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I recently needed to run Nmap against a ton of hosts at once but my internet connection died as soon as I launched all the concurrent threads. That had never happened before – turns out that I maxed out the “state table” on my SG-2440 pfSense router.

The default settings allow it to hold 405,000 max connections in the firewall state table. Every million states take about a gig of RAM and the router has 4 gig total, so the default is to let the state table take up 10% of the total memory capacity at most. Apparently running around 50+ Nmap threads against all ports per host maxes that out immediately.

I had to SSH into the router and flush the state table (“pfctl -F states”) to get my connection working again. Then I bumped the max states up to 3M and I scaled back the number of Nmap threads I’m running. Now it works but I thought that was a funny problem to come across; I didn’t foresee my fancy router being the bottleneck.