Null / Loopback (Null)

The "null" protocol is the link-layer protocol used on the loopback device on most BSD operating systems. It is somewhat misnamed, in that the link-layer header isn't "null" in the sense that there isn't any link-layer header; instead, the link-layer header is a 4-byte integer, in the native byte order of the machine on which the traffic is captured, containing an "address family"/"protocol family" value for the protocol running atop the link layer, for example AF_INET for IPv4 and AF_INET6 for IPv6. AF_INET is 2 on all BSD-based operating systems, as it was introduced at the same time the BSD versions with networking were released; however, AF_INET6, unfortunately, has different values in {NetBSD,OpenBSD,BSD/OS}, {FreeBSD,DragonFlyBSD}, and {Darwin/macOS}, so an IPv6 packet might have a link-layer header with 24, 28, or 30 as the AF_ value.

The byte order is that of the host on which the packet was captured, so the dissector has to be able to handle both big-endian and little-endian values.

The "loopback" protocol is used by recent versions of OpenBSD; it's the same as the "null" protocol, except that the 4-byte AF_ value is in network byte order (big-endian) rather than host byte order.


The "null" protocol dates back to the original BPF implementation on BSD.

Protocol dependencies

The "null" and "loopback" protocols are the lowest software layers, so they only depend on the implementation of the loopback device.

Example traffic

XXX - Add example traffic here (as plain text or Wireshark screenshot).


The Null/Loopback dissector is fully functional.

Preference Settings

(XXX add links to preference settings affecting how Null is dissected).

Example capture file

XXX - Add a simple example capture file to the SampleCaptures page and link from here. Keep it short, it's also a good idea to gzip it to make it even smaller, as Wireshark can open gzipped files automatically.

Display Filter

A complete list of Null display filter fields can be found in the display filter reference

Show only the Null based traffic:


Capture Filter

You cannot directly filter Null/Loopback protocols while capturing. If you are capturing on a loopback device in a BSD system (including macOS), all traffic will use the "null" or "loopback" protocol; if you are capturing on another device, no traffic will be "null" or "loopback" traffic.

External links


Imported from on 2020-08-11 23:17:36 UTC