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I'm just wrapping my head around the utility netcat. So for test purpose I install Apache on my Linux OS and verified Apache runs by accessing the localhost url in my browser.

I want to test if the port 8080 was open on my machine by using netcat. I typed nc -z localhost 8080 into the console but nothing shows in return. Apache is running so the port 8080 is open. I don't understand why nothing is showing ?

Also if I try to scan a range of ports using nc -z localhost 1-9999 I also have nothing in return. Does it mean that no port is opened on my machine ?

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  • Fastest way to check for open TCP ports on your own machine is ss -lt. – dirdi Jan 30 '20 at 18:01
  • thanks for your shorthand but it does not answer my questions – Vetouz Jan 30 '20 at 18:04
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I don't understand why nothing is showing

In my Kubuntu I have the OpenBSD implementation of nc. Its manual states [emphasis mine]:

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.

So try nc -zv localhost 8080 or nc -zv localhost 1-9999.

I noticed I can test a single port by examining the exit status. Open port makes nc return 0; failed connection makes nc return 1. This approach works with or without -v.

In general, while testing ports this way, it's good to set a reasonably short timeout (e.g. -w 7) to avoid long delay when the scanned machine is completely silent.

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I do not know why you would expect output. From the man page:

-z Specifies that nc should just scan for listening daemons, without sending any data to them.

What happens if you connect to an http-server without sending any data? You get no response. Compare this with the normal cat:

ljm@verlaine[~]$ touch this
ljm@verlaine[~]$ cat this
ljm@verlaine[~]$ cat that
cat: that: No such file or directory

this is an empty file. So, for cat this you get no answer. Not a message "hey I found this; but it is empty", but just the content of this. It works the same way with nc.

As an example, pi listens to port 80 on my network.

ljm@verlaine[~]$ nc -z pi 80
ljm@verlaine[~]$ nc -z pi 83
pi.home [192.168.178.2] 83 (mit-ml-dev) : Connection refused
ljm@verlaine[~]$  echo -n "GET / HTTP/1.0\r\n\r\n" | nc pi 80
HTTP/1.1 404 Not found
Content-Type: text/plain
Content-length: 11

Not found

So, the first nc -z pi 80 connects to port 80 (which succeeds) sends nothing and does not get a reply.

The second nc -z pi 83 You get a message from nc that explains what is wrong.

The third nc sends some data to the webserver and gets an answer (a 404, but that is irrelevant)

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  • I don't understant. Ok you don't send data but when using nc -z shouldn't you have a response that say : hey the port 8080 is open ? – Vetouz Jan 30 '20 at 18:21
  • No, nc just gives the data it gets from the connection, which is nothing. If you want a confirmation of which ports are open, use nmap. Added the equivalent of cat; hope that makes it a bit clearer. – Ljm Dullaart Jan 30 '20 at 21:46

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