NETLINK(7)                 Linux Programmer's Manual                NETLINK(7)

       netlink - communication between kernel and user space (AF_NETLINK)

       #include <asm/types.h>
       #include <sys/socket.h>
       #include <linux/netlink.h>

       netlink_socket = socket(AF_NETLINK, socket_type, netlink_family);

       Netlink is used to transfer information between the kernel and user-
       space processes.  It consists of a standard sockets-based interface for
       user space processes and an internal kernel API for kernel modules.
       The internal kernel interface is not documented in this manual page.
       There is also an obsolete netlink interface via netlink character
       devices; this interface is not documented here and is provided only for
       backward compatibility.

       Netlink is a datagram-oriented service.  Both SOCK_RAW and SOCK_DGRAM
       are valid values for socket_type.  However, the netlink protocol does
       not distinguish between datagram and raw sockets.

       netlink_family selects the kernel module or netlink group to
       communicate with.  The currently assigned netlink families are:

              Receives routing and link updates and may be used to modify the
              routing tables (both IPv4 and IPv6), IP addresses, link
              parameters, neighbor setups, queueing disciplines, traffic
              classes and packet classifiers (see rtnetlink(7)).

       NETLINK_W1 (Linux 2.6.13 to 2.16.17)
              Messages from 1-wire subsystem.

              Reserved for user-mode socket protocols.

       NETLINK_FIREWALL (up to and including Linux 3.4)
              Transport IPv4 packets from netfilter to user space.  Used by
              ip_queue kernel module.  After a long period of being declared
              obsolete (in favor of the more advanced nfnetlink_queue
              feature), NETLINK_FIREWALL was removed in Linux 3.5.

       NETLINK_INET_DIAG (since Linux 2.6.14)
              Query information about sockets of various protocol families
              from the kernel (see sock_diag(7)).

       NETLINK_SOCK_DIAG (since Linux 3.3)
              A synonym for NETLINK_INET_DIAG.

       NETLINK_NFLOG (up to and including Linux 3.16)
              Netfilter/iptables ULOG.


       NETLINK_SELINUX (since Linux 2.6.4)
              SELinux event notifications.

       NETLINK_ISCSI (since Linux 2.6.15)

       NETLINK_AUDIT (since Linux 2.6.6)

       NETLINK_FIB_LOOKUP (since Linux 2.6.13)
              Access to FIB lookup from user space.

       NETLINK_CONNECTOR (since Linux 2.6.14)
              Kernel connector.  See Documentation/connector/* in the Linux
              kernel source tree for further information.

       NETLINK_NETFILTER (since Linux 2.6.14)
              Netfilter subsystem.

       NETLINK_SCSITRANSPORT (since Linux 2.6.19)
              SCSI Transports.

       NETLINK_RDMA (since Linux 3.0)
              Infiniband RDMA.

       NETLINK_IP6_FW (up to and including Linux 3.4)
              Transport IPv6 packets from netfilter to user space.  Used by
              ip6_queue kernel module.

              DECnet routing messages.

       NETLINK_KOBJECT_UEVENT (since Linux 2.6.10)
              Kernel messages to user space.

       NETLINK_GENERIC (since Linux 2.6.15)
              Generic netlink family for simplified netlink usage.

       NETLINK_CRYPTO (since Linux 3.2)
              Netlink interface to request information about ciphers
              registered with the kernel crypto API as well as allow
              configuration of the kernel crypto API.

       Netlink messages consist of a byte stream with one or multiple nlmsghdr
       headers and associated payload.  The byte stream should be accessed
       only with the standard NLMSG_* macros.  See netlink(3) for further

       In multipart messages (multiple nlmsghdr headers with associated
       payload in one byte stream) the first and all following headers have
       the NLM_F_MULTI flag set, except for the last header which has the type

       After each nlmsghdr the payload follows.

           struct nlmsghdr {
               __u32 nlmsg_len;    /* Length of message including header */
               __u16 nlmsg_type;   /* Type of message content */
               __u16 nlmsg_flags;  /* Additional flags */
               __u32 nlmsg_seq;    /* Sequence number */
               __u32 nlmsg_pid;    /* Sender port ID */

       nlmsg_type can be one of the standard message types: NLMSG_NOOP message
       is to be ignored, NLMSG_ERROR message signals an error and the payload
       contains an nlmsgerr structure, NLMSG_DONE message terminates a
       multipart message.

           struct nlmsgerr {
               int error;        /* Negative errno or 0 for acknowledgements */
               struct nlmsghdr msg;  /* Message header that caused the error */

       A netlink family usually specifies more message types, see the
       appropriate manual pages for that, for example, rtnetlink(7) for

       Standard flag bits in nlmsg_flags
       NLM_F_REQUEST   Must be set on all request messages.
       NLM_F_MULTI     The message is part of a multipart
                       message terminated by NLMSG_DONE.
       NLM_F_ACK       Request for an acknowledgment on success.
       NLM_F_ECHO      Echo this request.

       Additional flag bits for GET requests
       NLM_F_ROOT     Return the complete table instead of a single entry.
       NLM_F_MATCH    Return all entries matching criteria passed in
                      message content.  Not implemented yet.
       NLM_F_ATOMIC   Return an atomic snapshot of the table.
       NLM_F_DUMP     Convenience macro; equivalent to

       Note that NLM_F_ATOMIC requires the CAP_NET_ADMIN capability or an
       effective UID of 0.

       Additional flag bits for NEW requests
       NLM_F_REPLACE   Replace existing matching object.
       NLM_F_EXCL      Don't replace if the object already exists.
       NLM_F_CREATE    Create object if it doesn't already exist.
       NLM_F_APPEND    Add to the end of the object list.

       nlmsg_seq and nlmsg_pid are used to track messages.  nlmsg_pid shows
       the origin of the message.  Note that there isn't a 1:1 relationship
       between nlmsg_pid and the PID of the process if the message originated
       from a netlink socket.  See the ADDRESS FORMATS section for further

       Both nlmsg_seq and nlmsg_pid are opaque to netlink core.

       Netlink is not a reliable protocol.  It tries its best to deliver a
       message to its destination(s), but may drop messages when an out-of-
       memory condition or other error occurs.  For reliable transfer the
       sender can request an acknowledgement from the receiver by setting the
       NLM_F_ACK flag.  An acknowledgment is an NLMSG_ERROR packet with the
       error field set to 0.  The application must generate acknowledgements
       for received messages itself.  The kernel tries to send an NLMSG_ERROR
       message for every failed packet.  A user process should follow this
       convention too.

       However, reliable transmissions from kernel to user are impossible in
       any case.  The kernel can't send a netlink message if the socket buffer
       is full: the message will be dropped and the kernel and the user-space
       process will no longer have the same view of kernel state.  It is up to
       the application to detect when this happens (via the ENOBUFS error
       returned by recvmsg(2)) and resynchronize.

   Address formats
       The sockaddr_nl structure describes a netlink client in user space or
       in the kernel.  A sockaddr_nl can be either unicast (only sent to one
       peer) or sent to netlink multicast groups (nl_groups not equal 0).

           struct sockaddr_nl {
               sa_family_t     nl_family;  /* AF_NETLINK */
               unsigned short  nl_pad;     /* Zero */
               pid_t           nl_pid;     /* Port ID */
               __u32           nl_groups;  /* Multicast groups mask */

       nl_pid is the unicast address of netlink socket.  It's always 0 if the
       destination is in the kernel.  For a user-space process, nl_pid is
       usually the PID of the process owning the destination socket.  However,
       nl_pid identifies a netlink socket, not a process.  If a process owns
       several netlink sockets, then nl_pid can be equal to the process ID
       only for at most one socket.  There are two ways to assign nl_pid to a
       netlink socket.  If the application sets nl_pid before calling bind(2),
       then it is up to the application to make sure that nl_pid is unique.
       If the application sets it to 0, the kernel takes care of assigning it.
       The kernel assigns the process ID to the first netlink socket the
       process opens and assigns a unique nl_pid to every netlink socket that
       the process subsequently creates.

       nl_groups is a bit mask with every bit representing a netlink group
       number.  Each netlink family has a set of 32 multicast groups.  When
       bind(2) is called on the socket, the nl_groups field in the sockaddr_nl
       should be set to a bit mask of the groups which it wishes to listen to.
       The default value for this field is zero which means that no multicasts
       will be received.  A socket may multicast messages to any of the
       multicast groups by setting nl_groups to a bit mask of the groups it
       wishes to send to when it calls sendmsg(2) or does a connect(2).  Only
       processes with an effective UID of 0 or the CAP_NET_ADMIN capability
       may send or listen to a netlink multicast group.  Since Linux 2.6.13,
       messages can't be broadcast to multiple groups.  Any replies to a
       message received for a multicast group should be sent back to the
       sending PID and the multicast group.  Some Linux kernel subsystems may
       additionally allow other users to send and/or receive messages.  As at
       and NETLINK_SELINUX groups allow other users to receive messages.  No
       groups allow other users to send messages.

   Socket options
       To set or get a netlink socket option, call getsockopt(2) to read or
       setsockopt(2) to write the option with the option level argument set to
       SOL_NETLINK.  Unless otherwise noted, optval is a pointer to an int.

       NETLINK_PKTINFO (since Linux 2.6.14)
              Enable nl_pktinfo control messages for received packets to get
              the extended destination group number.

              Join/leave a group specified by optval.

       NETLINK_LIST_MEMBERSHIPS (since Linux 4.2)
              Retrieve all groups a socket is a member of.  optval is a
              pointer to __u32 and optlen is the size of the array.  The array
              is filled with the full membership set of the socket, and the
              required array size is returned in optlen.

       NETLINK_BROADCAST_ERROR (since Linux 2.6.30)
              When not set, netlink_broadcast() only reports ESRCH errors and
              silently ignore ENOBUFS errors.

       NETLINK_NO_ENOBUFS (since Linux 2.6.30)
              This flag can be used by unicast and broadcast listeners to
              avoid receiving ENOBUFS errors.

       NETLINK_LISTEN_ALL_NSID (since Linux 4.2)
              When set, this socket will receive netlink notifications from
              all network namespaces that have an nsid assigned into the
              network namespace where the socket has been opened.  The nsid is
              sent to user space via an ancillary data.

       NETLINK_CAP_ACK (since Linux 4.2)
              The kernel may fail to allocate the necessary room for the
              acknowledgment message back to user space.  This option trims
              off the payload of the original netlink message.  The netlink
              message header is still included, so the user can guess from the
              sequence number which message triggered the acknowledgment.

       The socket interface to netlink first appeared Linux 2.2.

       Linux 2.0 supported a more primitive device-based netlink interface
       (which is still available as a compatibility option).  This obsolete
       interface is not described here.

       It is often better to use netlink via libnetlink or libnl than via the
       low-level kernel interface.

       This manual page is not complete.

       The following example creates a NETLINK_ROUTE netlink socket which will
       listen to the RTMGRP_LINK (network interface create/delete/up/down
       events) and RTMGRP_IPV4_IFADDR (IPv4 addresses add/delete events)
       multicast groups.

           struct sockaddr_nl sa;

           memset(&sa, 0, sizeof(sa));
           sa.nl_family = AF_NETLINK;
           sa.nl_groups = RTMGRP_LINK | RTMGRP_IPV4_IFADDR;

           fd = socket(AF_NETLINK, SOCK_RAW, NETLINK_ROUTE);
           bind(fd, (struct sockaddr *) &sa, sizeof(sa));

       The next example demonstrates how to send a netlink message to the
       kernel (pid 0).  Note that the application must take care of message
       sequence numbers in order to reliably track acknowledgements.

           struct nlmsghdr *nh;    /* The nlmsghdr with payload to send */
           struct sockaddr_nl sa;
           struct iovec iov = { nh, nh->nlmsg_len };
           struct msghdr msg;

           msg = { &sa, sizeof(sa), &iov, 1, NULL, 0, 0 };
           memset(&sa, 0, sizeof(sa));
           sa.nl_family = AF_NETLINK;
           nh->nlmsg_pid = 0;
           nh->nlmsg_seq = ++sequence_number;
           /* Request an ack from kernel by setting NLM_F_ACK */
           nh->nlmsg_flags |= NLM_F_ACK;

           sendmsg(fd, &msg, 0);

       And the last example is about reading netlink message.

           int len;
           /* 8192 to avoid message truncation on platforms with
              page size > 4096 */
           struct nlmsghdr buf[8192/sizeof(struct nlmsghdr)];
           struct iovec iov = { buf, sizeof(buf) };
           struct sockaddr_nl sa;
           struct msghdr msg;
           struct nlmsghdr *nh;

           msg = { &sa, sizeof(sa), &iov, 1, NULL, 0, 0 };
           len = recvmsg(fd, &msg, 0);

           for (nh = (struct nlmsghdr *) buf; NLMSG_OK (nh, len);
                nh = NLMSG_NEXT (nh, len)) {
               /* The end of multipart message */
               if (nh->nlmsg_type == NLMSG_DONE)

               if (nh->nlmsg_type == NLMSG_ERROR)
                   /* Do some error handling */

               /* Continue with parsing payload */

       cmsg(3), netlink(3), capabilities(7), rtnetlink(7), sock_diag(7)

       information about libnetlink ⟨*⟩

       information about libnl ⟨⟩

       RFC 3549 "Linux Netlink as an IP Services Protocol"

       This page is part of release 5.06 of the Linux man-pages project.  A
       description of the project, information about reporting bugs, and the
       latest version of this page, can be found at

Linux                             2020-02-09                        NETLINK(7)