NC(1) BSD General Commands Manual NC(1)
nc -- arbitrary TCP and UDP connections and listens
nc [-46bCDdFhklNnrStUuvZz] [-I length] [-i interval] [-M ttl] [-m minttl]
[-O length] [-P proxy_username] [-p source_port] [-q seconds]
[-s source] [-T keyword] [-V rtable] [-W recvlimit] [-w timeout]
[-X proxy_protocol] [-x proxy_address[:port]] [-Z peercertfile]
The nc (or netcat) utility is used for just about anything under the sun
involving TCP, UDP, or UNIX-domain sockets. It can open TCP connections,
send UDP packets, listen on arbitrary TCP and UDP ports, do port scan-
ning, and deal with both IPv4 and IPv6. Unlike telnet(1), nc scripts
nicely, and separates error messages onto standard error instead of send-
ing them to standard output, as telnet(1) does with some.
Common uses include:
o simple TCP proxies
o shell-script based HTTP clients and servers
o network daemon testing
o a SOCKS or HTTP ProxyCommand for ssh(1)
o and much, much more
The options are as follows:
-4 Forces nc to use IPv4 addresses only.
-6 Forces nc to use IPv6 addresses only.
-b Allow broadcast.
-C Send CRLF as line-ending. Each line feed (LF) character from the
input data is translated into CR+LF before being written to the
socket. Line feed characters that are already preceded with a
carriage return (CR) are not translated. Received data is not
-D Enable debugging on the socket.
-d Do not attempt to read from stdin.
-F Pass the first connected socket using sendmsg(2) to stdout and
exit. This is useful in conjunction with -X to have nc perform
connection setup with a proxy but then leave the rest of the con-
nection to another program (e.g. ssh(1) using the ssh_config(5)
-h Prints out nc help.
Specifies the size of the TCP receive buffer.
Specifies a delay time interval between lines of text sent and
received. Also causes a delay time between connections to multi-
-k Forces nc to stay listening for another connection after its cur-
rent connection is completed. It is an error to use this option
without the -l option. When used together with the -u option,
the server socket is not connected and it can receive UDP data-
grams from multiple hosts.
-l Used to specify that nc should listen for an incoming connection
rather than initiate a connection to a remote host. The
destination and port to listen on can be specified either as non-
optional arguments, or with options -s and -p respctively. It is
an error to use -l in conjunction with the -z option. Addition-
ally, any timeouts specified with the -w option are ignored.
-M ttl Set the TTL / hop limit of outgoing packets.
Ask the kernel to drop incoming packets whose TTL / hop limit is
-N shutdown(2) the network socket after EOF on the input. Some
servers require this to finish their work.
-n Do not do any DNS or service lookups on any specified addresses,
hostnames or ports.
Specifies the size of the TCP send buffer.
Specifies a username to present to a proxy server that requires
authentication. If no username is specified then authentication
will not be attempted. Proxy authentication is only supported
for HTTP CONNECT proxies at present.
Specifies the source port nc should use, subject to privilege
restrictions and availability.
after EOF on stdin, wait the specified number of seconds and then
quit. If seconds is negative, wait forever (default). Specifying
a non-negative seconds implies -N.
-r Specifies that source and/or destination ports should be chosen
randomly instead of sequentially within a range or in the order
that the system assigns them.
-S Enables the RFC 2385 TCP MD5 signature option.
Specifies the IP of the interface which is used to send the pack-
ets. For UNIX-domain datagram sockets, specifies the local tem-
porary socket file to create and use so that datagrams can be
Change IPv4 TOS value. keyword may be one of critical,
inetcontrol, lowcost, lowdelay, netcontrol, throughput,
reliability, or one of the DiffServ Code Points: ef, af11 ...
af43, cs0 ... cs7; or a number in either hex or decimal.
-t Causes nc to send RFC 854 DON'T and WON'T responses to RFC 854 DO
and WILL requests. This makes it possible to use nc to script
-U Specifies to use UNIX-domain sockets.
-u Use UDP instead of the default option of TCP. For UNIX-domain
sockets, use a datagram socket instead of a stream socket. If a
UNIX-domain socket is used, a temporary receiving socket is cre-
ated in /tmp unless the -s flag is given.
Set the routing table to be used.
-v Have nc give more verbose output.
Terminate after receiving recvlimit packets from the network.
Connections which cannot be established or are idle timeout after
timeout seconds. The -w flag has no effect on the -l option,
i.e. nc will listen forever for a connection, with or without the
-w flag. The default is no timeout.
Requests that nc should use the specified protocol when talking
to the proxy server. Supported protocols are ``4'' (SOCKS v.4),
``5'' (SOCKS v.5) and ``connect'' (HTTPS proxy). If the protocol
is not specified, SOCKS version 5 is used.
Requests that nc should connect to destination using a proxy at
proxy_address and port. If port is not specified, the well-known
port for the proxy protocol is used (1080 for SOCKS, 3128 for
HTTPS). An IPv6 address can be specified unambiguously by
enclosing proxy_address in square brackets.
-Z DCCP mode.
-z Specifies that nc should just scan for listening daemons, without
sending any data to them. It is an error to use this option in
conjunction with the -l option.
destination can be a numerical IP address or a symbolic hostname (unless
the -n option is given). In general, a destination must be specified,
unless the -l option is given (in which case the local host is used).
For UNIX-domain sockets, a destination is required and is the socket path
to connect to (or listen on if the -l option is given).
port can be a specified as a numeric port number, or as a service name.
Ports may be specified in a range of the form nn-mm. In general, a des-
tination port must be specified, unless the -U option is given.
It is quite simple to build a very basic client/server model using nc.
On one console, start nc listening on a specific port for a connection.
$ nc -l 1234
nc is now listening on port 1234 for a connection. On a second console
(or a second machine), connect to the machine and port being listened on:
$ nc 127.0.0.1 1234
There should now be a connection between the ports. Anything typed at
the second console will be concatenated to the first, and vice-versa.
After the connection has been set up, nc does not really care which side
is being used as a 'server' and which side is being used as a 'client'.
The connection may be terminated using an EOF ('^D').
There is no -c or -e option in this netcat, but you still can execute a
command after connection being established by redirecting file descrip-
tors. Be cautious here because opening a port and let anyone connected
execute arbitrary command on your site is DANGEROUS. If you really need
to do this, here is an example:
On 'server' side:
$ rm -f /tmp/f; mkfifo /tmp/f
$ cat /tmp/f | /bin/sh -i 2>&1 | nc -l 127.0.0.1 1234 > /tmp/f
On 'client' side:
$ nc host.example.com 1234
$ (shell prompt from host.example.com)
By doing this, you create a fifo at /tmp/f and make nc listen at port
1234 of address 127.0.0.1 on 'server' side, when a 'client' establishes a
connection successfully to that port, /bin/sh gets executed on 'server'
side and the shell prompt is given to 'client' side.
When connection is terminated, nc quits as well. Use -k if you want it
keep listening, but if the command quits this option won't restart it or
keep nc running. Also don't forget to remove the file descriptor once you
don't need it anymore:
$ rm -f /tmp/f
The example in the previous section can be expanded to build a basic data
transfer model. Any information input into one end of the connection
will be output to the other end, and input and output can be easily cap-
tured in order to emulate file transfer.
Start by using nc to listen on a specific port, with output captured into
$ nc -l 1234 > filename.out
Using a second machine, connect to the listening nc process, feeding it
the file which is to be transferred:
$ nc -N host.example.com 1234 < filename.in
After the file has been transferred, the connection will close automati-
TALKING TO SERVERS
It is sometimes useful to talk to servers ``by hand'' rather than through
a user interface. It can aid in troubleshooting, when it might be neces-
sary to verify what data a server is sending in response to commands
issued by the client. For example, to retrieve the home page of a web
$ printf "GET / HTTP/1.0\r\n\r\n" | nc host.example.com 80
Note that this also displays the headers sent by the web server. They
can be filtered, using a tool such as sed(1), if necessary.
More complicated examples can be built up when the user knows the format
of requests required by the server. As another example, an email may be
submitted to an SMTP server using:
$ nc [-C] localhost 25 << EOF
Body of email.
It may be useful to know which ports are open and running services on a
target machine. The -z flag can be used to tell nc to report open ports,
rather than initiate a connection. Usually it's useful to turn on verbose
output to stderr by use this option in conjunction with -v option.
$ nc -zv host.example.com 20-30
Connection to host.example.com 22 port [tcp/ssh] succeeded!
Connection to host.example.com 25 port [tcp/smtp] succeeded!
The port range was specified to limit the search to ports 20 - 30, and is
scanned by increasing order.
You can also specify a list of ports to scan, for example:
$ nc -zv host.example.com 80 20 22
nc: connect to host.example.com 80 (tcp) failed: Connection refused
nc: connect to host.example.com 20 (tcp) failed: Connection refused
Connection to host.example.com port [tcp/ssh] succeeded!
The ports are scanned by the order you given.
Alternatively, it might be useful to know which server software is run-
ning, and which versions. This information is often contained within the
greeting banners. In order to retrieve these, it is necessary to first
make a connection, and then break the connection when the banner has been
retrieved. This can be accomplished by specifying a small timeout with
the -w flag, or perhaps by issuing a "QUIT" command to the server:
$ echo "QUIT" | nc host.example.com 20-30
220 host.example.com IMS SMTP Receiver Version 0.84 Ready
Open a TCP connection to port 42 of host.example.com, using port 31337 as
the source port, with a timeout of 5 seconds:
$ nc -p 31337 -w 5 host.example.com 42
Open a UDP connection to port 53 of host.example.com:
$ nc -u host.example.com 53
Open a TCP connection to port 42 of host.example.com using 10.1.2.3 as
the IP for the local end of the connection:
$ nc -s 10.1.2.3 host.example.com 42
Create and listen on a UNIX-domain stream socket:
$ nc -lU /var/tmp/dsocket
Connect to port 42 of host.example.com via an HTTP proxy at 10.2.3.4,
port 8080. This example could also be used by ssh(1); see the
ProxyCommand directive in ssh_config(5) for more information.
$ nc -x10.2.3.4:8080 -Xconnect host.example.com 42
The same example again, this time enabling proxy authentication with
username ``ruser'' if the proxy requires it:
$ nc -x10.2.3.4:8080 -Xconnect -Pruser host.example.com 42
Original implementation by *Hobbit* <email@example.com>.
Rewritten with IPv6 support by Eric Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Modified for Debian port by Aron Xu <email@example.com>.
UDP port scans using the -uz combination of flags will always report suc-
cess irrespective of the target machine's state. However, in conjunction
with a traffic sniffer either on the target machine or an intermediary
device, the -uz combination could be useful for communications diagnos-
tics. Note that the amount of UDP traffic generated may be limited
either due to hardware resources and/or configuration settings.
BSD November 28, 2017 BSD