How to Check Open Ports in Linux? 🔍 [top 3 easy way]

we will delve into the world of open ports in Linux, exploring what they are, why they matter, and how you can effectively check them.

Updated: 27 Mar, 24 by Alireza 18 Min

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In the vast and interconnected world of computing, understanding how to check open ports in Linux is a fundamental skill for system administrators, security professionals, and anyone interested in network management. Open ports are like windows to your computer, allowing data to flow in and out. Whether you want to ensure the security of your system, troubleshoot network issues, or optimize your server's performance, the ability to check open ports is invaluable.

in this article Learn how to check open ports in Linux with this comprehensive guide. Discover the importance of open ports, understand the types of ports, and explore various tools and techniques, including netstat, ss, lsof, Wireshark, and nmap, to effectively monitor and troubleshoot your Linux vps system's network connections.

In the context of computing, a port is like a virtual gateway that allows communication between different services or applications within a system or over a network. Think of it as a numbered mailbox where data packets are received and dispatched to the appropriate destination. Each port is associated with a specific number known as a "port number."

Ports are a fundamental part of the client-server model in networking. They facilitate the exchange of data between a client (the requester) and a server (the provider). 

Different Types of Ports: In Linux, you encounter two primary types of ports: TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) ports and UDP (User Datagram Protocol) ports.

  • TCP Ports: TCP is a connection-oriented protocol, and TCP ports are used for reliable, ordered, and error-checked data transmission. They are commonly associated with services like web browsing, email, and file transfer.
  • UDP Ports: UDP is a connectionless protocol, and UDP ports are used for faster but less reliable data transmission. They are often associated with real-time applications like video streaming and online gaming.

How Ports Are Identified (Port Numbers): Port numbers are integers ranging from 1 to 65535. They help identify which service or application should handle incoming data packets. Port numbers are divided into three ranges:  

  •  Well-known Ports (0-1023): These ports are reserved for system services and widely used applications. For example, port 80 is reserved for HTTP traffic.
  •  Registered Ports (1024-49151): These ports are typically associated with less common services and applications. 
  •  Dynamic or Private Ports (49152-65535): These ports can be used for custom or temporary purposes, and they are not officially registered.

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  • Description: Netstat (short for Network Statistics) is a versatile command-line tool that provides information about network connections, routing tables, interface statistics, masquerade connections, and multicast memberships.   
  • Usage: Netstat is widely used for displaying open ports, both for TCP and UDP, and revealing the status of network connections.

ss (Socket Statistics)

  • Description: The ss command is another powerful tool for socket-related information. It offers a more modern and efficient alternative to netstat.  
  • Usage: You can utilize ss to list listening ports, display established connections, and retrieve socket statistics in real-time.   

lsof (List Open Files)

  • Description: Lsof is a versatile utility that lists open files, including network sockets, for active processes on your system.
  • Usage: Lsof can be employed to identify processes that have open network connections, providing insights into which applications are using specific ports.

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GUI-Based Tools for Checking Open Ports

While command-line tools are efficient for experienced users, there are also graphical user interface (GUI) tools available for checking open ports that offer a more user-friendly experience.


  • Description: Wireshark is a robust network packet analyzer that allows you to capture and inspect the data traveling on your network in real-time.  
  • Usage: You can use Wireshark to identify open ports by monitoring network traffic and analyzing packet data.


  • Description: Nmap, short for Network Mapper, is a versatile network scanning tool used to discover open ports, identify services running on Remote Access, and assess network security.
  • Usage: Nmap is particularly handy for port scanning and comprehensive network reconnaissance.

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Explanation of When to Use Which Tool

  • netstat and ss: These command-line tools are ideal for quick checks and basic network troubleshooting. They are readily available on most Linux systems and are useful for users comfortable with the command line.
  • lsof: If you need detailed information about which processes are using specific ports, lsof is your go-to tool.
  • Wireshark: Wireshark is excellent for in-depth network analysis and diagnosing complex network issues.
  • nmap: When you require a comprehensive network scan to discover open ports and services, nmap is the most robust choice.

Netstat, short for Network Statistics, is a versatile command-line utility that offers valuable insights into network-related information. It can display network statistics, routing tables, interface statistics, masquerade connections, and much more. another important thing in linux is How to Secure Linux Server and make our server secure.

Basic `netstat` Options for Checking Open Ports

  1. `-l` (List Listening Ports)

The `-l` option, when used with `netstat`, instructs it to display a list of all listening ports. Listening ports are those that are actively waiting for incoming connections. This is particularly useful for identifying services that are currently accepting connections:

netstat -l

  1. `-t` (TCP Ports)

To specifically list open TCP ports, you can use the `-t` option. This narrows down the results to TCP ports, which are commonly used for various network services:

netstat -t -l

  1. `-u` (UDP Ports)

Similarly, you can use the `-u` option to focus on UDP ports. UDP ports are often used for real-time applications and services, such as VoIP and online gaming:

netstat -u -l

Examples of Using `netstat` to Check Open Ports

Let's explore a few practical examples to illustrate how `netstat` can be employed to check open ports:

Example 1: List All Listening Ports:

netstat -l

Example 2: List TCP Listening Ports:

netstat -t -l

Example 3: List UDP Listening Ports:

netstat -u -l

`ss` is a versatile command-line utility that provides detailed socket statistics and information about network connections. It is designed to be faster and more efficient than `netstat`, making it an excellent choice for inspecting open ports on your Linux system.

Basic `ss` Options for Checking Open Ports

  1. `-l` (List Listening Ports)

The `-l` option, when used with `ss`, displays a list of listening ports. Listening ports are those that are actively waiting for incoming connections, which is crucial information for understanding the services running on your system:

ss -l

  1. `-t` (TCP Ports)

To focus on open TCP ports specifically, you can use the `-t` option with `ss`. This will narrow down the results to TCP ports, which are commonly used for various network services:

ss -t -l

  1. `-u` (UDP Ports)

Similarly, to list open UDP ports, you can employ the `-u` option. UDP ports are often associated with real-time applications and services:

ss -u -l

Examples of Using `ss` to Check Open Ports

Let's explore a few practical examples to illustrate how `ss` can be used to check open ports:

Example 1: List All Listening Ports:

ss -l

Example 2: List TCP Listening Ports:

ss -t -l

Example 3: List UDP Listening Ports:

ss -u -l

`lsof` is a command-line utility that provides a comprehensive list of open ports, including network sockets, for active processes running on your system. It can reveal which processes are using specific ports, making it an invaluable tool for identifying the services associated with open ports.

How `lsof` Can Be Used to Identify Open Ports

To check open ports using `lsof`, you can use the command with specific options that focus on network-related information. Here's how you can do it:

  1. List All Network Sockets

The following command will list all network sockets, including open ports, along with the associated processes:

lsof -i -n

  • `-i`: Specifies that you want to list network-related information.
  • `-n`: Prevents `lsof` from resolving hostnames, making the command faster.
  1. Filter by Protocol (TCP or UDP)

If you want to focus on either TCP or UDP ports, you can add the protocol option to the `lsof` command. For example, to list TCP ports:

lsof -i -n -P | grep "TCP"

And to list UDP ports:

lsof -i -n -P | grep "UDP"

Examples of Using `lsof` to Check Open Ports

Let's explore a few practical examples of using `lsof` to check open ports on your Linux system:

Example 1: List All Open Ports:

lsof -i -n

Example 2: List TCP Open Ports:

lsof -i -n -P | grep "TCP"

Example 3: List UDP Open Ports:

lsof -i -n -P | grep "UDP"

  1. Launch Wireshark

Before you can start using Wireshark to check open ports, you need to launch the application. Depending on your Linux distribution, you can usually find Wireshark in the application menu or start it from the command line:


  1. Select the Network Interface

Once Wireshark is running, you'll be prompted to choose a network interface to capture packets. Select the interface that corresponds to the network you want to monitor (e.g., Ethernet or Wi-Fi).

  1. Start Capturing Packets

After selecting the interface, click the "Start" or "Capture" button to begin capturing network packets. Wireshark will start displaying packets in real-time.

  1. Filter for Specific Ports

To narrow down your analysis to specific ports, you can use Wireshark's display filters. For example, to display only packets related to port 80 (HTTP), you can enter the filter `tcp.port == 80` in the display filter bar.

  1. Analyze Packet Data

Wireshark provides a wealth of information about each packet, including source and destination IP addresses, port numbers, and protocol details. By inspecting the packet data, you can identify open ports and the services associated with them.

  1. Stop Capturing Packets

When you have gathered the necessary information, you can stop capturing packets by clicking the "Stop" or "Capture" button again.

Examples of Wireshark Usage for Checking Open Ports

Example: Identifying Open HTTP (Port 80) Traffic:

  1. Launch Wireshark.
  2. Select your network interface.
  3. Start capturing packets.
  4. In the display filter bar, enter `tcp.port == 80`.
  5. Analyze the captured packets to identify open HTTP traffic on port 80.

Nmap is a command-line utility that excels in network reconnaissance and port scanning. It is known for its ability to perform host discovery, identify open ports and services, and provide valuable insights into the network topology.

How to Use nmap to Scan for Open Ports on Remote Systems

  1. Launch nmap

To begin, open a terminal window on your Linux system and type the following command to launch nmap:


  1. Specify the Target

You need to specify the target system or network you want to scan. You can provide an IP address, a hostname, or even a range of IP addresses. For example:


  1. Choose Scanning Options

Nmap offers a variety of scanning options tailored to different needs. Here are some common options for checking open ports:

  •  `-p` or `--port`: Specify the ports you want to scan. For example, to scan ports 80 (HTTP) and 443 (HTTPS), you can use:

  nmap -p 80,443

  •  `-A`: Enable version detection, script scanning, and OS detection for comprehensive information about the target. 

  nmap -A

  1. Start the Scan

Once you've configured the scan options and specified the target, press Enter to start the scan. Nmap will begin scanning the target system and display the results in real-time.

  1. Review the Results

Nmap will provide detailed information about open ports, services, and potentially even the operating system running on the target system. Analyze the results to identify open ports and the services associated with them.

Detailed Explanations of nmap Options for Port Scanning

Nmap offers numerous scanning options and techniques to tailor your port scanning to your specific needs. Some of the key options include:

  • `-sS` (TCP SYN scan): This scan technique sends a SYN packet to the target ports to determine their state. It is stealthy and effective for identifying open ports.
  • `-sU` (UDP scan): Use this option to scan for open UDP ports. UDP scanning can be more challenging than TCP scanning due to its connectionless nature.
  • `-O` (OS detection): Enable OS detection to identify the operating system of the target system based on characteristics of the network stack.
  • `-sV` (Version detection): This option enables version detection, allowing nmap to determine the version and software running on open ports.
  • `-T` (Timing templates): You can adjust the timing of the scan using different timing templates, ranging from "paranoid" (slow and stealthy) to "insane" (fast and aggressive).

Examples of Using nmap for Checking Open Ports

Example 1: Basic Port Scan:


Example 2: Scan Specific Ports (e.g., HTTP and HTTPS):

nmap -p 80,443

Example 3: Comprehensive Scan with Version Detection:

nmap -A

Example 4: UDP Port Scan:

nmap -sU

Troubleshooting these issues is essential for accurate and effective port scanning.

Handling Firewall Restrictions

Firewalls are a common obstacle when scanning for open ports, as they are designed to restrict unauthorized access to your system. If your port scanning results are unexpectedly limited or you encounter difficulties, consider the following troubleshooting steps:

  1. Check Firewall Rules: Review your firewall rules to ensure they allow traffic to the ports you're scanning. You may need to modify these rules to permit the desired traffic.
  2. Use Appropriate Scan Techniques: Depending on your goals and the firewall's configuration, you might need to adjust your scanning techniques. For example, use SYN scans (TCP SYN scan with nmap) for stealthy scans that evade some firewall rules.
  3. Scan from Within the Network: Scanning from within the same network as the target system can sometimes bypass external firewall restrictions. Try scanning from a different system within the network.
  4. Obtain Proper Authorization: Ensure that you have the necessary authorization to perform port scans, especially on systems you don't own. Unauthorized scanning can lead to legal and ethical issues.

Dealing with False Positives and False Negatives

Port scanning tools are not infallible and can sometimes produce false results. False positives indicate open ports that aren't actually open, while false negatives indicate closed ports incorrectly identified as open. To address these issues:

  1. Verify Results: Double-check the results from multiple scanning tools to validate findings. If different tools consistently report the same open port, it's more likely to be accurate.
  2. Tune Scan Parameters: Adjust scanning parameters, such as timing and technique, to minimize false results. Slower scans with appropriate timing settings can reduce false positives.
  3. Check Target System's State: Ensure that the target system is in the expected state. False positives can occur if the target system is misconfigured or unstable.
  4. Account for Firewall Filtering: Firewalls and intrusion detection systems can influence scan results. Understand the target system's network environment and the presence of security measures.

Debugging Network Connectivity Problems

When conducting port scans, network connectivity issues can impede your progress. Here are some troubleshooting steps to address common connectivity problems:

  1. Check Network Configuration: Verify that your network configuration is correct, including DNS settings and routing tables.
  2. Test Connectivity: Use standard network troubleshooting tools like `ping` to test connectivity to the target system. Ensure that you can reach the target before attempting port scans.
  3. Inspect Network Hardware: Examine network hardware, such as routers, switches, and cables, for physical issues that might disrupt connectivity.
  4. Review Firewall Rules: Review firewall rules and access control lists (ACLs) to ensure they are not blocking your scanning traffic.
  5. Consider Network Load: High network traffic or congestion can affect scan results. Schedule scans during periods of lower network activity.
  6. Use Appropriate Scan Techniques: Choose scan techniques and parameters that align with the target network's characteristics. For example, use more aggressive scans for local networks and stealthier scans for external networks.

In conclusion, the ability to check open ports in Linux is a fundamental skill that empowers system administrators, network professionals, and security experts to maintain the integrity and security of their systems. We've explored a range of powerful tools and techniques, from the classic command-line utilities like `netstat` and `ss` to the versatile network scanning capabilities of `nmap` and the granular insights provided by `lsof`. 

Open ports in Linux act as entry points for data flow and communication between services and applications. They are crucial for network operations, and understanding them is essential for system security, troubleshooting, and optimizing server performance.

Linux features two primary types of ports: TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol). This article provides a clear distinction between these two types, outlining their characteristics and common use cases in networking.

This guide discusses several tools for checking open ports in Linux, such as netstat, ss, lsof, Wireshark, and nmap. It offers practical advice on when to use each tool based on your specific needs, whether it's basic troubleshooting, in-depth network analysis, or comprehensive port scanning.

user monovm

Bailey Heathcote

2024, Jun, 24

This is a fantastic article! Understanding how to check open ports in Linux is crucial for anyone looking to secure their system and optimize network performance. The detailed explanations of netstat, ss, lsof, Wireshark, and nmap are especially helpful, as they cater to different user needs and preferences. Thanks for breaking down complex concepts and providing practical examples. This guide is a must-read for both beginners and seasoned professionals in network management!