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47.2.3. Evaluating the Tools

An assessment can start by using some form of an information gathering tool. When assessing the entire network, map the layout first to find the hosts that are running. Once located, examine each host individually. Focusing on these hosts requires another set of tools. Knowing which tools to use may be the most crucial step in finding vulnerabilities.
Just as in any aspect of everyday life, there are many different tools that perform the same job. This concept applies to performing vulnerability assessments as well. There are tools specific to operating systems, applications, and even networks (based on the protocols used). Some tools are free; others are not. Some tools are intuitive and easy to use, while others are cryptic and poorly documented but have features that other tools do not.
Finding the right tools may be a daunting task and in the end, experience counts. If possible, set up a test lab and try out as many tools as you can, noting the strengths and weaknesses of each. Review the README file or man page for the tool. Additionally, look to the Internet for more information, such as articles, step-by-step guides, or even mailing lists specific to a tool.
The tools discussed below are just a small sampling of the available tools.

47.2.3.1. Scanning Hosts with Nmap

Nmap is a popular tool included in Red Hat Enterprise Linux that can be used to determine the layout of a network. Nmap has been available for many years and is probably the most often used tool when gathering information. An excellent man page is included that provides a detailed description of its options and usage. Administrators can use Nmap on a network to find host systems and open ports on those systems.
Nmap is a competent first step in vulnerability assessment. You can map out all the hosts within your network and even pass an option that allows Nmap to attempt to identify the operating system running on a particular host. Nmap is a good foundation for establishing a policy of using secure services and stopping unused services.
47.2.3.1.1. Using Nmap
Nmap can be run from a shell prompt by typing the nmap command followed by the hostname or IP address of the machine to scan.
nmap foo.example.com
The results of the scan (which could take up to a few minutes, depending on where the host is located) should look similar to the following:
Starting nmap V. 3.50 ( www.insecure.org/nmap/ )
Interesting ports on localhost.localdomain (127.0.0.1):
(The 1591 ports scanned but not shown below are in state: closed)
Port       State       Service
22/tcp     open        ssh
25/tcp     open        smtp
111/tcp    open        sunrpc
443/tcp    open        https
515/tcp    open        printer
950/tcp    open        oftep-rpc
6000/tcp   open        X11

Nmap run completed -- 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 71.825 seconds
Nmap tests the most common network communication ports for listening or waiting services. This knowledge can be helpful to an administrator who wants to close down unnecessary or unused services.
For more information about using Nmap, refer to the official homepage at the following URL: