I felt I needed to write an article about netcat, so here is it !
Netcat is an incredibly usefull tool, that allows you to play with tcp connection easily from the shell.
Basically, as it name implies, it’s just cat over the network, but what its name doesn’t tell you is that it also can act as a socket listener.
So let’s play with pipes, here is one of my favourite use of netcat:
mkfifo proxypipe cat proxypipe | nc -l -p 80 | tee -a inflow | nc localhost 81 | tee -a outflow 1>proxypipe
This command will redirect traffic from localhost:80 to localhost:81, in the inflow file you while find the incoming http request, in the outfile, you will find the http response from the server.
Similarly, you can do this:
cat proxypipe | nc -l 80 | tee -a inflow | sed 's/^Host.*/Host: www.google.fr/' | nc www.google.fr 80 | tee -a outflow >proxypipe
This will allow your browser to point to google using http://localhost .
Anyway, this is my favourite but netcat has thounds of other uses, have a look at it !
It can be usefull for file transfers (gzip|nc) , performance measurement (dd|gzip), protocol debugging (replaying requests), security testing (nc does port scan) …