udtrace - Unix domain socket tracing

When developing applications that exchange data over sockets, every so often you'd like to analyze exactly what kind of data is exchanged over the socket.

For TCP/UDP/SCTP/DCCP or other IP-based sockets, this is rather easy by means of libpcap and tools like tcpdump, tshark or wireshark. However, for unix domain socket, unfortunately no such general capture/tracing infrastructure exists in the Linux kernel.

Interestingly, even after searching for quite a bit I couldn't find any existing tools for this. This is surprising, as unix domain sockets are used by a variety of programs, from sql servers to bind8 ndc all the way to the systemctl tool to manage systemd.

In absence of any kernel support, the two technologies I can think of to implement this is either systemtap or a LD_PRELOAD wrapper.

However, I couldn't find an example for using either of those two to get traces of unix domain soocket communications.

Ok, so I get to write my own. My first idea hence was to implement something based on top of systemtap, the Linux kernel tracing framework. Unfortunately, systemtap was broken in Debian unstable (which I use for decades) at the time, so I went back to the good old LD_PRELOAD shim library / wrapper approach.

The result is called udtrace and can be found at

git clone git://git.gnumonks.org/udtrace

or alternatively via its github mirror.

Below is a copy+paste of its README file. Let's hope this tool is useful to other developers, too:

udtrace - Unix Domain socket tracing

This is a LD_PRELOAD wrapper library which can be used to trace the data sent and/or received via unix domain sockets.

Unlike IP based communication that can be captured/traced with pcap programs like tcpdump or wireshark, there is no similar mechanism available for unix domain sockets.

This LD_PRELOAD library intercepts the C library function calls of dynamically linked programs. It will detect all file descriptors representing unix domain sockets and will then print traces of all data sent/received via the socket.


Simply build libudtrace.so using the make command, and then start your to-be-traced program with



LD_PRELOAD=libudtrace.so systemctl status

which will produce output like this:

>>> UDTRACE: Unix Domain Socket Trace initialized (TITAN support DISABLED)
>>> UDTRACE: Adding FD 4
>>> UDTRACE: connect(4, "/run/dbus/system_bus_socket")
4 sendmsg W 00415554482045585445524e414c20
4 sendmsg W 3331333033303330
4 sendmsg W 0d0a4e45474f54494154455f554e49585f46440d0a424547494e0d0a

Output Format

Currently, udtrace will produc the following output:

At time a FD for a unix domain socket is created:

>>> UDTRACE: Adding FD 8

At time a FD for a unix domain socket is closed:

>>> UDTRACE: Removing FD 8

At time a FD for a unix domain socket is bound or connected:

>>> UDTRACE: connect(9, "/tmp/mncc")

When data is read from the socket:

9 read R 00040000050000004403000008000000680000001c0300002c03000000000000

When data is written to the socket:

9 write W 00040000050000004403000008000000680000001c0300002c03000000000000
  • 9 is the file dsecriptor on which the event happened
  • read/write is the name of the syscall, could e.g. also be sendmsg / readv / etc.
  • R|W is Read / Write (from the process point of view)
  • followed by a hex-dump of the raw data. Only data successfully written (or read) will be printed, not the entire buffer passed to the syscall. The rationale is to only print data that was actually sent to or received from the socket.

TITAN decoder support

Getting hex-dumps is nice and fine, but normally one wants to have a more detailed decode of the data that is being passed on the socket.

For TCP based protocols, there is wireshark. But most protocols on unix domain sockets don't follow inter-operable / public standards, so even if one was to pass the traces into wireshark somehow, there would be no decoder.

In the Osmocom project, we already had some type definitions and decoders for our protocols written in the TTCN-3 programming language, using Eclipse TITAN. In order to build those decoders fro MNCC and PCUIF, please use


when building the code.

Please note that this introduces a run-time dependency to libttcn3-dynamic.so, which is (at least on Debian GNU/Linux) not installed in a default library search path, so you will have to use something like:

LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/lib/titan LD_PRELOAD=libudtrace.so systemctl status