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3.2.8. Verifying Which Ports Are Listening

After configuring network services, it is important to pay attention to which ports are actually listening on the system's network interfaces. Any open ports can be evidence of an intrusion.
There are two basic approaches for listing the ports that are listening on the network. The less reliable approach is to query the network stack using commands such as netstat -an or lsof -i. This method is less reliable since these programs do not connect to the machine from the network, but rather check to see what is running on the system. For this reason, these applications are frequent targets for replacement by attackers. Crackers attempt to cover their tracks if they open unauthorized network ports by replacing netstat and lsof with their own, modified versions.
A more reliable way to check which ports are listening on the network is to use a port scanner such as nmap.
The following command issued from the console determines which ports are listening for TCP connections from the network:
nmap -sT -O localhost
The output of this command appears as follows:
Starting Nmap 4.68 ( ) at 2009-03-06 12:08 EST
Interesting ports on localhost.localdomain (
Not shown: 1711 closed ports
22/tcp    open  ssh 
25/tcp    open  smtp
111/tcp   open  rpcbind
113/tcp   open  auth
631/tcp   open  ipp
834/tcp   open  unknown
2601/tcp  open  zebra
32774/tcp open  sometimes-rpc11
Device type: general purpose
Running: Linux 2.6.X
OS details: Linux 2.6.17 - 2.6.24
Uptime: 4.122 days (since Mon Mar  2 09:12:31 2009)
Network Distance: 0 hops
OS detection performed. Please report any incorrect results at .
Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 1.420 seconds
This output shows the system is running portmap due to the presence of the sunrpc service. However, there is also a mystery service on port 834. To check if the port is associated with the official list of known services, type:
cat /etc/services | grep 834
This command returns no output. This indicates that while the port is in the reserved range (meaning 0 through 1023) and requires root access to open, it is not associated with a known service.
Next, check for information about the port using netstat or lsof. To check for port 834 using netstat, use the following command:
netstat -anp | grep 834
The command returns the following output:
tcp   0    0*   LISTEN   653/ypbind
The presence of the open port in netstat is reassuring because a cracker opening a port surreptitiously on a hacked system is not likely to allow it to be revealed through this command. Also, the [p] option reveals the process ID (PID) of the service that opened the port. In this case, the open port belongs to ypbind (NIS), which is an RPC service handled in conjunction with the portmap service.
The lsof command reveals similar information to netstat since it is also capable of linking open ports to services:
lsof -i | grep 834
The relevant portion of the output from this command follows:
ypbind      653        0    7u  IPv4       1319                 TCP *:834 (LISTEN)
ypbind      655        0    7u  IPv4       1319                 TCP *:834 (LISTEN)
ypbind      656        0    7u  IPv4       1319                 TCP *:834 (LISTEN)
ypbind      657        0    7u  IPv4       1319                 TCP *:834 (LISTEN)
These tools reveal a great deal about the status of the services running on a machine. These tools are flexible and can provide a wealth of information about network services and configuration. Refer to the man pages for lsof, netstat, nmap, and services for more information.