ngrep is a "network grep" utility that can be used to match regular expressions within network packet payloads. This is a very handy utility as many network analyzers ("packet sniffers") can examine the packet header, but either do not display or cannot filter based on packet payload.

Most of the usage examples were obtained from the May 2001 Sys Admin magazine article featuring ngrep.

ngrep is available from The UNIX version requires libpcap, installed as part of tcpdump ( The Windows version requires WinPcap.

Usage examples:
ngrep '' udp (print all UDP packets)
ngrep '' icmp (print all ICMP packets)
ngrep '' port 53 (print TCP or UDP port 53 packets)
ngrep '' tcp port 23 (print TCP port 23 packets)
ngrep 'LILWORD' port 138 (print Microsoft browsing traffic for NT domain LILWORLD)
ngrep -iq 'rcpt to|mail from' tcp port 25 (monitor current delivery and print sender and recipients)
ngrep 'user' port 110 (monitor POP3)
ngrep -q 'abcd' icmp (Microsoft operating systems fill the ICMP payload with the alphabet; is the "pinging" host running a Microsoft operating system?)
ngrep -iq 'user-agent' tcp port 80 (determine client application that client host is running)
ngrep '220' port 21 (determine version of FTP server)
ngrep 'SSH' port 22 (investigate Secure Shell)
ngrep -v '' port 23 (see all traffic but telnet)
ngrep -d le0 '' (listen to le0)

Useful flags:
-A n (prints out "n" packets after the match)
-l (pipe the output of ngrep to another program for more processing)
-v (print all lines not matching the expression)
-d (specify the device you want to monitor)

If you are using the Windows version, substitute double quotes for single quotes in the usage examples above.

WinPcap Brings Unix Network Tools to Windows

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Last modified: 04/05/2004