Checks

Alerts are created inside checks. Checks are chunks of code executed by ntopng. Checks are implemented as C++ classes with a predefined interface.

Check interfaces are declared in classes:

  • include/FlowCheck.h for flows
  • include/HostCheck.h for hosts

Those classes must be used as base classes when implementing checks:

  • Every host check implemented must inherit from HostCheck
  • Every flow check implemented must inherit from FlowCheck

Classes are implemented with two files, namely a .h file with the class declaration, and a .cpp file with the class definition:

  • Host check declarations (.h files) are under include/host_checks. Host check definitions (.cpp) files are under src/host_checks.
  • Flow check declarations (.h files) are under include/flow_checks. Flow check definitions (.cpp) files are under src/host_checks.

Check Execution

Checks execution for hosts consists in ntopng calling:

  • HostCheck::periodicUpdate approximately every 60 seconds

Every host check, when subclassing HostCheck, must override periodicUpdate to implement the desired check behavior.

Checks execution for flows consists in ntopng calling for every flow:

  • FlowCheck::protocolDetected as soon as the Layer-7 is detected
  • FlowCheck::periodicUpdate approximately every 300 seconds only for flows with a minimum duration of 300 seconds
  • FlowCheck::flowEnd as soon as the flow ends, i.e., when a TCP session is closed or when an UDP flow timeouts

Every flow check, when subclassing FlowCheck, must override one or more of the methods above to implement the desired check behavior.

Check Configuration

Checks are configured from the ntopng Web UI. Configuration involves the ability to:

  • Turn any check on or off
  • Set configuration parameters selectively for every check

A check that is turned off is not executed. Configuration parameters can be used to set a threshold used by the check to decide if it is time to create an alert. Similarly, configuration parameters can be used to indicate a list of IP addresses to exclude when executing checks.

ntopng, to populate the check configuration UI and to properly store the configured check parameters that will be passed to the C++ check class instances, needs to know along with other information:

  • Strings (optionally localized) for check names and descriptions
  • Type and format of the configuration parameters
  • Default parameters, e.g, whether the check is on or off by default

ntopng reads this information from small Lua files located in:

  • scripts/lua/modules/check_definitions/flow/ for flow checks
  • scripts/lua/modules/check_definitions/host for host checks

These files, documented here (add ref) are mandatory and must be present for a check to be properly executed.

ntopng use names to link check configuration with its C++ class instance. A common <name> must be used as:

  • The name of the Lua file under scripts/lua/modules/check_definitions, e.g., <name>.lua
  • The string returned by method getName in the C++ class file, e.g., std::string getName() const { return(std::string("<name>")); }.

Example

The following figure shows the interplay between the various components of a flow check. BlacklistedFlow is used for reference. Full-screen is recommended to properly visualize the figure.

BlacklistedFlow Flow Check

BlacklistedFlow Flow Check

File BlacklistedFlow.h (1) contains the declaration of class BlacklistedFlow, a subclass of FlowCheck. The class is defined in BlacklistedFlow.cpp (2) that contains class methods implementation.

To have BlacklistedFlow compiled, an #include directive must be added in file include/flow_checks_includes.h (3). The directive must contain the path to the class declaration file BlacklistedFlow.h.

To have the check loaded and executed at runtime, BlacklistedFlow must be instantiated and added to the ntopng checks in file src/FlowChecksLoader.cpp (4).

Method protocolDetected is overridden and implemented in BlacklistedFlow.cpp (5) so that ntopng will call it for every flow as soon as the Layer-7 application protocol is detected.

Check configuration UI is populated according to the contents of scripts/lua/modules/check_definitions/flow/blacklisted.lua (6). ntopng is able to link the check configuration with its C++ class thanks to the name blacklisted as highlighted with the arrow starting at (6). Indeed, to have the C++ and the Lua properly linked, the same name is used for:

  • The name of the Lua file
  • The string returned by method getName in the C++ class file

Alerts

Checks create alerts as part of their implementation. A check, during its execution, can detect a certain condition (e.g., an anomaly) for which it decides to create an alert. When the check decides to create an alert, it informs ntopng by passing a reference to the alert.

Alerts are implemented with C++ classes. Alert interfaces are declared in classes:

  • include/FlowAlert.h for flows
  • include/HostAlert.h for hosts

Those classes must be used as base classes when implementing alerts:

  • Every host alert implemented must inherit from HostAlert
  • Every flow alert implemented must inherit from FlowAlert

Identifying Alerts

Alerts are uniquely identified with a key, present both in C++ and Lua. In C++ alert keys are enumerated inside file ntop_typedefs.h:

  • Enumeration FlowAlertTypeEnum defines keys for flow alerts
  • Enumeration HostAlertTypeEnum defines keys for host alerts

Every C++ alert class must implement getClassType to return an enumerated alert key. Every enumerated value must be used by one and only one alert class.

In Lua, alert keys are enumerated inside files:

  • scripts/lua/modules/alert_keys/flow_alert_keys.lua for flow alerts
  • scripts/lua/modules/alert_keys/host_alert_keys.lua for host alerts

C++ and Lua files must be synchronized, that is, they must have the same enumerated alert keys. This means using the same enumeration names and numbers, in C++:

typedef enum {
flow_alert_normal                           = 0,
flow_alert_blacklisted                      = 1,
flow_alert_blacklisted_country              = 2,
[...]
} FlowAlertTypeEnum;

and in Lua:

local flow_alert_keys = {
  flow_alert_normal                          = 0,
  flow_alert_blacklisted                     = 1,
  flow_alert_blacklisted_country             = 2,
  [...]
 }

To implement an alert, an additional alert key must be added to bot C++ and Lua.

Alert Formatting

Alerts are shown graphically inside the ntopng web UI and are also exported to external recipients. ntopng, to format alerts, needs to know along with other information:

  • Unique alert keys
  • Strings (optionally localized) for alert names and descriptions
  • How to handle parameters inserted into the alert from the C++ classes

ntopng reads this information from small Lua files located in:

  • scripts/lua/modules/alert_definitions/flow/ for flow alerts
  • scripts/lua/modules/alert_definitions/host/ for host alerts

These files are mandatory and must be present for an alert to be properly created and visualized. Each file must return a table containing some metadata, including a unique alert key read from one of the Lua alert keys enumeration files. Each alert key must be returned by one and only one Lua file.

Creating Flow Alerts

Alert classes are instantiated inside buildAlert, a method that must be implemented by each flow check. This method is called by ntopng to create the alert, when it has been told to do so from a flow check.

Checks use triggerAlertAsync to tell ntopng to create an alert. Indeed, The actual alert creation is triggered from the flow check with the call f->triggerAlertAsync. This call tells ntopng to create an alert identified with BlacklistedFlowAlert::getClassType() on the flow instance pointed by f.

Creating Host Alerts

Alert classes are instantiated inside host checks.

Checks use triggerAlert to tell ntopng to create an alert. Indeed, The actual alert creation is triggered from the host check with the call h->triggerAlert that wants a pointer to the host alert instance as parameter. This call tells ntopng to create an alert on the host instance pointed by h.

Example

The following figure shows the interplay between the various components necessary to create a flow alert. BlacklistedFlow is used for reference. Full-screen is recommended to properly visualize the figure.

BlacklistedFlowAlert Flow Alert

BlacklistedFlowAlert Flow Alert

File BlacklistedFlowAlert.h (1) contains the declaration of class BlacklistedFlowAlert, a subclass of FlowAlert. The class is defined in BlacklistedFlowAlert.cpp (2) that contains class methods implementation.

To have BlacklistedFlowAlert compiled, an #include directive must be added in file include/flow_alerts_includes.h (3). The directive must contain the path to the class declaration file BlacklistedFlowAlert.h.

Class BlacklistedFlowAlert is instantiated inside buildAlert (4), a method of flow check BlacklistedFlow. Indeed, as seen in the previous section, alerts are created from checks. This method is called by ntopng to create the alert, when it has been told to do so from a check.

The actual alert creation is triggered from the flow check with the call f->triggerAlertAsync (5). This call tells ntopng to create an alert identified with BlacklistedFlowAlert::getClassType() on the flow instance pointed by f.

Method getClassType() returns an alert key (6) that is enumerated inside file ntop_typedefs.h, as part of the FlowAlertTypeEnum enumeration - follow the arrow starting at (6). The same key is also enumerated in flow_alert_keys.lua (7), with the same enumeration name and number.

The alert key enumerated in Lua is specified as part of the meta data of file alert_flow_blacklisted.lua (8). This file tells ntopng how to format the alert and its parameters. In particular, format is used for the formatting. The third parameter of the function is a Lua table that contains the fields populated in C++. Indeed, method getAlertJSON implemented in BlacklistedFlowAlert.cpp (2) populates fields that are then propagated to the lua format with the same names (9). For example, a boolean cli_blacklisted is added in C++ and read in Lua to properly format the blacklisted alert.

Checklists

Flows

To create a flow alert, say BadFlowAlert, check the following items:

  • Implement a flow check BadFlow that inherits from FlowCheck

    • Place the class declaration file BadFlow.h inside include/flow_checks/BadFlow.h
    • Place the class definition file BadFlow.cpp inside src/flow_checks/BadFlow.cpp
    • Add an #include "flow_checks/BadFlow.h" directive in include/flow_checks_includes.h
    • Add a new BadFlow() constructor in src/FlowChecksLoader.cpp
  • Implement a Lua file bad_flow.lua for the check configuration

    • Place bad_flow.lua inside scripts/lua/modules/check_definitions/flow/
    • Edit method getName in BadFlow.h to return string bad_flow
  • Implement a flow alert BadFlowAlert that inherits from FlowAlert

    • Place the class declaration file BadFlowAlert.h inside include/flow_alerts/BadFlowAlert.h
    • Place the class definition file BadFlowAlert.cpp inside src/flow_alerts/BadFlowAlert.cpp
    • Add an #include "flow_alerts/BadFlowAlert.h" directive in include/flow_alerts_includes.h
  • Add a unique alert key

    • Add an enumeration value flow_alert_bad_flow = <NUM> in FlowAlertTypeEnum inside file ntop_typedefs.h and make sure <NUM> is unique and not already used
    • Edit method getClassType in BadFlowAlert.h to return enumeration value flow_alert_bad_flow
    • Add an enumeration value flow_alert_bad_flow = <NUM> inside scripts/lua/modules/alert_keys/flow_alert_keys.lua making sure <NUM> is the very same number used also in FlowAlertTypeEnum

Hosts

To create an host alert, say BadHostAlert, check the following items:

  • Implement an host check BadHost that inherits from HostCheck

    • Place the class declaration file BadHost.h inside include/host_checks/BadHost.h
    • Place the class definition file BadHost.cpp inside src/host_checks/BadHost.cpp
    • Add an #include "host_checks/BadHost.h" directive in include/host_checks_includes.h
    • Add a new BadHost() constructor in src/HostChecksLoader.cpp
  • Implement a Lua file bad_host.lua for the check configuration

    • Place bad_host.lua inside scripts/lua/modules/check_definitions/host/
    • Edit method getName in BadHost.h to return string bad_host
  • Implement an host alert BadHostAlert that inherits from HostAlert

    • Place the class declaration file BadHostAlert.h inside include/host_alerts/BadHostAlert.h
    • Place the class definition file BadHostAlert.cpp inside src/host_alerts/BadHostAlert.cpp
    • Add an #include "host_alerts/BadHostAlert.h" directive in include/host_alerts_includes.h
  • Add a unique alert key

    • Add an enumeration value host_alert_bad_host = <NUM> in HostAlertTypeEnum inside file ntop_typedefs.h and make sure <NUM> is unique and not already used
    • Edit method getClassType in BadFlowAlert.h to return enumeration value host_alert_bad_host
    • Add an enumeration value host_alert_bad_host = <NUM> inside scripts/lua/modules/alert_keys/host_alert_keys.lua making sure <NUM> is the very same number used also in HostAlertTypeEnum