A collection of hopefully useful Linux Commands for pen testers, this is not a complete list but a collection of commonly used commands + syntax as a sort of “cheatsheet”, this content will be constantly updated as I discover new awesomeness.

Linux Penetration Testing Commands

The commands listed below are designed for local enumeration, typical commands a penetration tester would use during post exploitation or when performing command injection etc. See our pen test cheat sheet for an in depth list of pen testing tool commands and example usage.

Linux Network Commands

Command Description

netstat -tulpn

Show Linux network ports with process ID's (PIDs)

watch ss -stplu

Watch TCP, UDP open ports in real time with socket summary.

lsof -i

Show established connections.

macchanger -m MACADDR INTR

Change MAC address on KALI Linux.

ifconfig eth0

Set IP address in Linux.

ifconfig eth0:1

Add IP address to existing network interface in Linux.

ifconfig eth0 hw ether MACADDR

Change MAC address in Linux using ifconfig.

ifconfig eth0 mtu 1500

Change MTU size Linux using ifconfig, change 1500 to your desired MTU.

dig -x

Dig reverse lookup on an IP address.


Reverse lookup on an IP address, in case dig is not installed.

dig @ domain.com -t AXFR

Perform a DNS zone transfer using dig.

host -l domain.com nameserver

Perform a DNS zone transfer using host.

nbtstat -A x.x.x.x

Get hostname for IP address.

ip addr add dev eth0

Adds a hidden IP address to Linux, does not show up when performing an ifconfig.

tcpkill -9 host google.com

Blocks access to google.com from the host machine.

echo "1" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward

Enables IP forwarding, turns Linux box into a router - handy for routing traffic through a box.

echo "" > /etc/resolv.conf

Use Google DNS.

System Information Commands

Useful for local enumeration.

Command Description


Shows currently logged in user on Linux.


Shows currently logged in user and groups for the user.


Shows last logged in users.


Show mounted drives.

df -h

Shows disk usage in human readable output.

echo "user:passwd" | chpasswd

Reset password in one line.

getent passwd

List users on Linux.

strings /usr/local/bin/blah

Shows contents of none text files, e.g. whats in a binary.

uname -ar

Shows running kernel version.


Add a new PATH, handy for local FS manipulation.


Show bash history, commands the user has entered previously.

Redhat / CentOS / RPM Based Distros

Command Description

cat /etc/redhat-release

Shows Redhat / CentOS version number.

rpm -qa

List all installed RPM's on an RPM based Linux distro.

rpm -q --changelog openvpn

Check installed RPM is patched against CVE, grep the output for CVE.

YUM Commands

Package manager used by RPM based systems, you can pull some usefull information about installed packages and or install additional tools.

Command Description

yum update

Update all RPM packages with YUM, also shows whats out of date.

yum update httpd

Update individual packages, in this example HTTPD (Apache).

yum install package

Install a package using YUM.

yum --exclude=package kernel* update

Exclude a package from being updates with YUM.

yum remove package

Remove package with YUM.

yum erase package

Remove package with YUM.

yum list package

Lists info about yum package.

yum provides httpd

What a packages does, e.g Apache HTTPD Server.

yum info httpd

Shows package info, architecture, version etc.

yum localinstall blah.rpm

Use YUM to install local RPM, settles deps from repo.

yum deplist package

Shows deps for a package.

yum list installed | more

List all installed packages.

yum grouplist | more

Show all YUM groups.

yum groupinstall 'Development Tools'

Install YUM group.

Debian / Ubuntu / .deb Based Distros

Command Description

cat /etc/debian_version

Shows Debian version number.

cat /etc/*-release

Shows Ubuntu version number.

dpkg -l

List all installed packages on Debian / .deb based Linux distro.

Linux User Management

Command Description

useradd new-user

Creates a new Linux user.

passwd username

Reset Linux user password, enter just passwd if you are root.

deluser username

Remove a Linux user.

Linux Decompression Commands

How to extract various archives (tar, zip, gzip, bzip2 etc) on Linux and some other tricks for searching inside of archives etc.

Command Description

unzip archive.zip

Extracts zip file on Linux.

zipgrep *.txt archive.zip

Search inside a .zip archive.

tar xf archive.tar

Extract tar file Linux.

tar xvzf archive.tar.gz

Extract a tar.gz file Linux.

tar xjf archive.tar.bz2

Extract a tar.bz2 file Linux.

tar ztvf file.tar.gz | grep blah

Search inside a tar.gz file.

gzip -d archive.gz

Extract a gzip file Linux.

zcat archive.gz

Read a gz file Linux without decompressing.

zless archive.gz

Same function as the less command for .gz archives.

zgrep 'blah' /var/log/maillog*.gz

Search inside .gz archives on Linux, search inside of compressed log files.

vim file.txt.gz

Use vim to read .txt.gz files (my personal favorite).

upx -9 -o output.exe input.exe

UPX compress .exe file Linux.

Linux Compression Commands

Command Description

zip -r file.zip /dir/*

Creates a .zip file on Linux.

tar cf archive.tar files

Creates a tar file on Linux.

tar czf archive.tar.gz files

Creates a tar.gz file on Linux.

tar cjf archive.tar.bz2 files

Creates a tar.bz2 file on Linux.

gzip file

Creates a file.gz file on Linux.

Linux File Commands

Command Description

df -h blah

Display size of file / dir Linux.

diff file1 file2

Compare / Show differences between two files on Linux.

md5sum file

Generate MD5SUM Linux.

md5sum -c blah.iso.md5

Check file against MD5SUM on Linux, assuming both file and .md5 are in the same dir.

file blah

Find out the type of file on Linux, also displays if file is 32 or 64 bit.


Convert Windows line endings to Unix / Linux.

base64 < input-file > output-file

Base64 encodes input file and outputs a Base64 encoded file called output-file.

base64 -d < input-file > output-file

Base64 decodes input file and outputs a Base64 decoded file called output-file.

touch -r ref-file new-file

Creates a new file using the timestamp data from the reference file, drop the -r to simply create a file.

rm -rf

Remove files and directories without prompting for confirmation.

Samba Commands

Connect to a Samba share from Linux.

$ smbmount //server/share /mnt/win -o user=username,password=password1
$ smbclient -U user \\\\server\\share
$ mount -t cifs -o username=user,password=password //x.x.x.x/share /mnt/share

Breaking Out of Limited Shells

Credit to G0tmi1k for these (or wherever he stole them from!).

The Python trick:

python -c 'import pty;pty.spawn("/bin/bash")'
echo os.system('/bin/bash')
/bin/sh -i

Misc Commands

Command Description

init 6

Reboot Linux from the command line.

gcc -o output.c input.c

Compile C code.

gcc -m32 -o output.c input.c

Cross compile C code, compile 32 bit binary on 64 bit Linux.


Disable bash history logging.

rdesktop X.X.X.X

Connect to RDP server from Linux.

kill -9 $$

Kill current session.

chown user:group blah

Change owner of file or dir.

chown -R user:group blah

Change owner of file or dir and all underlying files / dirs - recersive chown.

chmod 600 file

Change file / dir permissions, see [Linux File System Permissons](#linux-file-system-permissions) for details.

Clear bash history:

      $ ssh [email protected] | cat /dev/null > ~/.bash_history

Linux File System Permissions

Value Meaning


rwxrwxrwx No restriction, global WRX any user can do anything.


rwxr-xr-x Owner has full access, others can read and execute the file.


rwx------ Owner has full access, no one else has access.


rw-rw-rw- All users can read and write but not execute.


rw-r--r-- Owner can read and write, everyone else can read.


rw------- Owner can read and write, everyone else has no access.

Linux File System

Directory Description


/ also know as "slash" or the root.


Common programs, shared by the system, the system administrator and the users.


Boot files, boot loader (grub), kernels, vmlinuz


Contains references to system devices, files with special properties.


Important system config files.


Home directories for system users.


Library files, includes files for all kinds of programs needed by the system and the users.


Files that were saved during failures are here.


Standard mount point for external file systems.


Mount point for external file systems (on some distros).


Standard mount point for entire remote file systems - nfs.


Typically contains extra and third party software.


A virtual file system containing information about system resources.


root users home dir.


Programs for use by the system and the system administrator.


Temporary space for use by the system, cleaned upon reboot.


Programs, libraries, documentation etc. for all user-related programs.


Storage for all variable files and temporary files created by users, such as log files, mail queue, print spooler. Web servers, Databases etc.

Linux Interesting Files / Dir’s

Places that are worth a look if you are attempting to privilege escalate / perform post exploitation.

Directory Description


Contains local Linux users.


Contains local account password hashes.


Contains local account groups.


Contains service init script - worth a look to see whats installed.


System hostname.


Network interfaces.


System DNS servers.


System environment variables.


SSH keys.


Users bash history log.


Linux system log files are typically stored here.


UNIX system log files are typically stored here.



Apache access log file typical path.


File system mounts.