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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Security Product Review: Nessus Vulnerability Scanner by Tenable

Security Product Review: Nessus Vulnerability Scanner by Tenable

From time to time, I will be conducting product reviews of a security tool, application or website that I find to be very useful.

As a System Security Assessor, I often use and test many different tools and applications to do my job. One that has amazed me in recent years with excellent performance and results is the Nessus Vulnerability Scanner by Tenable.

Nessus is a free program designed to automate the testing and discovery of known security problems on the network and computer systems. For a free tool, Nessus has many useful capabilities such as using the Nessus Attack Scripting Language (NASL), which allows security professionals to use a simple language to describe individual attacks in conjunction to the provide vulnerability database based on the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures schema. Another powerful feature of Nessus is the client server technology that allow for distributive architecture. The server portion runs on most flavors of Unix and Linux including the Mac OS X operating system while the clients are available for both Windows and Unix/Linux.

In my testing of Nessus against the more expensive commercial applications such as Foundstone’s Foundscan Security Scanner version 5 and Internet Security Scanner (ISS), Nessus faired much better than ISS in respects to initial setup, time of completion and less false positives. Against Foundscan, Nessus fell a little short in the scanning options and reporting.

My conclusion, for the price and results, Nessus is an excellent primary or secondary tool to use for your security needs. Tenable also offer support at a cost for those who needs it. Check it out and decide for yourself. You can find more information on Nessus at: or

1 comment:

Doug said...

Nessus is as close to a "one stop shop" for vulnerability scanners as you can get. It contains tens of thousands of plugins designed to probe all facets of software, and these plugins are updated often. Simply put, if you think of your network as a car, Nessus gets under the hood of each network host and lets you know where real and potential vulnerabilities exist.

Here is a review that thoroughly explains the Nessus user interface and describes the functions of each of Nessus' command line switches: