Discussion and support: #libpnet on freenode
libpnet provides a cross-platform API for low level networking using Rust.
There are four key components:
packetmodule, allowing safe construction and manipulation of packets;
pnet_macroscrate, providing infrastructure for the packet module;
transportmodule, which allows implementation of transport protocols;
datalinkmodule, which allows sending and receiving data link packets directly.
There are lots of reasons to use low level networking, and many more to do it using Rust. A few are outlined here:
Developing Transport Protocols
There are usually two ways to go about developing a new transport layer protocol:
- Write it in a scripting language such as Python;
- Write it using C.
The former is great for trying out new ideas and rapid prototyping, however not so great as a real-world implementation. While you can usually get reasonable performance out of these implementations, they're generally significantly slower than an implementation in C, and not suitable for any "heavy lifting".
The next option is to write it in C - this will give you great performance, but comes with a number of other issues:
- Lack of memory safety - this is a huge source of security vulnerabilities and other bugs in C-based network stacks. It is far too easy to forget a bounds check or use a pointer after it is freed.
- Lack of thread safety - you have to be very careful to make sure the correct locks are used, and used correctly.
- Lack of high level abstractions - part of the appeal of scripting languages such as Python is the higher level of abstraction which enables simpler APIs and ease of programming.
libpnet and Rust, you get the best of both worlds. The higher level abstractions, memory
and thread safety, alongside the performance of C.
Many networking utilities such as ping and traceroute rely on being able to manipulate network and
transport headers, which isn't possible with standard networking stacks such as those provided by
Data Link Layer
It can be useful to work directly at the data link layer, to see packets as they are "on the wire". There are lots of uses for this, including network diagnostics, packet capture and traffic shaping.
API documentation for the latest build can be found here: https://docs.rs/pnet/
libpnet in your project, add the following to your Cargo.toml:
[dependencies.pnet] version = "0.28.0"
libpnet should work with the latest stable version of Rust.
When running the test suite, there are a number of networking tests which will
likely fail - the easiest way to workaround this is to run
cargo test as a
root or administrative user. This can often be avoided, however it is more
There are three requirements for building on Windows:
- You must use a version of Rust which uses the MSVC toolchain
- You must have WinPcap or npcap installed (tested with version WinPcap 4.1.3) (If using npcap, make sure to install with the "Install Npcap in WinPcap API-compatible Mode")
- You must place
Packet.libfrom the WinPcap Developers pack in a directory named
lib, in the root of this repository. Alternatively, you can use any of the locations listed in the
$Env:LIBenvironment variables. For the 64 bit toolchain it is in
WpdPack/Lib/x64/Packet.lib, for the 32 bit toolchain, it is in