Video Transcript

In the next few videos, we’ll take a look at few other important networking protocols that you may come across as a system administrator. The first one we’ll review is the Simple Network Management Protocol, or SNMP.

It was first developed in 1988 as a way for system administrators to query information from a variety of devices on a network, and possibly even update that information as needed. Remember that, in 1988, this was well before the development of the web browsers we know today, so it wasn’t as simple as using the web-based configuration interface present on most routers today. However, while most systems today support SNMP, it is primarily used for remote monitoring of networking equipment, and not as much for configuration as it was originally intended.

Over the years, there have been many different versions of SNMP developed. Each one includes a few different features. The first version, SNMPv1, is very basic. While it works well for some things, it only includes a plain-text “community string” for authentication, resulting in minimal security. SNMPv2 is a significant revision to SNMPv1, and includes a much more robust security model. However, many users found that new model to be overly complex, and a second version called SNMPv2c, for “Community” was developed without the new security model. Finally, SNMPv3 was developed to include better security, authentication, and a more user-friendly design. It is the only currently accepted standard, though many devices still use the older versions as well.

In SNMP, the data is presented in the form of variables. The variables themselves have a very hierarchical structure, so that similar types of data are grouped together. However, the variables themselves can be difficult to read directly, since each level of the hierarchy is denoted by a number instead of a name.

To help make the variables more readable, SNMP includes a Management Information Base, or MIB, to define what each variable means. Each individual device can define its own MIB, though there are some standards available for common types of data. You can find a couple of those standards linked below the video.

The SNMP protocol itself lists many different types of protocol data units, or PDUs, as part of the standard. For example, the GetRequest PDU is used to query a particular variable on a device, and the Response PDU would be sent back from the device. You’ll be able to see several of these PDUs a bit later in the video when we use Wireshark to caputre some SNMP packets.

As mentioned earlier, one feature of SNMP is the use of a “community string” for authentication. In SNMPv1, the community string is a simple text identifier that you can provide along with your request. The server then determines if that community string has access to the variable it requested, and if so, it will return the appropriate response. However, since community strings are sent as plain-text, anyone who was able intercept a packet could find the community string, so it wasn’t very secure. In later versions of SNMP, additional security features were added to resolve this issue. In this video, we will see an example of using SNMPv3 with proper security and encryption.

Now that you know a bit about SNMP, let’s see a quick example of how it works. Once again, I have configured an Ubuntu VM as directed in Lab 3 to act as an SNMP server, and I’ve also configured a second Ubuntu VM to act as an SNMP manager or client.

First, on my server, I’m going to start Wireshark so we can capture these packets. Notice that I’m capturing packets on the ethernet adapter, since I’ll be accessing it from another system. I’ll also add a filter for snmp to make sure we only see the SNMP server packets.

Next, on the client system, we can query the data available via SNMP using a couple of different commands. First, I’m going to use the simple snmpget command to query a single variable. I’ve already configured this system to use a set of authentication credentials stored in a configuration file, which you can do as part of Lab 3’s assignment. In this case, I’ll query the system’s uptime:

snmpget sysUpTime.0

In the response, we can clearly see the system’s uptime. If we switch back to Wireshark, we can see that it captured some SNMP packets. If we were using SNMP v1, they would be plaintext and we could read the information here clearly. However, since we are now using SNMPv3

To see all the available SNMP variables on your system, you can try the following:


This command will result in thousands of lines of output, giving all of the variables available on the system. Looking at Wireshark, there are lots of SNMP packets being transmitted. In fact, each data item in SNMP is sent via its own packet.

Since it can be very difficult to find exactly what you are looking for using the snmpwalk command, you can use grep to search the output for a particular item. For example, to see all of the variables related to TCP, I could do the following:

snmpwalk | grep TCP-MIB

If I know the set of variables I’d like to query, I can also include them in the snmpwalk command, such as this example:

snmpwalk TCP-MIB::tcp

Either way, you should see the variables related to TCP. In the lab assignment, you’ll need to query some information about a different set of variables, so you’ll have to do some digging on your own to find the right ones.

That’s a quick overview of how to use SNMP to query information about your system across the network. If you have any questions about getting it configured on your system, use the course discussion forums on Canvas to ask a question anytime!