Tool of the Month: Netwox and Netwag
by Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier

The featured tool this month was sent in by Laurent Constantin, maintainer of Netwox and Netwag. Netwox is a "network toolbox" that contains a wide variety of network testing tools as well as a few miscellaneous goodies that might come in handy. Netwag is a GUI front-end for Netwox that makes Netwox even easier to use.

Getting it

I was shocked shocked, I say to find that Netwox and Netwag were not available from the Debian package repository. Netwox and Netwag are available from http://www.laurentconstantin.com/en/netw/. Note that you will need libpcap, libnet, and Tcl/Tk to compile and use Netwox and Netwag.

After downloading and uncompressing the source, you can run through the step-by-step instructions found in the INSTALLUNIX.TXT file or simply run the installunix.sh script after installing all the prerequisites. Netwox and Netwag should compile on almost any *nix system with the prerequisites installed. They also run on Windows, though I haven't actually tested using Netwox or Netwag on Windows.

Using Netwox and Netwag

There is a "lessons" file included with the Netwox source code, but I've found that it's better to just run the program and take it for a test drive. The netwox program has a text-based menu interface that is pretty easy to use. If you happen to know the number of the Netwox tool you want to use, you can simply run it from the command line without needing to get into the menu system. For example, to use Netwox's HTTP GET tool (118), run netwox 118 and the options for that particular tool. In this case, you might run the following:

netwox 118 --uri "http://www.yahoo.com/" --display-status --display-headers --display-body
This can be particularly handy when you use netwox on a regular basis to perform tests or if you want to use netwox in a script.

If you don't know the number of the Netwox tool you want to use, you can simply use the menu interface and explore. Even better, netwox will give you examples and usage help as you go. Note that you will need to be logged in as root to use some of netwox's functionality.

And it does have quite a bit of functionality. You can run DNS queries, sniff packets, perform all sorts of pings, audit networks, grab files via HTTP or FTP, and much more. You can even run backdoor servers/clients using netwox and netwag or do something as innocent as display an extended ASCII table. There are some functions in netwox that aren't quite as elegant (in my opinion) as using standalone tools (like dig), but it does provide quite the array of tools.

For the GUI set, Netwag is a great front-end for the functionality of Netwox. As far as I was able to tell, you should be able to use all of netwox's functionality in netwag. See Figure 1.
Figure 1: Netwag interface

There are also some added bonuses to the GUI. First, you can use multiple tools from netwox in a tabbed interface. If you're multi-tasking, this is much more pleasant than a single-tool interface provided by the menu-based netwox.

Second, netwag keeps a history of the netwox commands that you've run. Want to save one for later? No problem. Note that netwag also saves the history between sessions, so if you happened to run a netwox command last Friday through netwag but can't quite remember what you did, you can just scan the history and find it.

The GUI also offers four history tabs so that you can save your results or other tidbits while using netwag. You can even save a netwag session and start from exactly where you left off including window size by opening the session later on.

At the bottom of Netwag's interface, when running a command, you'll see an small text area with the actual command that's being run by netwox. You can edit this directly and re-run the command or save it for later usage.

In short, Netwox and Netwag are definitely tools that you want to add to your toolbox. While not the only networking tools you'll ever need, they'll definitely come in handy in a number of situations.

Send 'em in!

Once again, a big thanks to Laurent for suggesting Netwox/Netwag and to all the other folks who have written in with suggestions. If you have a free or open source software tool or utility you'd like to see in Tool of the Month, drop me a line with your suggestion. Please be sure to put "tool suggestion" in the subject line of your email, so that it doesn't get drop-kicked into the spambucket by my spam filters. See you next month!

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Last Modified: March 9, 2008