Adding new protocols

Adding a new protocol (or more correctly: a new layer) in Scapy is very easy. All the magic is in the fields. If the fields you need are already there and the protocol is not too brain-damaged, this should be a matter of minutes.

Simple example

A layer is a subclass of the Packet class. All the logic behind layer manipulation is held by the Packet class and will be inherited. A simple layer is compounded by a list of fields that will be either concatenated when assembling the layer or dissected one by one when disassembling a string. The list of fields is held in an attribute named fields_desc. Each field is an instance of a field class:

class Disney(Packet):
    name = "DisneyPacket "
    fields_desc=[ ShortField("mickey",5),
                 XByteField("minnie",3) ,
                 IntEnumField("donald" , 1 ,
                      { 1: "happy", 2: "cool" , 3: "angry" } ) ]

In this example, our layer has three fields. The first one is a 2-byte integer field named mickey and whose default value is 5. The second one is a 1-byte integer field named minnie and whose default value is 3. The difference between a vanilla ByteField and an XByteField is only the fact that the preferred human representation of the field’s value is in hexadecimal. The last field is a 4-byte integer field named donald. It is different from a vanilla IntField by the fact that some of the possible values of the field have literate representations. For example, if it is worth 3, the value will be displayed as angry. Moreover, if the “cool” value is assigned to this field, it will understand that it has to take the value 2.

If your protocol is as simple as this, it is ready to use:

>>> d=Disney(mickey=1)
>>> ls(d)
mickey : ShortField = 1 (5)
minnie : XByteField = 3 (3)
donald : IntEnumField = 1 (1)
###[ Disney Packet ]###
mickey= 1
minnie= 0x3
donald= happy
>>> d.donald="cool"
>>> raw(d)
>>> Disney(_)
<Disney mickey=1 minnie=0x3 donald=cool |>

This chapter explains how to build a new protocol within Scapy. There are two main objectives:

  • Dissecting: this is done when a packet is received (from the network or a file) and should be converted to Scapy’s internals.

  • Building: When one wants to send such a new packet, some stuff needs to be adjusted automatically in it.


Before digging into dissection itself, let us look at how packets are organized.

>>> p = IP()/TCP()/"AAAA"
>>> p
<IP  frag=0 proto=TCP |<TCP  |<Raw  load='AAAA' |>>>
>>> p.summary()
'IP / TCP > S / Raw'

We are interested in 2 “inside” fields of the class Packet:

  • p.underlayer

  • p.payload

And here is the main “trick”. You do not care about packets, only about layers, stacked one after the other.

One can easily access a layer by its name: p[TCP] returns the TCP and following layers. This is a shortcut for p.getlayer(TCP).


There is an optional argument (nb) which returns the nb th layer of required protocol.

Let’s put everything together now, playing with the TCP layer:

>>> tcp=p[TCP]
>>> tcp.underlayer
<IP  frag=0 proto=TCP |<TCP  |<Raw  load='AAAA' |>>>
>>> tcp.payload
<Raw  load='AAAA' |>

As expected, tcp.underlayer points to the beginning of our IP packet, and tcp.payload to its payload.

Building a new layer

VERY EASY! A layer is mainly a list of fields. Let’s look at UDP definition:

class UDP(Packet):
    name = "UDP"
    fields_desc = [ ShortEnumField("sport", 53, UDP_SERVICES),
                    ShortEnumField("dport", 53, UDP_SERVICES),
                    ShortField("len", None),
                    XShortField("chksum", None), ]

And you are done! There are many fields already defined for convenience, look at the doc``^W`` sources as Phil would say.

So, defining a layer is simply gathering fields in a list. The goal is here to provide the efficient default values for each field so the user does not have to give them when he builds a packet.

The main mechanism is based on the Field structure. Always keep in mind that a layer is just a little more than a list of fields, but not much more.

So, to understand how layers are working, one needs to look quickly at how the fields are handled.

Manipulating packets == manipulating its fields

A field should be considered in different states:

  • i (nternal) : this is the way Scapy manipulates it.

  • m (achine)this is where the truth is, that is the layer as it is

    on the network.

  • h (uman) : how the packet is displayed to our human eyes.

This explains the mysterious methods i2h(), i2m(), m2i() and so on available in each field: they are the conversion from one state to another, adapted to a specific use.

Other special functions:

  • any2i() guess the input representation and returns the internal one.

  • i2repr() a nicer i2h()

However, all these are “low level” functions. The functions adding or extracting a field to the current layer are:

  • addfield(self, pkt, s, val): copy the network representation of field val (belonging to layer pkt) to the raw string packet s:

    class StrFixedLenField(StrField):
        def addfield(self, pkt, s, val):
            return s+struct.pack("%is"%self.length,self.i2m(pkt, val))
  • getfield(self, pkt, s): extract from the raw packet s the field value belonging to layer pkt. It returns a list, the 1st element is the raw packet string after having removed the extracted field, the second one is the extracted field itself in internal representation:

    class StrFixedLenField(StrField):
        def getfield(self, pkt, s):
            return s[self.length:], self.m2i(pkt,s[:self.length])

When defining your own layer, you usually just need to define some *2*() methods, and sometimes also the addfield() and getfield().

Example: variable length quantities

There is a way to represent integers on a variable length quantity often used in protocols, for instance when dealing with signal processing (e.g. MIDI).

Each byte of the number is coded with the MSB set to 1, except the last byte. For instance, 0x123456 will be coded as 0xC8E856:

def vlenq2str(l):
    s = []
    s.append(l & 0x7F)
    l = l >> 7
    while l > 0:
        s.append( 0x80 | (l & 0x7F) )
        l = l >> 7
    return bytes(bytearray(s))

def str2vlenq(s=b""):
    i = l = 0
    while i < len(s) and ord(s[i:i+1]) & 0x80:
        l = l << 7
        l = l + (ord(s[i:i+1]) & 0x7F)
        i = i + 1
    if i == len(s):
        warning("Broken vlenq: no ending byte")
    l = l << 7
    l = l + (ord(s[i:i+1]) & 0x7F)

    return s[i+1:], l

We will define a field which computes automatically the length of an associated string, but used that encoding format:

class VarLenQField(Field):
    """ variable length quantities """
    __slots__ = ["fld"]

    def __init__(self, name, default, fld):
        Field.__init__(self, name, default)
        self.fld = fld

    def i2m(self, pkt, x):
        if x is None:
            f = pkt.get_field(self.fld)
            x = f.i2len(pkt, pkt.getfieldval(self.fld))
            x = vlenq2str(x)
        return raw(x)

    def m2i(self, pkt, x):
        if s is None:
            return None, 0
        return str2vlenq(x)[1]

    def addfield(self, pkt, s, val):
        return s+self.i2m(pkt, val)

    def getfield(self, pkt, s):
        return str2vlenq(s)

And now, define a layer using this kind of field:

class FOO(Packet):
    name = "FOO"
    fields_desc = [ VarLenQField("len", None, "data"),
                    StrLenField("data", "", length_from=lambda pkt: pkt.len) ]

>>> f = FOO(data="A"*129)
###[ FOO ]###
  len= None

Here, len has yet to be computed and only the default value is displayed. This is the current internal representation of our layer. Let’s force the computation now:

>>> f.show2()
###[ FOO ]###
  len= 129

The method show2() displays the fields with their values as they will be sent to the network, but in a human readable way, so we see len=129. Last but not least, let us look now at the machine representation:

>>> raw(f)

The first 2 bytes are \x81\x01, which is 129 in this encoding.


Layers only are list of fields, but what is the glue between each field, and after, between each layer. These are the mysteries explain in this section.

The basic stuff

The core function for dissection is Packet.dissect():

def dissect(self, s):
    s = self.pre_dissect(s)
    s = self.do_dissect(s)
    s = self.post_dissect(s)
    payl,pad = self.extract_padding(s)
    if pad and conf.padding:

When called, s is a string containing what is going to be dissected. self points to the current layer.

>>> p=IP("A"*20)/TCP("B"*32)
WARNING: bad dataofs (4). Assuming dataofs=5
>>> p
<IP  version=4L ihl=1L tos=0x41 len=16705 id=16705 flags=DF frag=321L ttl=65 proto=65 chksum=0x4141
src= dst= |<TCP  sport=16962 dport=16962 seq=1111638594L ack=1111638594L dataofs=4L
reserved=2L flags=SE window=16962 chksum=0x4242 urgptr=16962 options=[] |<Raw  load='BBBBBBBBBBBB' |>>>

Packet.dissect() is called 3 times:

  1. to dissect the "A"*20 as an IPv4 header

  2. to dissect the "B"*32 as a TCP header

  3. and since there are still 12 bytes in the packet, they are dissected as “Raw” data (which is some kind of default layer type)

For a given layer, everything is quite straightforward:

  • pre_dissect() is called to prepare the layer.

  • do_dissect() perform the real dissection of the layer.

  • post_dissection() is called when some updates are needed on the dissected inputs (e.g. deciphering, uncompressing, … )

  • extract_padding() is an important function which should be called by every layer containing its own size, so that it can tell apart in the payload what is really related to this layer and what will be considered as additional padding bytes.

  • do_dissect_payload() is the function in charge of dissecting the payload (if any). It is based on guess_payload_class() (see below). Once the type of the payload is known, the payload is bound to the current layer with this new type:

    def do_dissect_payload(self, s):
        cls = self.guess_payload_class(s)
        p = cls(s, _internal=1, _underlayer=self)

At the end, all the layers in the packet are dissected, and glued together with their known types.

Dissecting fields

The method with all the magic between a layer and its fields is do_dissect(). If you have understood the different representations of a layer, you should understand that “dissecting” a layer is building each of its fields from the machine to the internal representation.

Guess what? That is exactly what do_dissect() does:

def do_dissect(self, s):
    flist = self.fields_desc[:]
    while s and flist:
        f = flist.pop()
        s,fval = f.getfield(self, s)
        self.fields[f] = fval
    return s

So, it takes the raw string packet, and feed each field with it, as long as there are data or fields remaining:

>>> FOO("\xff\xff"+"B"*8)
<FOO  len=2097090 data='BBBBBBB' |>

When writing FOO("\xff\xff"+"B"*8), it calls do_dissect(). The first field is VarLenQField. Thus, it takes bytes as long as their MSB is set, thus until (and including) the first ‘B’. This mapping is done thanks to VarLenQField.getfield() and can be cross-checked:

>>> vlenq2str(2097090)

Then, the next field is extracted the same way, until 2097090 bytes are put in (or less if 2097090 bytes are not available, as here).

If there are some bytes left after the dissection of the current layer, it is mapped in the same way to the what the next is expected to be (Raw by default):

>>> FOO("\x05"+"B"*8)
<FOO  len=5 data='BBBBB' |<Raw  load='BBB' |>>

Hence, we need now to understand how layers are bound together.

Binding layers

One of the cool features with Scapy when dissecting layers is that it tries to guess for us what the next layer is. The official way to link 2 layers is using bind_layers() function.

Available inside the packet module, this function can be used as following:

bind_layers(ProtoA, ProtoB, FieldToBind=Value)

Each time a packet ProtoA()/ProtoB() will be created, the FieldToBind of ProtoA will be equal to Value.

For instance, if you have a class HTTP, you may expect that all the packets coming from or going to port 80 will be decoded as such. This is simply done that way:

bind_layers( TCP, HTTP, sport=80 )
bind_layers( TCP, HTTP, dport=80 )

That’s all folks! Now every packet related to port 80 will be associated to the layer HTTP, whether it is read from a pcap file or received from the network.

The guess_payload_class() way

Sometimes, guessing the payload class is not as straightforward as defining a single port. For instance, it can depend on a value of a given byte in the current layer. The 2 needed methods are:

  • guess_payload_class() which must return the guessed class for the payload (next layer). By default, it uses links between classes that have been put in place by bind_layers().

  • default_payload_class() which returns the default value. This method defined in the class Packet returns Raw, but it can be overloaded.

For instance, decoding 802.11 changes depending on whether it is ciphered or not:

class Dot11(Packet):
    def guess_payload_class(self, payload):
        if self.FCfield & 0x40:
            return Dot11WEP
            return Packet.guess_payload_class(self, payload)

Several comments are needed here:

  • this cannot be done using bind_layers() because the tests are supposed to be “field==value”, but it is more complicated here as we test a single bit in the value of a field.

  • if the test fails, no assumption is made, and we plug back to the default guessing mechanisms calling Packet.guess_payload_class()

Most of the time, defining a method guess_payload_class() is not a necessity as the same result can be obtained from bind_layers().

Changing the default behavior

If you do not like Scapy’s behavior for a given layer, you can either change or disable it through a call to split_layers(). For instance, if you do not want UDP/53 to be bound with DNS, just add in your code:

split_layers(UDP, DNS, sport=53)

Now every packet with source port 53 will not be handled as DNS, but whatever you specify instead.

Under the hood: putting everything together

In fact, each layer has a field payload_guess. When you use the bind_layers() way, it adds the defined next layers to that list.

>>> p=TCP()
>>> p.payload_guess
[({'dport': 2000}, <class 'scapy.Skinny'>), ({'sport': 2000}, <class 'scapy.Skinny'>), ... )]

Then, when it needs to guess the next layer class, it calls the default method Packet.guess_payload_class(). This method runs through each element of the list payload_guess, each element being a tuple:

  • the 1st value is a field to test ('dport': 2000)

  • the 2nd value is the guessed class if it matches (Skinny)

So, the default guess_payload_class() tries all element in the list, until one matches. If no element are found, it then calls default_payload_class(). If you have redefined this method, then yours is called, otherwise, the default one is called, and Raw type is returned.


  • test what is in field guess_payload

  • call overloaded guess_payload_class()


Building a packet is as simple as building each layer. Then, some magic happens to glue everything. Let’s do magic then.

The basic stuff

The first thing to establish is: what does “build” mean? As we have seen, a layer can be represented in different ways (human, internal, machine). Building means going to the machine format.

The second thing to understand is ‘’when’’ a layer is built. The answer is not that obvious, but as soon as you need the machine representation, the layers are built: when the packet is dropped on the network or written to a file, or when it is converted as a string, … In fact, machine representation should be regarded as a big string with the layers appended altogether.

>>> p = IP()/TCP()
>>> hexdump(p)
0000 45 00 00 28 00 01 00 00 40 06 7C CD 7F 00 00 01 E..(....@.|.....
0010 7F 00 00 01 00 14 00 50 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 .......P........
0020 50 02 20 00 91 7C 00 00 P. ..|..
Calling raw() builds the packet:
  • non instanced fields are set to their default value

  • lengths are updated automatically

  • checksums are computed

  • and so on.

In fact, using raw() rather than show2() or any other method is not a random choice as all the functions building the packet calls Packet.__str__() (or Packet.__bytes__() under Python 3). However, __str__() calls another method: build():

def __str__(self):
    return next(iter(self)).build()

What is important also to understand is that usually, you do not care about the machine representation, that is why the human and internal representations are here.

So, the core method is build() (the code has been shortened to keep only the relevant parts):

def build(self,internal=0):
    pkt = self.do_build()
    pay = self.build_payload()
    p = self.post_build(pkt,pay)
    if not internal:
        pkt = self
        while pkt.haslayer(Padding):
            pkt = pkt.getlayer(Padding)
            p += pkt.load
            pkt = pkt.payload
    return p

So, it starts by building the current layer, then the payload, and post_build() is called to update some late evaluated fields (like checksums). Last, the padding is added to the end of the packet.

Of course, building a layer is the same as building each of its fields, and that is exactly what do_build() does.

Building fields

The building of each field of a layer is called in Packet.do_build():

def do_build(self):
    for f in self.fields_desc:
        p = f.addfield(self, p, self.getfieldval(f))
    return p

The core function to build a field is addfield(). It takes the internal view of the field and put it at the end of p. Usually, this method calls i2m() and returns something like p.self.i2m(val) (where val=self.getfieldval(f)).

If val is set, then i2m() is just a matter of formatting the value the way it must be. For instance, if a byte is expected, struct.pack("B", val) is the right way to convert it.

However, things are more complicated if val is not set, it means no default value was provided earlier, and thus the field needs to compute some “stuff” right now or later.

“Right now” means thanks to i2m(), if all pieces of information are available. For instance, if you have to handle a length until a certain delimiter.

Ex: counting the length until a delimiter

class XNumberField(FieldLenField):

    def __init__(self, name, default, sep="\r\n"):
        FieldLenField.__init__(self, name, default, fld)
        self.sep = sep

    def i2m(self, pkt, x):
        x = FieldLenField.i2m(self, pkt, x)
        return "%02x" % x

    def m2i(self, pkt, x):
        return int(x, 16)

    def addfield(self, pkt, s, val):
        return s+self.i2m(pkt, val)

    def getfield(self, pkt, s):
        sep = s.find(self.sep)
        return s[sep:], self.m2i(pkt, s[:sep])

In this example, in i2m(), if x has already a value, it is converted to its hexadecimal value. If no value is given, a length of “0” is returned.

The glue is provided by Packet.do_build() which calls Field.addfield() for each field in the layer, which in turn calls Field.i2m(): the layer is built IF a value was available.

Handling default values: post_build

A default value for a given field is sometimes either not known or impossible to compute when the fields are put together. For instance, if we used a XNumberField as defined previously in a layer, we expect it to be set to a given value when the packet is built. However, nothing is returned by i2m() if it is not set.

The answer to this problem is Packet.post_build().

When this method is called, the packet is already built, but some fields still need to be computed. This is typically what is required to compute checksums or lengths. In fact, this is required each time a field’s value depends on something which is not in the current

So, let us assume we have a packet with a XNumberField, and have a look to its building process:

class Foo(Packet):
      fields_desc = [
          ByteField("type", 0),
          XNumberField("len", None, "\r\n"),
          StrFixedLenField("sep", "\r\n", 2)

      def post_build(self, p, pay):
        if self.len is None and pay:
            l = len(pay)
            p = p[:1] + hex(l)[2:]+ p[2:]
        return p+pay

When post_build() is called, p is the current layer, pay the payload, that is what has already been built. We want our length to be the full length of the data put after the separator, so we add its computation in post_build().

>>> p = Foo()/("X"*32)
>>> p.show2()
###[ Foo ]###
  type= 0
  len= 32
  sep= '\r\n'
###[ Raw ]###

len is correctly computed now:

>>> hexdump(raw(p))
0000   00 32 30 0D 0A 58 58 58  58 58 58 58 58 58 58 58   .20..XXXXXXXXXXX
0010   58 58 58 58 58 58 58 58  58 58 58 58 58 58 58 58   XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
0020   58 58 58 58 58                                     XXXXX

And the machine representation is the expected one.

Handling default values: automatic computation

As we have previously seen, the dissection mechanism is built upon the links between the layers created by the programmer. However, it can also be used during the building process.

In the layer Foo(), our first byte is the type, which defines what comes next, e.g. if type=0, next layer is Bar0, if it is 1, next layer is Bar1, and so on. We would like then this field to be set automatically according to what comes next.

class Bar1(Packet):
    fields_desc = [
          IntField("val", 0),

class Bar2(Packet):
    fields_desc = [
          IPField("addr", "")

If we use these classes with nothing else, we will have trouble when dissecting the packets as nothing binds Foo layer with the multiple Bar* even when we explicitly build the packet through the call to show2():

>>> p = Foo()/Bar1(val=1337)
>>> p
<Foo  |<Bar1  val=1337 |>>
>>> p.show2()
###[ Foo ]###
  type= 0
  len= 4
  sep= '\r\n'
###[ Raw ]###
    load= '\x00\x00\x059'


  1. type is still equal to 0 while we wanted it to be automatically set to 1. We could of course have built p with p = Foo(type=1)/Bar0(val=1337) but this is not very convenient.

  2. the packet is badly dissected as Bar1 is regarded as Raw. This is because no links have been set between Foo() and Bar*().

In order to understand what we should have done to obtain the proper behavior, we must look at how the layers are assembled. When two independent packets instances Foo() and Bar1(val=1337) are compounded with the ‘/’ operator, it results in a new packet where the two previous instances are cloned (i.e. are now two distinct objects structurally different, but holding the same values):

def __div__(self, other):
    if isinstance(other, Packet):
        cloneA = self.copy()
        cloneB = other.copy()
        return cloneA
    elif type(other) is str:
        return self/Raw(load=other)

The right-hand side of the operator becomes the payload of the left-hand side. This is performed through the call to add_payload(). Finally, the new packet is returned.

Note: we can observe that if other isn’t a Packet but a string, the Raw class is instantiated to form the payload. Like in this example:

>>> IP()/"AAAA"
<IP  |<Raw  load='AAAA' |>>

Well, what add_payload() should implement? Just a link between two packets? Not only, in our case, this method will appropriately set the correct value to type.

Instinctively we feel that the upper layer (the right of ‘/’) can gather the values to set the fields to the lower layer (the left of ‘/’). Like previously explained, there is a convenient mechanism to specify the bindings in both directions between two neighboring layers.

Once again, these information must be provided to bind_layers(), which will internally call bind_top_down() in charge to aggregate the fields to overload. In our case what we need to specify is:

bind_layers( Foo, Bar1, {'type':1} )
bind_layers( Foo, Bar2, {'type':2} )

Then, add_payload() iterates over the overload_fields of the upper packet (the payload), get the fields associated to the lower packet (by its type) and insert them in overloaded_fields.

For now, when the value of this field will be requested, getfieldval() will return the value inserted in overloaded_fields.

The fields are dispatched between three dictionaries:

  • fields: fields whose the value have been explicitly set, like pdst in TCP (pdst='42')

  • overloaded_fields: overloaded fields

  • default_fields: all the fields with their default value (these fields

    are initialized according to fields_desc by the constructor by calling init_fields() ).

In the following code, we can observe how a field is selected and its value returned:

def getfieldval(self, attr):
   for f in self.fields, self.overloaded_fields, self.default_fields:
       if f.has_key(attr):
           return f[attr]
   return self.payload.getfieldval(attr)

Fields inserted in fields have the higher priority, then overloaded_fields, then finally default_fields. Hence, if the field type is set in overloaded_fields, its value will be returned instead of the value contained in default_fields.

We are now able to understand all the magic behind it!

>>> p = Foo()/Bar1(val=0x1337)
>>> p
<Foo  type=1 |<Bar1  val=4919 |>>
###[ Foo ]###
  type= 1
  len= 4
  sep= '\r\n'
###[ Bar1 ]###
    val= 4919

Our 2 problems have been solved without us doing much: so good to be lazy :)

Under the hood: putting everything together

Last but not least, it is very useful to understand when each function is called when a packet is built:

>>> hexdump(raw(p))

As you can see, it first runs through the list of each field, and then build them starting from the beginning. Once all layers have been built, it then calls post_build() starting from the end.


Here’s a list of fields that Scapy supports out of the box:

Simple datatypes


  • X - hexadecimal representation

  • LE - little endian (default is big endian = network byte order)

  • Signed - signed (default is unsigned)



X3BytesField        # three bytes as hex
XLE3BytesField      # little endian three bytes as hex
ThreeBytesField     # three bytes as decimal
LEThreeBytesField   # little endian three bytes as decimal



BCDFloatField       # binary coded decimal


BitFieldLenField    # BitField specifying a length (used in RTP)


Possible field values are taken from a given enumeration (list, dictionary, …) e.g.:

ByteEnumField("code", 4, {1:"REQUEST",2:"RESPONSE",3:"SUCCESS",4:"FAILURE"})
EnumField(name, default, enum, fmt = "H")


StrField(name, default, fmt="H", remain=0, shift=0)
StrLenField(name, default, fld=None, length_from=None, shift=0):

Lists and lengths

FieldList(name, default, field, fld=None, shift=0, length_from=None, count_from=None)
  # A list assembled and dissected with many times the same field type

  # field: instance of the field that will be used to assemble and disassemble a list item
  # length_from: name of the FieldLenField holding the list length

FieldLenField     #  holds the list length of a FieldList field

LenField          # contains len(pkt.payload)

PacketField       # holds packets
PacketLenField    # used e.g. in ISAKMP_payload_Proposal

Variable length fields

This is about how fields that have a variable length can be handled with Scapy. These fields usually know their length from another field. Let’s call them varfield and lenfield. The idea is to make each field reference the other so that when a packet is dissected, varfield can know its length from lenfield when a packet is assembled, you don’t have to fill lenfield, that will deduce its value directly from varfield value.

Problems arise when you realize that the relation between lenfield and varfield is not always straightforward. Sometimes, lenfield indicates a length in bytes, sometimes a number of objects. Sometimes the length includes the header part, so that you must subtract the fixed header length to deduce the varfield length. Sometimes the length is not counted in bytes but in 16bits words. Sometimes the same lenfield is used by two different varfields. Sometimes the same varfield is referenced by two lenfields, one in bytes one in 16bits words.

The length field

First, a lenfield is declared using FieldLenField (or a derivate). If its value is None when assembling a packet, its value will be deduced from the varfield that was referenced. The reference is done using either the length_of parameter or the count_of parameter. The count_of parameter has a meaning only when varfield is a field that holds a list (PacketListField or FieldListField). The value will be the name of the varfield, as a string. According to which parameter is used the i2len() or i2count() method will be called on the varfield value. The returned value will the be adjusted by the function provided in the adjust parameter. adjust will be applied to 2 arguments: the packet instance and the value returned by i2len() or i2count(). By default, adjust does nothing:

adjust=lambda pkt,x: x

For instance, if the_varfield is a list

FieldLenField("the_lenfield", None, count_of="the_varfield")

or if the length is in 16bits words:

FieldLenField("the_lenfield", None, length_of="the_varfield", adjust=lambda pkt,x:(x+1)/2)
The variable length field

A varfield can be: StrLenField, PacketLenField, PacketListField, FieldListField, …

For the two firsts, when a packet is being dissected, their lengths are deduced from a lenfield already dissected. The link is done using the length_from parameter, which takes a function that, applied to the partly dissected packet, returns the length in bytes to take for the field. For instance:

StrLenField("the_varfield", "the_default_value", length_from = lambda pkt: pkt.the_lenfield)


StrLenField("the_varfield", "the_default_value", length_from = lambda pkt: pkt.the_lenfield-12)

For the PacketListField and FieldListField and their derivatives, they work as above when they need a length. If they need a number of elements, the length_from parameter must be ignored and the count_from parameter must be used instead. For instance:

FieldListField("the_varfield", [""], IPField("", ""), count_from = lambda pkt: pkt.the_lenfield)


class TestSLF(Packet):
    fields_desc=[ FieldLenField("len", None, length_of="data"),
                  StrLenField("data", "", length_from=lambda pkt:pkt.len) ]

class TestPLF(Packet):
    fields_desc=[ FieldLenField("len", None, count_of="plist"),
                  PacketListField("plist", None, IP, count_from=lambda pkt:pkt.len) ]

class TestFLF(Packet):
       FieldLenField("the_lenfield", None, count_of="the_varfield"),
       FieldListField("the_varfield", [""], IPField("", ""),
                       count_from = lambda pkt: pkt.the_lenfield) ]

class TestPkt(Packet):
    fields_desc = [ ByteField("f1",65),
                    ShortField("f2",0x4244) ]
    def extract_padding(self, p):
        return "", p

class TestPLF2(Packet):
    fields_desc = [ FieldLenField("len1", None, count_of="plist",fmt="H", adjust=lambda pkt,x:x+2),
                    FieldLenField("len2", None, length_of="plist",fmt="I", adjust=lambda pkt,x:(x+1)/2),
                    PacketListField("plist", None, TestPkt, length_from=lambda x:(x.len2*2)/3*3) ]

Test the FieldListField class:

>>> TestFLF("\x00\x02ABCDEFGHIJKL")
<TestFLF  the_lenfield=2 the_varfield=['', ''] |<Raw  load='IJKL' |>>


Emph     # Wrapper to emphasize field when printing, e.g. Emph(IPField("dst", "")),


ConditionalField(fld, cond)
        # Wrapper to make field 'fld' only appear if
        # function 'cond' evals to True, e.g.
        # ConditionalField(XShortField("chksum",None),lambda pkt:pkt.chksumpresent==1)
        # When hidden, it won't be built nor dissected and the stored value will be 'None'

PadField(fld, align, padwith=None)
       # Add bytes after the proxified field so that it ends at
       # the specified alignment from its beginning

       # Field with a variable number of bytes. Each byte is made of:
       # - 7 bits of data
       # - 1 extension bit:
       #    * 0 means that it is the last byte of the field ("stopping bit")
       #    * 1 means that there is another byte after this one ("forwarding bit")
       # extension_bit is the bit number [0-7] of the extension bit in the byte

MSBExtendedField, LSBExtendedField      # Special cases of BitExtendedField












Other protocols

NetBIOSNameField         # NetBIOS (StrFixedLenField)

ISAKMPTransformSetField  # ISAKMP (StrLenField)

TimeStampField           # NTP (BitField)

Design patterns

Some patterns are similar to a lot of protocols and thus can be described the same way in Scapy.

The following parts will present several models and conventions that can be followed when implementing a new protocol.

Field naming convention

The goal is to keep the writing of packets fluent and intuitive. The basic instructions are the following :

  • Do not use any value from the Packet.__slots__` list as a field name (such as name, time or original), as they are reserved for Scapy internals

  • Use inverted camel case and common abbreviations (e.g. len, src, dst, dstPort, srcIp).

  • Wherever it is either possible or relevant, prefer using the names from the specifications. This aims to help newcomers to easily forge packets.

Add new protocols to Scapy

New protocols can go either in scapy/layers or to scapy/contrib. Protocols in scapy/layers should be usually found on common networks, while protocols in scapy/contrib should be uncommon or specific.

To be precise, scapy/layers protocols should not be importing scapy/contrib protocols, whereas scapy/contrib protocols may import both scapy/contrib and scapy/layers protocols.

Scapy provides an explore() function, to search through the available layer/contrib modules. Therefore, modules contributed back to Scapy must provide information about them, knowingly:

  • A contrib module must have defined, near the top of the module (below the license header is a good place) (without the brackets) Example

    # scapy.contrib.description = [...]
    # scapy.contrib.status = [...]
    # = [...] (optional)
  • If the contrib module does not contain any packets, and should not be indexed in explore(), then you should instead set:

    # scapy.contrib.status = skip
  • A layer module must have a docstring, in which the first line shortly describes the module.