Berkeley Packet Filter in Golang

Berkeley Packet Filter in Golang

Recently I stumbled upon a use case where I was looking to setup a Wireguard (udp) tunnel across two nodes behind different NATs. I wanted to implement something likeUDP Hole Punching and came across this mailing list message from 2016 which linked to the contrib/nat-hole-punching source in Wireguard.

I’ll cover the whole hole punching mechanism, perhaps, in a different article. But for context, the mentioned source used raw linux sockets and classic Berkeley Packet Filter to inject custom packets and do hole punching.

The source is written in C but I wanted my implementation in Golang. So, I started looking and soon came across which provides an implementation of raw bpf assembly codes and a virtual machine written in Golang. I wanted to use the assembly codes but not necessarily depend on the bpf.VM (that would’ve defeated the purpose of filters in the first place 😅).

Instead, I started looking for ways in which I could use setsockopt with SO_ATTACH_FILTER to attach the filter directly to the native file descriptor. I came across ipv4#PacketConn.SetBPF method from which takes in a []bpf.RawInstructions and applies it onto the underlying socket, although the socket in this case wasn’t exactly the raw socket I was working with.

To circumvent this, I started looking further into the source, till I found sockOpt.setAttachFilter and, consequently, setsockopt’s implementation on unix. The setsockopt used syscall.Syscall6 with syscall.SYS_SETSOCKOPT to implement the system call and passed through the given arguments as unsafe.Pointer to the syscall.

Putting it all together

After all this I came with something close the following code snippet to enable using berkeley filter with sockets in Golang 🚀

package filter

import (


// Filter represents a classic BPF filter program that can be applied to a socket
type Filter []bpf.Instruction

// ApplyTo applies the current filter onto the provided file descriptor
func (filter Filter) ApplyTo(fd int) (err error) {
	var assembled []bpf.RawInstruction
	if assembled, err = bpf.Assemble(filter); err != nil {
		return err

	var program = unix.SockFprog{
        Len: uint16(len(assembled)), 
        Filter: (*unix.SockFilter)(unsafe.Pointer(&assembled[0])),
	var b = (*[unix.SizeofSockFprog]byte)(unsafe.Pointer(&program))[:unix.SizeofSockFprog]

	if _, _, errno := syscall.Syscall6(syscall.SYS_SETSOCKOPT,
		uintptr(fd), uintptr(syscall.SOL_SOCKET), uintptr(syscall.SO_ATTACH_FILTER),
		uintptr(unsafe.Pointer(&b[0])), uintptr(len(b)), 0); errno != 0 {
		return errno

	return nil

Using this is simple too! You just have to define the filter program using bpfassembly codes, like:

// filter packet by checking if they are destined to local port 8080
var filter = Filter{
    bpf.LoadAbsolute{Off: 22, Size: 2},  // load the destination port
    bpf.JumpIf{Val: 8080, SkipFalse: 1}, // if Val != 8080 skip next instruction

    bpf.RetConstant{Val: 0xffff}, // return 0xffff bytes (or less) from packet
    bpf.RetConstant{Val: 0x0},    // return 0 bytes, effectively ignore this packet

and call ApplyTo on the socket’s file descriptor.

// import "syscall"

// open a raw socket
fd, err := syscall.Socket(syscall.AF_INET, syscall.SOCK_RAW, syscall.IPPROTO_UDP)
if err != nil {
    // ... define error handling

// then apply the filter
err = filter.ApplyTo(fd)
if err != nil {
    // ... define error handling

And that’s it! the kernel would filter out packets based on specified filter program and next time you do a syscall.Read on your fd you’d only see the packets you’re interested in 🎉 🚀

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