Open Access Articles- Top Results for Netcat


Developer(s) *Hobbit*
Stable release 1.10 / 2 January 2007; 13 years ago (2007-01-02)
Operating system Unix
Type Network utility
License Original version: custom, permissive license
GNU Version: GPL
OpenBSD Version: BSD

Netcat (often abbreviated to nc) is a computer networking service for reading from and writing to network connections using TCP or UDP. Netcat is designed to be a dependable back-end that can be used directly or easily driven by other programs and scripts. At the same time, it is a feature-rich network debugging and investigation tool, since it can produce almost any kind of correlation its user could need and has a number of built-in capabilities.

Its list of features includes port scanning, transferring files, and port listening, and it can be used as a backdoor.


netcat's features include:[1]

  • Outbound or inbound connections, TCP or UDP, to or from any ports
  • Full DNS forward/reverse checking, with appropriate warnings
  • Ability to use any local source port
  • Ability to use any locally configured network source address
  • Built-in port-scanning capabilities, with randomization
  • Built-in loose source-routing capability
  • Can read command line arguments from standard input
  • Slow-send mode, one line every N seconds
  • Hex dump of transmitted and received data
  • Optional ability to let another program service establish connections
  • Optional telnet-options responder
  • Featured tunneling mode which permits user-defined tunneling, e.g., UDP or TCP, with the possibility of specifying all network parameters (source port/interface, listening port/interface, and the remote host allowed to connect to the tunnel).


Opening a raw connection to port 25 (like SMTP)

nc 25

Setting up a one-shot webserver on port 8080 to present the content of a file

 { echo -ne "HTTP/1.0 200 OK\r\nContent-Length: $(wc -c <some.file)\r\n\r\n"; cat some.file; } | nc -l 8080

The file can then be accessed via a web browser under http://servername:8080/. Netcat only serves the file once to the first client that connects and then exits, it also provides the content length for browsers that expect it. (This should work fine in a LAN, but probably may fail with any kind of firewall between.).

Checking if UDP ports (-u) 80-90 are open on using zero mode I/O (-z)

nc -vzu 80-90

Note that UDP tests will always show as "open". The -uz argument is useless.

Test if UDP port is open: simple UDP server and client

This test is useful, if you have shell access to the server that should be tested, but you do not know whether there is a firewall blocking a specific UDP port on the server.

On the listening host, i.e. on the server whose port needs to be checked, do the following:

nc -ul 7000

On the sending host, do the following – note that servname is the hostname of the listening host:

nc -u servname 7000

If text typed on the sending host (type something and hit enter) is displayed also on the listening host, then the UDP port 7000 is open. If it is not open, you will get an error such as "Connection refused".

There is a caveat. On some machines, IPv6 may be the default IP version to use by netcat. Thus, the host specified by the hostname is contacted using IPv6, and the user might not know about this. Ports may appear closed in the test, even though they would be open when using IPv4. This can be difficult to notice and may cause the false impression that the port is blocked, while it is actually open. You can force the use of IPv4 by using adding -4 to the options of the nc commands.

Pipe via UDP (-u) with a wait time (-w) of 1 second to 'loggerhost' on port 514

echo '<0>message' | nc -w 1 -u loggerhost 514

Port scanning

An uncommon use of netcat is port scanning. Netcat is not considered the best tool for this job, but it can be sufficient (a more advanced tool is nmap)

nc -v -n -z -w 1 1-1000

The "-n" parameter here prevents DNS lookup, "-z" makes nc not receive any data from the server, and "-w 1" makes the connection timeout after 1 second of inactivity.


Another useful behaviour is using netcat as a proxy. Both ports and hosts can be redirected. Look at this example:

nc -l 12345 | nc 80

Port 12345 represents the request

This starts a nc server on port 12345 and all the connections get redirected to If a web browser makes a request to nc, the request will be sent to google but the response will not be sent to the web browser. That is because pipes are unidirectional. This can be worked around with a named pipe to redirect the input and output.

mkfifo backpipe
nc -l 12345 0<backpipe | nc 80 1>backpipe

The "-c" option may also be used with the 'ncat' implementation:[2]

ncat -l 12345 -c 'nc 80'

Using a named pipe is a more reliable method because using "-c" option provides only a one-shot proxy.

Another useful feature is to proxy SSL connections. This way, the traffic can not be viewed in wire sniffing applications such as wireshark. This can be accomplished on UNIXes by utilizing mkfifo, netcat, and openssl.

 mkfifo tmp
 mkfifo tmp2
 nc -l 8080 -k > tmp < tmp2 &
 while [ 1 ]
  openssl s_client -connect -quiet < tmp > tmp2

Making any process a server

netcat can be used to make any process a network server. It can listen on a port and pipe the input it receives to that process.

The -e option spawns the executable with its input and output redirected via network socket.

For example, it is possible to expose a bourne shell process to remote computers.

To do so, on a computer A with IP, run this command:

 nc -l -p 1234 -e /bin/sh

Then, from any other computer on the same network, one could run this nc command:

 nc 1234
 ls -las

And the output one would see might be like this:

total 4288
4 drwxr-xr-x 15 imsovain users 4096 2009-02-17 07:47 .
4 drwxr-xr-x  4 imsovain users 4096 2009-01-18 21:22 ..
8 -rw-------  1 imsovain users 8192 2009-02-16 19:30 .bash_history
4 -rw-r--r--  1 imsovain users  220 2009-01-18 21:04 .bash_logout

In this way, the -e option can be used to create a rudimentary backdoor. Some administrators perceive this as a risk, and thus do not allow netcat on a computer.

Port Forwarding or Port Mapping

On Linux, NetCat can be used for port forwarding. Below are nine different ways to do port forwarding in NetCat (-c switch not supported though - these work with the 'ncat' incarnation of netcat):

 nc -l -p port1 -c 'nc -l -p port2'
 nc -l -p port1 -c 'nc host2 port2'
 nc -l -p port1 -c 'nc -u -l -p port2'
 nc -l -p port1 -c 'nc -u host2 port2'
 nc host1 port1 -c 'nc host2 port2'
 nc host1 port1 -c 'nc -u -l -p port2'
 nc host1 port1 -c 'nc -u host2 port2'
 nc -u -l -p port1 -c 'nc -u -l -p port2'
 nc -u -l -p port1 -c 'nc -u host2 port2'

Example, see #Proxying

Ports and reimplementations

The original version of netcat was a Unix program. The last version (1.10) was released in March 1996.[1]

There are several implementations on POSIX systems, including rewrites from scratch like GNU netcat[3] or OpenBSD netcat,[4] the latter of which supports IPv6. The OpenBSD version has been ported to the FreeBSD base[5] and Windows/Cygwin[6] as well. Mac OS X users can use MacPorts to install a netcat variant.[7] There is also a Microsoft Windows version of netcat available.[8]

Known ports for embedded systems includes versions for the Windows CE (named "Netcat 4 wince"[9]) or for the iPhone.[10]

BusyBox includes by default a lightweight version of netcat.

Solaris 11 includes netcat implementation based on OpenBSD netcat.

Socat[11] is a more complex variant of netcat. It is larger and more flexible and has more options that must be configured for a given task.

Cryptcat[12] is a version of netcat with integrated transport encryption capabilities.

In the middle of 2005, Nmap announced another netcat incarnation called Ncat.[13] It features new possibilities such as "Connection Brokering", TCP/UDP Redirection, SOCKS4 client and server support, ability to "Chain" Ncat processes, HTTP CONNECT proxying (and proxy chaining), SSL connect/listen support and IP address/connection filtering. Like Nmap, Ncat is cross-platform.

On some systems, modified versions or similar netcat utilities go by the command name(s) nc, ncat, pnetcat, socat, sock, socket, sbd.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Netcat 1.10". 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  2. ^ "Ncat Command Execution". Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  3. ^ Giovanni Giacobbi (2006-11-01). "The GNU Netcat project". Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  4. ^ "OpenBSD CVSWeb: src/usr.bin/nc/". Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  5. ^ delphij (2005-02-06). "Contents of /release/5.4.0/usr.bin/nc/Makefile". Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  6. ^ Thomas Linden (2011-03-02). "Netcat OpenBSD Cygwin Port". Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  7. ^ "MacPorts Portfiles". MacPorts. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  8. ^ Chris Wysopal. "netcat(Windows)". Securityfocus. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  9. ^ Andreas Bischoff (2010-06-07). "Netcat 4 wince". Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  10. ^ "Revision 772: /trunk/data/netcat". 2008-08-18. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  11. ^ "socat - Multipurpose relay". 2013-05-26. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  12. ^ "CryptCat Project". 2005-10-18. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  13. ^ "Ncat - Netcat for the 21st Century". 2009-07-08. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 

External links