort alert in concert with the visualization:

NICK vouswcmm
USER v020501. . :-Service Pack 2
JOIN &virtu
:* PRIVMSG vouswcmm :!get
JOIN &virtu
Figure 5: Virut.pcap in EtherApe – joining an IRC channel.


A more enhanced view of security threats leads to a more capable response. I hope by now you've come to believe that security data visualization is a true partner to Snort IDS output.

Should security data visualization pique your interest, consider contributing to the DAVIX project. In particular, DAVIX leader Jan Monsch has indicated that it would be a great community service for someone to work on tool integration issues in DAVIX/Afterglow. Such an effort would allow for conversion of data formats between different tools and would make DAVIX more accessible for many people. I can attest to this need. Most tools on the DAVIX distribution require varied input, sometimes proprietary in format. CSV-based input for all tools would go a long way to expanding the audience for DAVIX.

The Author

Russ McRee is a senior security analyst, researcher, and founder of, where he advocates a holistic approach to the practice of information assurance. Russ's predominant focuses are incident response and web application security; he does both as part of Microsoft Online Service's Security Incident Management team. Russ speaks and writes frequently regarding infosec topics, including toolsmith, a monthly column for the ISSA Journal. The author wishes to acknowledge the following individuals for their contributions to this article: Raffael Marty, Greg Conti, John Randall, Jan Monsch, Ben Shneiderman, Richard Bejtlich, and Cody Dunne.

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