BitTorrent is a protocol designed for transferring files. It is peer-to-peer in nature, as users connect to each other directly to send and receive portions of the file. However, there is a central server (called a tracker) which coordinates the action of all such peers. The tracker only manages connections, it does not have any knowledge of the contents of the files being distributed, and therefore a large number of users can be supported with relatively limited tracker bandwidth.
A recent extension to BitTorrent is the DHT ("distributed sloppy hash table" or simply called UDP tracker) protocol. A UDP based peer to peer tracker protocol.
In April 2001 Bram Cohen designed the BitTorrent protocol, which he implemented summer 2002. The first program to use the protocol was the original BitTorrent client. Today many applications are availiable, and the protocol is widely used.
TCP: Typically, BitTorrent uses TCP as its transport protocol. The well known TCP port for BitTorrent traffic is 6881-6889 (and 6969 for the tracker port). The DHT extension (peer2peer tracker) uses various UDP ports negotiated by the peers.
XXX - Add example traffic here (as plain text or Wireshark screenshot).
The BitTorrent dissector is (fully functional, partially functional, not existing, ... whatever the current state is). The DHT extension is currently not decoded.
Example capture files
SampleCaptures/BitTorrent.Transfer1.cap (Microsoft Network Monitor) Here's a capture with a few BitTorrent packets; it contains some small packets I got whilst downloading something on BitTorrent.
SampleCaptures/BITTORRENT.pcap (libpcap) Capture file of two torrent clients communicationg without DHT or peer exch.
A complete list of BitTorrent display filter fields can be found in the display filter reference
Show only the BitTorrent based traffic:
Note: implemented in Wireshark post 0.10.12!
You cannot directly filter BitTorrent protocols while capturing. However, if you know the TCP port used (see above), you can filter on that one.
Capture only the BitTorrent tracker traffic over one of the default ports (e.g. 6881):
tcp port 6881
Capture the BitTorrent tracker traffic over the range of default ports (e.g. 6881-6889):
tcp portrange 6881-6889
when using libpcap 0.9.1 or later or WinPcap 3.1 or later; that expression won't work with older versions of libpcap or WinPcap, so, on Windows, upgrade to WinPcap 3.1 or later and, on UN*X, upgrade to libpcap 0.9.x if possible and, if not possible and you have a version of libpcap prior to 0.8.1, use
(tcp[0:2] >= 6881 and tcp[0:2] <= 6889) or (tcp[2:2] >= 6881 and tcp[2:2] <= 6889)(a bug in the libpcap optimizer in libpcap 0.8.x means this won't work with libpcap 0.8.x, although you might be able to use tcpdump with the "-O" flag).
http://www.bittorrent.com/ the official BitTorrent page
How BitTorrent Works about P2P in general, BitTorrent and firewall settings
distributed sloppy hash table protocol UDP based BitTorrent extension for distributed trackers (the UDP port number is negotiated)
Hippie protocol signature description the TCP and UDP protocol signatures which might be used to heuristically identify the BitTorrent protocol