Utilizing Cisco IP Cache Flow to Identify Abusive Hosts

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As a network engineer, identifying and mitigating network abuse is a critical task. Cisco's IP cache flow tools can help you detect hosts responsible for generating high volumes of traffic, which is often indicative of abusive behavior such as Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. Here’s an updated guide to effectively using show ip cache flow for this purpose.

Understanding IP Cache Flow

The show ip cache flow command in Cisco IOS provides detailed information on network flows, including source and destination IP addresses, packet counts, and byte counts. This information is invaluable for network monitoring and troubleshooting.

Finding Abusive Hosts

When dealing with a high-traffic router, manually sifting through the output of show ip cache flow can be overwhelming. By using regular expressions, you can quickly identify flows with high packet counts, which are often indicative of abuse.

Command Overview

  1. Finding Flows with Millions of Packets:

    show ip cache flow | include M$

    This command filters the output to show only those flows with packet counts in the millions. This is useful for spotting extremely high-volume flows that could be causing network issues.

  2. Finding Flows with Thousands of Packets:

    show ip cache flow | include K$

    This command shows flows with packet counts in the thousands, which can help in identifying potentially abusive hosts with slightly lower but still significant traffic volumes.

Use Cases

  • DoS Attacks: These regex-based commands can help quickly locate the source or target of a DoS attack by identifying unusually high packet flows.
  • DDoS Attacks: While the above commands are useful, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, involving numerous source hosts, require a different approach. Tools like Cisco NetFlow or specialized DDoS mitigation systems can aggregate flow data from multiple sources for a comprehensive analysis.

Additional Tips

  • Regular Monitoring: Regularly monitor the show ip cache flow output to establish a baseline for normal network traffic. This helps in quickly spotting anomalies.
  • Automated Alerts: Consider setting up automated alerts for traffic thresholds using Cisco's Embedded Event Manager (EEM) or third-party network monitoring tools.
  • Comprehensive Analysis: For deeper analysis, export flow data to a NetFlow collector for long-term storage and more sophisticated examination.


Using Cisco's show ip cache flow command with targeted regular expressions allows you to efficiently identify and investigate high-volume network flows. This capability is crucial for maintaining network security and performance, especially in the face of potential abuse such as DoS and DDoS attacks.

By staying vigilant and leveraging the right tools, you can ensure a robust and secure network environment.

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