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ICMP


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The Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) is one of the core protocols of the Internet Protocol Suite.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T
It is chiefly used by networked computers' operating systems to send error messages—indicating, for instance, that a requested service is not available or that a host or router could not be reached.

Internet Control Message Protocol is part of the Internet Protocol Suite as defined in RFC 792. ICMP messages are typically generated in response to errors in IP datagrams (as specified in RFC 1122) or for diagnostic or routing purposes.

The version of ICMP for Internet Protocol version 4 is also known as ICMPv4, as it is part of IPv4. IPv6 has an equivalent protocol, ICMPv6. ICMP messages are constructed at the IP layer, usually from a normal IP datagram that has generated an ICMP response. IP encapsulates the appropriate ICMP message with a new IP header (to get the ICMP message back to the original sending host) and transmits the resulting datagram in the usual manner.

For example, every machine (such as an intermediate router) that forwards an IP datagram has to decrement the time to live (TTL) field of the IP header by one; if the TTL reaches 0, an ICMP Time to live exceeded in transit message is sent to the source of the datagram. Each ICMP message is encapsulated directly within a single IP datagram, and thus, like UDP, ICMP is unreliable.

ICMP will report the following network information:

  • Timeouts
  • Network congestion
  • Network errors such as an unreachable host or network.

The ping command is also supported by ICMP, and this can be used to debug network problems.


ICMP Messages:

The ICMP message consists of an 8 bit type, an 8 bit code, an 8 bit checksum, and contents which vary depending on code and type. The below table is a list of ICMP messages showing the type and code of the messages and their meanings.
Type Codes Description Purpose
0 0 Echo reply Query
3 0 Network Unreachable Error
3 1 Host Unreachable Error
3 2 Protocol Unreachable Error
3 3 Protocol Unreachable Error
3 4 Fragmentation needed with don't fragment bit set Error
3 5 Source route failed Error
3 6 Destination network unknown Error
3 7 Destination host unknown Error
3 8 Source host isolated Error
3 9 Destination network administratively prohibited Error
3 10 Destination host administratively prohibited Error
3 11 Network Unreachable for TOS Error
3 12 Host Unreachable for TOS Error
3 13 Communication administratively prohibited by filtering Error
3 14 Host precedence violation Error
3 15 Precedence cutoff in effect Error
4 0 Source quench Error
5 0 Redirect for network Error
5 1 Redirect for host Error
5 2 Redirect for type of service and network Error
5 3 Redirect for type of service and host Error
8 0 Echo request Query
9 0 Normal router advertisement Query
9 16 Router does not route common traffic Query
10 0 Router Solicitation Query
11 0 Time to live is zero during transit Error
11 1 Time to live is zero during reassembly Error
12 0 IP header bad Error
12 1 Required option missing Error
12 2 Bad length Error
13 0 Timestamp request Query
14 0 Timestamp reply Query
15 0 Information request Query
16 0 Information reply Query
17 0 Address mask request Query
18 0 Address mask request Query

ICMP is used for many different functions, the most important of which is error reporting. Some of these are "port unreachable", "host unreachable", "network unreachable", "destination network unknown", and "destination host unknown". Some not related to errors are:

  • Timestamp request and reply allows one system to ask another one for the current time.
  • Address mask and reply is used by a diskless workstation to get its subnet mask at boot time.
  • Echo request and echo reply is used by the ping program to test to see if another unit will respond.


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