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Network Monitoring with Arpwatch

Arpwatch allows a system to track IP address pairings. It maps the MAC Addresses on a network by tracking ARP requests to each device on the LAN and recording the response in a database. All network cards are manufactured with a unique MAC address and this allows Arpwatch to identify each device. The main purpose of mapping a network like this is so the system administrator can keep track of the devices on a network and identify when there are networking issues. Arpwatch is commonly used to identify when an ARP Man in the Middle attack is being conducted by notifying the system administrator when a duplicate MAC address is being used on the network. Arpwatch is most commonly ran on routers, but it can also useful on a managed network switch.


Arpwatch is not apart of the standard Slackware Linux distribution. It can be obtained by downloading the SlackBuild from SlackBuilds.org for your desired Slackware release. SlackBuilds.org has a great HOWTO discussing how to install a SlackBuild. The SlackBuilds.org FAQ is also very helpful for Slackware users struggling to install a SlackBuild.


The included start up script allows the administrator to configure Arpwatch for one or more network cards. The start up script is also where the administrator can configure the run time settings for Arpwatch. Open up /etc/rc.d/rc.arpwatch on your system and edit the OPTIONS variable to your satisfaction. By default the root account gets all Arpwatch emails. Let's try changing the email account Arpwatch will use for email notifications. Make sure you use a user account or an email address that exists or Arpwatch will not send notifications to you.

The line you are looking for is:

OPTIONS="-i $IFACE -f $ARPDIR/arp-$IFACE.dat -u root -e root -s root"

The Arpwatch man page indicates that the -e switch manages the email account. Let us change it to the user darkstar.

OPTIONS="-i $IFACE -f $ARPDIR/arp-$IFACE.dat -u root -e darkstar -s root"

Or we can use a remote email address if sendmail is configured to do so:

OPTIONS="-i $IFACE -f $ARPDIR/arp-$IFACE.dat -u root -e user@randomdomain.com -s root"

Update MAC Address Database

The README.ethercodes installed with the Arpwatch SlackBuild indicates that the MAC Address database that comes with the source tarball can be outdated. This database is only updated when there is a new release of Arpwatch, which has not happened in quite a while.

These steps are covered in greater detail if you read /usr/doc/arpwatch-$VERSION/README.ethercodes

su -
cd /var/lib/arpwatch
wget http://standards-oui.ieee.org/oui.txt
./massagevendor oui.txt > ethercodes.dat
rm -f oui.txt

Start and Stop at Boot

The file /etc/rc.d/rc.arpwatch controls start up and shut down of Arpwatch. In order to use this script you need to add a few lines to /etc/rc.d/rc.local and /etc/rc.d/rc.local_shutdown. Be sure to use the appropriate order if you have any other network services starting or stopping in these scripts. As an example, you should start Arpwatch before you bring up hostapd if you are running a Wireless Access Point, and shutdown Arpwatch after hostapd exits. Using such ordering assures that Arpwatch identifies all ARP requests on your network.

Continuing with the above example lets assume you are running a wireless access point. Add this to /etc/rc.d/rc.local

if [ -x /etc/rc.d/rc.arpwatch ]; then
  /etc/rc.d/rc.arpwatch start wlan0

If you wish to run Arpwatch on multiple network cards adjust /etc/rc.d/rc.local like this:

# Change eth0 and wlan0 to match your configuration
if [ -x /etc/rc.d/rc.arpwatch ]; then
  /etc/rc.d/rc.arpwatch start eth0
  /etc/rc.d/rc.arpwatch start wlan0

It's important that Arpwatch is stopped cleanly when your system is shutdown or rebooted. If you haven't already done so, create /etc/rc.d/rc.local_shutdown as root:

touch /etc/rc.d/rc.local_shutdown

Next you need to edit rc.local_shutdown like so:

if [ -x /etc/rc.d/rc.arpwatch ]; then
  /etc/rc.d/rc.arpwatch stop

Finally, mark rc.local and rc.local_shutdown as executable. This tells Slackware to automatically execute these scripts during the boot process.

chmod +x /etc/rc.d/rc.local
chmod +x /etc/rc.d/rc.local_shutdown

Wrap Up

Assuming all steps were followed you should have received an email for each device Arpwatch discovered on your network. If you opted to use the root user for notifications, you can view them by using the mail command as root user.

mail -f /var/spool/mail/root

Here is an example of what you may find in your inbox:

            hostname: <unknown>
          ip address:
    ethernet address: XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX
    ethernet address: XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX
     ethernet vendor: <unknown>
           timestamp: Monday, April 9, 2018 12:01:39 -0600


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