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NC(1) General Commands Manual NC(1)

nc
arbitrary TCP and UDP connections and listens

nc [
-46cDdFhklNnrStUuvz
] [
-C certfile
] [
-e name
] [
-H hash
] [
-I length
] [
-i interval
] [
-K keyfile
] [
-M ttl
] [
-m minttl
] [
-O length
] [
-o staplefile
] [
-P proxy_username
] [
-p source_port
] [
-R CAfile
] [
-s source
] [
-T keyword
] [
-V rtable
] [
-W recvlimit
] [
-w timeout
] [
-X proxy_protocol
] [
-x proxy_address[
:port
]
] [
-Z peercertfile
] [
destination
] [
port
]

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 scanning, and deal with both IPv4 and IPv6. Unlike telnet(1), nc scripts nicely, and separates error messages onto standard error instead of sending them to standard output, as telnet(1) does with some.
Common uses include:
The options are as follows:
 
 
Use IPv4 addresses only.
 
 
Use IPv6 addresses only.
 
 
certfile
Load the public key part of the TLS peer certificate from certfile, in PEM format. Requires -c.
 
 
Use TLS to connect or listen. Cannot be used together with any of the options -FuU.
 
 
Enable debugging on the socket.
 
 
Do not attempt to read from stdin.
 
 
name
Only accept the TLS peer certificate if it contains the name. Requires -c. If not specified, destination is used.
 
 
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 connection to another program (e.g. ssh(1) using the ssh_config(5) ProxyUseFdpass option). Cannot be used with -c or -U.
 
 
hash
Only accept the TLS peer certificate if its hash returned from tls_peer_cert_hash(3) matches hash. Requires -c and cannot be used with -T noverify.
 
 
Print out the nc help text and exit.
 
 
length
Specify the size of the TCP receive buffer.
 
 
interval
Sleep for interval seconds between lines of text sent and received. Also causes a delay time between connections to multiple ports.
 
 
keyfile
Load the TLS private key from keyfile, in PEM format. Requires -c.
 
 
When a connection is completed, listen for another one. Requires -l. When used together with the -u option, the server socket is not connected and it can receive UDP datagrams from multiple hosts.
 
 
Listen for an incoming connection rather than initiating a connection to a remote host. Cannot be used together with any of the options -psxz. Additionally, any timeouts specified with the -w option are ignored.
 
 
ttl
Set the TTL / hop limit of outgoing packets.
 
 
minttl
Ask the kernel to drop incoming packets whose TTL / hop limit is under minttl.
 
 
shutdown(2) the network socket after EOF on the input. Some servers require this to finish their work.
 
 
Do not do any DNS or service lookups on any specified addresses, hostnames or ports.
 
 
length
Specify the size of the TCP send buffer.
 
 
staplefile
During the TLS handshake, load data to be stapled from staplefile, which is expected to contain an OCSP response from an OCSP server in DER format. Requires -c and -C.
 
 
proxy_username
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.
 
 
source_port
Specify the source port nc should use, subject to privilege restrictions and availability. Cannot be used together with -l.
 
 
CAfile
Load the root CA bundle for TLS certificate verification from CAfile, in PEM format, instead of /etc/ssl/cert.pem. Requires -c.
 
 
Choose source and/or destination ports randomly instead of sequentially within a range or in the order that the system assigns them.
 
 
Enable the RFC 2385 TCP MD5 signature option.
 
 
source
Send packets from the interface with the source IP address. For UNIX-domain datagram sockets, specifies the local temporary socket file to create and use so that datagrams can be received. Cannot be used together with -l or -x.
 
 
keyword
Change the IPv4 TOS value or the TLS options.
For TLS options, keyword may be one of: noverify, which disables certificate verification; noname, which disables certificate name checking; clientcert, which requires a client certificate on incoming connections; or muststaple, which requires the peer to provide a valid stapled OCSP response with the handshake. The following TLS options specify a value in the form of a key=value pair: ciphers, which allows the supported TLS ciphers to be specified (see tls_config_set_ciphers(3) for further details); protocols, which allows the supported TLS protocols to be specified (see tls_config_parse_protocols(3) for further details). Specifying TLS options requires -c.
For the IPv4 TOS value, keyword may be one of critical, inetcontrol, lowdelay, netcontrol, throughput, reliability, or one of the DiffServ Code Points: ef, af11 ... af43, cs0 ... cs7; or a number in either hex or decimal.
 
 
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 telnet sessions.
 
 
Use UNIX-domain sockets. Cannot be used together with any of the options -cFx.
 
 
Use UDP instead of TCP. Cannot be used together with -c or -x. 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 created in /tmp unless the -s flag is given.
 
 
rtable
Set the routing table to be used.
 
 
Produce more verbose output.
 
 
recvlimit
Terminate after receiving recvlimit packets from the network.
 
 
timeout
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.
 
 
proxy_protocol
Use proxy_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.
 
 
proxy_address[
:port
]
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. A proxy cannot be used with any of the options -lsuU.
 
 
peercertfile
Save the peer certificates to peercertfile, in PEM format. Requires -c.
 
 
Only scan for listening daemons, without sending any data to them. Cannot be used together with -l.
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 destination 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. For example:
$ 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’).

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 captured in order to emulate file transfer.
Start by using nc to listen on a specific port, with output captured into a file:
$ 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 automatically.

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 necessary 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 site:
$ 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 localhost 25 << EOF 
HELO host.example.com 
MAIL FROM:<user@host.example.com> 
RCPT TO:<user2@host.example.com> 
DATA 
Body of email. 
. 
QUIT 
EOF

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. For example:
$ nc -z 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.
Alternatively, it might be useful to know which server software is running, 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 
SSH-1.99-OpenSSH_3.6.1p2 
Protocol mismatch. 
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 TCP connection to port 443 of www.example.com, and negotiate TLS with any supported TLS protocol version and "compat" ciphers:
$ nc -cv -T protocols=all -T ciphers=compat www.example.com 443
Open a TCP connection to port 443 of www.google.ca, and negotiate TLS. Check for a different name in the certificate for validation:
$ nc -cv -e adsf.au.doubleclick.net www.google.ca 443
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

cat(1), ssh(1)

Original implementation by *Hobbit* <hobbit@avian.org>.
 
Rewritten with IPv6 support by
Eric Jackson <ericj@monkey.org>.

UDP port scans using the -uz combination of flags will always report success 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 diagnostics. Note that the amount of UDP traffic generated may be limited either due to hardware resources and/or configuration settings.
August 17, 2018 OpenBSD-current