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How to Enable Promiscuous Mode in VirtualBox?

Setting up promiscuous mode in a VirtualBox Bridged Adapter is crucial for network monitoring and packet analysis. This guide provides an overview of what promiscuous mode is. It also explains why it’s useful and how to enable it in VirtualBox.

What is Promiscuous Mode?

Promiscuous mode is a network interface mode where a device intercepts and reads every packet on the network, regardless of its intended destination.

For example; Imagine a network switch where multiple computers (A, B, C) are connected. Normally, if Computer A sends a packet to Computer B, only Computer B will receive it. However, if Computer C is set to promiscuous mode, Computer C can capture packets sent between Computers A and B if set to promiscuous mode.

VirtualBox offers several networking modes, including NAT, Bridged, Host-Only, and Internal Network. To enable promiscuous mode, you typically need to select the Bridged Adapter mode, which allows the virtual machine to connect to the physical network and receive all network packets. By default, the Bridged Adapter mode operates in non-promiscuous mode, meaning it only receives packets intended for the virtual machine. Enabling promiscuous mode modifies this behavior to capture all network traffic on the physical network segment.

After enabling promiscuous mode in VirtualBox, you can use network monitoring tools, packet sniffers, or other network analysis software within the virtual machine to inspect network traffic. This capability is particularly valuable for troubleshooting network issues, monitoring network performance, or detecting suspicious activities within the network. By leveraging promiscuous mode in VirtualBox, users can gain a deeper understanding of network behavior and improve the overall security and performance of their virtualized environments.

Step-by-step Guide to Enabling Promiscuous Mode

  1. Access Virtual Machine Settings: Start by opening VirtualBox and selecting the virtual machine for which you want to enable promiscuous mode.
  1. Navigate to Network Settings: Click on the “Settings” option for the selected virtual machine and go to the “Network” section.
  1. Choose Bridged Adapter Mode: In the network settings, choose the “Bridged Adapter” mode from the dropdown menu “Attached to” to connect the virtual machine to the physical network.
  1. Enable Promiscuous Mode: Look for an option related to the promiscuous mode or packet capturing under the “Advanced” within the network settings and enable it.

When promiscuous mode is set to ‘allow VMs,’ you will only see network traffic between virtual machines. This can be useful for monitoring or troubleshooting virtual environments. On the other hand, setting promiscuous mode to ‘allow all’ will capture traffic from both virtual and physical machines, meaning you will see all network traffic on the network segment.

  1. Save and Apply Changes: Once you’ve enabled promiscuous mode, save the settings and start the virtual machine to apply the changes.
  1. Verify Promiscuous Mode: To confirm that promiscuous mode is enabled, you can use network monitoring tools or packet sniffers to capture and analyze network traffic within the virtual machine.

By following these steps, you can effectively enable promiscuous mode in VirtualBox and enhance your network monitoring capabilities within virtual environments.

How to Verify Promiscuous Mode is Working or Not?

To verify if promiscuous mode is working, you can use network monitoring tools such as Wireshark or tcpdump. Alternatively for Linux users, the ifconfig command is all you need to check it!

Wireshark: Open Wireshark and start a capture on the network interface. If the interface is in promiscuous mode, you’ll see all network traffic, not just traffic addressed to your computer.

tcpdump: Run tcpdump on the command line with the -p option. Without the -p option, tcpdump will put the interface in promiscuous mode. To check if it’s capturing all traffic, compare it with and without the -p option.

sudo tcpdump -i eth0 -p
sudo tcpdump -i eth0

Replace eth0 with the network interface your machine.

ifconfig command: If promiscuous mode is enabled, you’ll see PROMISC in the interface’s flags in this commands output.

ifconfig eth0

Replace eth0 with the network interface your machine.

What are the Common Issues Which I Can Expect When Using Promiscous Mode?

Enabling promiscuous mode in VirtualBox can cause issues like network connectivity problems and performance degradation.


  • Incorrect network configurations or conflicts can cause this issue. Troubleshoot by reviewing VirtualBox’s network settings, ensuring the host’s network supports promiscuous mode, and updating VirtualBox or network drivers.
  • Promiscuous mode can increase CPU usage by capturing all network packets. Therefore there is only a solution for this to ensure that the host has adequate resources.

Enabling promiscuous mode on a VirtualBox bridging adapter is a simple process that greatly improves your ability to monitor and analyze network traffic. By following the instructions in this tutorial, you can understand and enable Promiscuous mode in VirtualBox effectively.

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