5.5. Import Hex Dump

Wireshark can read in a hex dump and write the data described into a temporary libpcap capture file. It can read hex dumps with multiple packets in them, and build a capture file of multiple packets. It is also capable of generating dummy Ethernet, IP and UDP, TCP, or SCTP headers, in order to build fully processable packet dumps from hexdumps of application-level data only. Alternatively, a Dummy PDU header can be added to specify a dissector the data should be passed to initially.

Two methods for converting the input are supported:

5.5.1. Standard ASCII Hexdumps

Wireshark understands a hexdump of the form generated by od -Ax -tx1 -v. In other words, each byte is individually displayed, with spaces separating the bytes from each other. Hex digits can be upper or lowercase.

In normal operation, each line must begin with an offset describing the position in the packet, followed a colon, space, or tab separating it from the bytes. There is no limit on the width or number of bytes per line, but lines with only hex bytes without a leading offset are ignored (i.e., line breaks should not be inserted in long lines that wrap.) Offsets are more than two digits; they are in hex by default, but can also be in octal or decimal. Each packet must begin with offset zero, and an offset zero indicates the beginning of a new packet. Offset values must be correct; an unexpected value causes the current packet to be aborted and the next packet start awaited. There is also a single packet mode with no offsets.

Packets may be preceded by a direction indicator ('I' or 'O') and/or a timestamp if indicated. If both are present, the direction indicator precedes the timestamp. The format of the timestamps must be specified. If no timestamp is parsed, in the case of the first packet the current system time is used, while subsequent packets are written with timestamps one microsecond later than that of the previous packet.

Other text in the input data is ignored. Any text before the offset is ignored, including email forwarding characters '>'. Any text on a line after the bytes is ignored, e.g., an ASCII character dump (but see -a to ensure that hex digits in the character dump are ignored). Any line where the first non-whitespace character is a '#' will be ignored as a comment. Any lines of text between the bytestring lines are considered preamble; the beginning of the preamble is scanned for the direction indicator and timestamp as mentioned above and otherwise ignored.

Any line beginning with #TEXT2PCAP is a directive and options can be inserted after this command to be processed by Wireshark. Currently there are no directives implemented; in the future, these may be used to give more fine-grained control on the dump and the way it should be processed e.g., timestamps, encapsulation type etc.

In general, short of these restrictions, Wireshark is pretty liberal about reading in hexdumps and has been tested with a variety of mangled outputs (including being forwarded through email multiple times, with limited line wrap etc.)

Here is a sample dump that can be imported, including optional directional indicator and timestamp:

I 2019-05-14T19:04:57Z
000000 00 e0 1e a7 05 6f 00 10 ........
000008 5a a0 b9 12 08 00 46 00 ........
000010 03 68 00 00 00 00 0a 2e ........
000018 ee 33 0f 19 08 7f 0f 19 ........
000020 03 80 94 04 00 00 10 01 ........
000028 16 a2 0a 00 03 50 00 0c ........
000030 01 01 0f 19 03 80 11 01 ........

5.5.2. Regular Text Dumps

Wireshark is also capable of scanning the input using a custom Perl regular expression as specified by GLib’s GRegex here. Using a regex capturing a single packet in the given file Wireshark will search the given file from start to the second to last character (the last character has to be \n and is ignored) for non-overlapping (and non-empty) strings matching the given regex and then identify the fields to import using named capturing subgroups. Using provided format information for each field they are then decoded and translated into a standard libpcap file retaining packet order.

Note that each named capturing subgroup has to match exactly once a packet, but they may be present multiple times in the regex.

For example, the following dump:

> 0:00:00.265620 a130368b000000080060
> 0:00:00.280836 a1216c8b00000000000089086b0b82020407
< 0:00:00.295459 a2010800000000000000000800000000
> 0:00:00.296982 a1303c8b00000008007088286b0bc1ffcbf0f9ff
> 0:00:00.305644 a121718b0000000000008ba86a0b8008
< 0:00:00.319061 a2010900000000000000001000600000
> 0:00:00.330937 a130428b00000008007589186b0bb9ffd9f0fdfa3eb4295e99f3aaffd2f005
> 0:00:00.356037 a121788b0000000000008a18

could be imported using these settings:

regex: ^(?<dir>[<>])\s(?<time>\d+:\d\d:\d\d.\d+)\s(?<data>[0-9a-fA-F]+)$
timestamp: %H:%M:%S.%f
dir: in: <   out: >
encoding: HEX

Caution has to be applied when discarding the anchors ^ and $, as the input is searched, not parsed, meaning even most incorrect regexes will produce valid looking results when not anchored (however, anchors are not guaranteed to prevent this). It is generally recommended to sanity check any files created using this conversion.

Supported fields:

  • data: Actual captured frame data

    The only mandatory field. This should match the encoded binary data captured and is used as the actual frame data to import.

  • time: timestamp for the packet

    The captured field will be parsed according to the given timestamp format into a timestamp.

    If no timestamp is present an arbitrary counter will count up seconds and nanoseconds by one each packet.

  • dir: the direction the packet was sent over the wire

    The captured field is expected to be one character in length, any remaining characters are ignored (e.g., given "Input" only the 'I' is looked at). This character is compared to lists of characters corresponding to inbound and outbound and the packet is assigned the corresponding direction. If neither list yields a match, the direction is set to unknown.

    If this field is not specified the entire file has no directional information.

  • seqno: an ID for this packet

    Each packet can be assigned an arbitrary ID that can used as field by Wireshark. This field is assumed to be a positive integer base 10. This field can e.g. be used to reorder out of order captures after the import.

    If this field is not given, no IDs will be present in the resulting file.

5.5.3. The “Import From Hex Dump” Dialog Box

This dialog box lets you select a text file, containing a hex dump of packet data, to be imported and set import parameters.

Figure 5.7. The “Import from Hex Dump” dialog in Hex Dump mode

ws file import

Specific controls of this import dialog are split in three sections:

File Source
Determine which input file has to be imported
Input Format
Determine how the input file has to be interpreted.
Determine how the data is to be encapsulated.

5.5.4. File source

Filename / Browse
Enter the name of the text file to import. You can use Browse to browse for a file.

5.5.5. Input Format

This section is split in the two alternatives for input conversion, accessible in the two Tabs "Hex Dump" and "Regular Expression"

In addition to the conversion mode specific inputs, there are also common parameters, currently only the timestamp format. The Hex Dump tab

Select the radix of the offsets given in the text file to import. This is usually hexadecimal, but decimal and octal are also supported. Select None when only the bytes are present. These will be imported as a single packet.
Direction indication
Tick this box if the text file to import has direction indicators before each frame. These are on a separate line before each frame and start with either I or i for input and O or o for output. The Regular Expression tab

Figure 5.8. The "Regular Expression" tab inside the "Import from Hex Dump” dialog.

ws file import regex

Packet format regular expression
This is the regex used for searching packets and metadata inside the input file. Named capturing subgroups are used to find the individual fields. Anchors ^ and $ are set to match directly before and after newlines \n or \r\n. See GRegex for a full documentation.
Data encoding

The Encoding used for the binary data. Supported encodings are plain-hexadecimal, -octal, -binary and base64. Plain here means no additional characters are present in the data field beyond whitespaces, which are ignored. Any unexpected characters abort the import process.

Ignored whitespaces are \r, \n, \t, \v, ` ` and only for hex :, only for base64 =.

Any incomplete bytes at the field’s end are assumed to be padding to fill the last complete byte. These bits should be zero, however, this is not checked.

Direction indication
The lists of characters indicating incoming vs. outgoing packets. These fields are only available when the regex contains a (?<dir>…​) group. Common items

Timestamp Format

This is the format specifier used to parse the timestamps in the text file to import. It uses the same format as strptime(3) with the addition of %f for zero padded fractions of seconds. The precision of %f is determined from its length. The most common fields are %H, %M and %S for hours, minutes and seconds. The straightforward HH:MM:SS format is covered by %T. For a full definition of the syntax look for strptime(3),

In Regex mode this field is only available when a (?<time>…​) group is present.

In Hex Dump mode if there are no timestamps in the text file to import, leave this field empty and timestamps will be generated based on the time of import.

5.5.6. Encapsulation

Encapsulation type
Here you can select which type of frames you are importing. This all depends on from what type of medium the dump to import was taken. It lists all types that Wireshark understands, so as to pass the capture file contents to the right dissector.
Dummy header
When Ethernet encapsulation is selected you have to option to prepend dummy headers to the frames to import. These headers can provide artificial Ethernet, IP, UDP, TCP or SCTP headers or SCTP data chunks. When selecting a type of dummy header, the applicable entries are enabled, others are greyed out and default values are used. When the Wireshark Upper PDU export encapsulation is selected the option ExportPDU becomes available. This allows you to select the name of the dissector these frames are to be directed to.
Maximum frame length
You may not be interested in the full frames from the text file, just the first part. Here you can define how much data from the start of the frame you want to import. If you leave this open the maximum is set to 256kiB.

Once all input and import parameters are setup click Import to start the import. If your current data wasn’t saved before you will be asked to save it first.

If the import button doesn’t unlock, make sure all encapsulation parameters are in the expected range and all unlocked fields are populated when using regex mode (the placeholder text is not used as default).

When completed there will be a new capture file loaded with the frames imported from the text file.