Evasion using port tunnelling

Port tunneling is also known as port forwarding and port mapping. In simple terms, this technique forwards the packets sent to one destination port to another destination port. For example, packets sent to port 80 on one system are forwarded to port 8080 on another system.

Consider the following case: An SMTP server listening on port 25. It is not possible to connect to the SMTP server because the firewall blocks packets from the Internet sent to destination port 25. Packets sent to destination port 443 are not blocked, so we can send packets to port 443, and after they pass through the firewall, we forward them to port 25. Assume we can run a command of our choice on one of the systems behind the firewall. We can use that system to forward our packets to the SMTP server:

ncat -lvnp 443 -c "ncat TARGET_SERVER 25"
  • -lvnp 443 listens on TCP port 443. Because the port number < 1024, run ncat as root.

  • -c or --sh-exec executes the given command via /bin/sh.

  • ncat TARGET_SERVER 25 will connect to the target server at port 25.

As a result, ncat will listen on port 443, but it will forward all packets to port 25 on the target server.

Port tunnelling
In this case, the firewall is blocking port 25 and allowing port 443, port tunneling is
an efficient way to evade the firewall.


We have a web server listening on the HTTP port, 80. The firewall is blocking traffic to port 80 from the untrusted network; and traffic to TCP port 8008 is not blocked. There is a vulnerable web-form to set up the ncat listener that forwards the packets received to the forwarded port. Using port tunneling, browse to the web server and retrieve the flag.

Set up a port forwarding from port 80 to 8008 on the webserver from the vulnerable form hosted on port 8080 using the vulnerable form:

ncat -lvnp 8008 -c "ncat localhost 80"

On the attacker machine, try to connect netcat to the server with the non-filtered port in the firewall 8008 and request the website with a GET / HTTP request :

# nc TARGET_IP 8008