The very first lesson they teach you in cybersecurity boot camp is that there’s no such thing as an invulnerable system. Virtually, any kind of electronic device or software can be hacked or tampered with maliciously. This is the very reason why software companies often choose to employ pen testers; white-hat hackers that attempt to bypass security to highlight all vulnerabilities.

As one would imagine, pen-testing the products or the infrastructure regularly is a time- and resource-consuming process. The good news is that sysadmins can conduct these of their own accord, without the need of bringing a pen tester onboard every time the infrastructure requires a vulnerability assessment. To that end, I’ve put together this small article on the best (and free) paid and open source vulnerability management tools your sysadmins can use to identify gaps in your company’s cybersecurity infrastructure.

What are open source vulnerability management tools?

Also called vulnerability scanning tools, these applications will help you identify the weaknesses in your security system. All of them have some sort of classification system (weak to critical) that is designed to show you the degree of exposure to malicious attacks. Apart from vulnerability classification, these tools also offer some insight into how to fix the discovered issue. Some tools have add-ons that will partly fix some of those issues, whether they’re network- or endpoint-related.

Paid and Open-Source Vulnerability Assessment Tools

Here are my top 10 choices in paid  vulnerability management tools. As the title suggests, in this list you will find both paid and open-source tools. Enjoy and don’t forget to use the Comments section to rate or berate your experience.

1. Wireshark

Wireshark is, undoubtedly, one of the most popular open-source network protocol analyzers. Oftentimes, it’s used as a teaching tool in an online course about networking fundamentals. The app itself is pretty straightforward, but it takes a while to learn how to work with it. As far as functionality is concerned, Wireshark allows you to identify network vulnerability through a technique called packet sniffing. Once installed on a machine, Wireshark will begin to analyze the network traffic. Should an anomaly be detected, the app will ‘strip’ the anomalous occurrence to ascertain whether it’s a network-delivered malicious attack or some type of error. Wireshark can also help you in drafting and implementing rules to protect your network.

Other features:

  • Deep-inspection – can analyze hundreds of network protocols. According to the official Wireshark page, the developers frequently add more protocols.
  • Multi-platformer – it’s compatible with MS Windows, macOS, Solaris, Linux, and the list goes on.
  • Network data capturing mode – pooled data can be reviewed in the GUI or Wireshark’s TTY-mode TShark Utility.
  • Advanced filtering – use the app’s filters to uncover vulnerabilities, attacks or to retrieve more data for your vulnerability assessment report.
  • Multi-format Read\Write support – Wireshark can perform read/write operations on the following formats: tcpdump, Catapult DCT2000, Microsoft Network Monitor, Network Instruments Observer, Novell LANayzer, RADCOM WAN/LAN Analyzer, Tektronix K12xx, and many others.
  • Support for Ethernet, Bluetooth, Token Ring, FDDI, IEE 802.11, PPP/HDLF, ATM, and USB.

2. Nmap

Nmap is an open-source vulnerability scanner. Much more sophisticated than Wireshark, Nmap can help you scan hundreds of machines on the fly, perform pin sweeps, investigate routing configurations, analyze firewall inbound/outbound rules, and much more. Compared to Wireshark, Nmap is somewhat difficult to master. There’s no GUI – only a command-type window where you can query your instructions. The good news is that Nmap allows the user to run custom scripts, which is very useful, especially when you’re searching for something very specific during your investigation.

Other features

  • Advanced network mapping features. More than capable of handling IP filters, routers, firewalls, and more.
  • TPC and UPD port scanning.
  • Large community. If you run into trouble while using Nmap, you can always ask the community for help. Nmap’s Facebook and Twitter pages are real treasure troves for both beginners and seasoned testers.
  • Covers most platforms. Nmap is compatible with Windows, Linux, macOS, FreeBSD, Solaris, IRIX, NetBSD, HP-UX, and even Amiga (now that’s a name I haven’t heard in a very long time).

3. Burp Suite Community Edition

The Burp Suite (yes, that’s what the app’s called) is a freeware web-based security testing software. PortSwigger’s Burp Suite is GUI-orientated just like Wireshark. However, Burp is lightyears ahead of Wireshark, not just on the aesthetical side, but also in terms of feature. The app’s ultra-crisp, web-hosted UI allows you to view and review larger chunks of data and construct actionable web security reports. The freeware version of Burp has two network-scanning modes: crawl & audit and crawl. Users can take advantage of Burp’s malware library to simulate various types of attacks. Real-time collaboration is also possible via the Burp Collaborator, a tool that pools result from all users involved in the project.

Other features

  • Edit, drop or view individual messages either on the client- or server-side.
  • Apply fine-grained interception policies. Very handy if you want to focus on specific messages.
  • Realistic simulations of malicious attacks. For instance, Burp Professional’s (paid version) Clickbandit, is capable of generating hundreds of clickjacking attacks to stress-test your online defenses.
  • Powerful reporting features. Burp’s Sequencer tool can perform statistical analysis on all your session tokens.
  • Unique CA certificate. Secure HTTPS connection interception can be achieved using Burp’s unique CA certificate. It can be installed in any browser.

4. OpenVAS

The Open Vulnerability Assessment System is Greenbone Networks’ response to community-curated (and free) vulnerability management tools. OpenVAS offers hundreds of pen testing products and tests. To date, the app’s feed contains no less than 50,000 vulnerability tests and continuing to grow. OpenVAS’ major caveats are OS compatibility (can only be run in Linux) and its rather steep learning curve. Not a very ‘friendly’ tool if you’ve only just begun messing around with port scanners or port sniffers, but, if you’re up for a challenge, OpenVAS is a great choice.

Other features

  • Rich dashboard– displays CVE graphs (by creation, severity, etc.), host topology, task ran during this session, NVTs (classified by severity class), and more.
  • Automation – use the task wizard to create a task flow. This allows you to scan your host’s IP and create recurrent tasks.
  • Actionable remediation tips – after running the wizard, OpenVAS will display a list of vulnerabilities found on the host. For a more granular approach, you can request a very detailed view of each identified vulnerability. Apart from the description, you will also find tips on how to remediate the vulnerability in question.

5. Detectify

Detectify is a web security scanner that helps your identity and remediates OS, system, and network vulnerabilities. The tool has three pricing tiers: Starter, Professional, and Advanced, but also comes with a 14-day free trial period. Unlike the other NVTs, Detectify works on a more set-and-forget basis, rather than hands-on.

The app is compatible with every operating system and the Internet browser can carry out approximately 20,000 tests (more are added each day), has the ethical hacking community’s seal of approval, and can also help you fix the identified vulnerabilities, once you’ve upgraded to full, of course. Detectify’s UI is sleek, beautifully designed, and extremely intuitive, making it a great choice for sysadmins or IT managers who’ve never dabbled in pen testing or vulnerability management.

Other features

  • Deep scanning – can look for exposed subdomains, compromised git repositories, ports left open, and more.
  • Advanced fingerprinting.
  • Continuous scans for subdomain takeover and other malicious attempts.
  • Bustling community – need a hand to interpret results or a second opinion? You can always ask the Detectify community and, of course, the developers. On top of that, is one of the most appreciated vulnerability management tools.

6. Metasploit

Metasploit is the Swiss Army knife of network scanning and testing. Commonly used for pen testing and vulnerability management, Metasploit is also used to distributed malicious payloads or to study the impact of various malware on networks and endpoints. Metasploit is open-source and backed up by a community of 200,000+ users. Although useful for everything from scanning, enumeration, and scouting, Metasploit’s existence is a controversial one since it’s used by both white-hat and black-hat hackers.

Other features:

  • Various payloads. Metasploit packs over 500 payloads – static, meterpreter, dynamic payloads, command shell payloads, and many others.
  • Cross-compatibility. This tool is compatible with all operating systems, although most pen testers (and hackers) prefer using Metasploit in conduction with Kali or other Linux-based operating systems.

7. ThreatMapper

ThreatMapper is an open-source vulnerability management tool designed to pinpoint and, of course, map out bugs and vulnerabilities in (running) hosts, images, virtual and non-virtual containers, and repositories. This tool works great with cloud, dockers, Kubernetes or similar. The sweet pot for me is ThreatMapper’s ranking feature which automatically sorts discovered vulnerability by risk of exploit, attack surface, method, and more. For increased accuracy, this feature fetches data from open-source CVE and CVSS repositories.

Other features:

  • Powerful GUI-oriented vulnerability management console. Use the graphically rich console to view your VMs, clusters, running containers, scan on demand, review vulnerability scoring and more.
  • Custom-built sensors. ThreatMapper features advanced sensrs and probes for Kubernetes, dockers, VM platforms & bare metal, and AWS Fargate.

8. OSPd

Scripting-intensive and CLI-based framework for scanners wrappers.  OSPd is open-source, easy to customize and works in conjunction with the Open Scanner Protocol (OSP) and GMP. For deployment, you will need Python 3.4 or higher and several libraries.

Other features:

  • Easy OSP Scanner Wrapper writing. OSPd allows you to write OSP scanner wrappers from scratch. Additionally, you can download custom-build scanner wrappers from open-source repositories.

9. Go CVE Search

Go CVE Search is a lightweight CVE data-gathering tool that can be integrated with just about any SIEM-type software.

Other features:

  • Latest CVE entries. Go CVE Search automatically fetches the latest CVE entries.
  • NVD compliance. NIST API now available, helping you fetch more than CVEs.

10. Watchdog

Watchdog can only be described as a makeshift vulnerability scanning tools made by piecing together several other open-source security tools. The tool’s scan engine shares tons of similarities with popular scanning tools such as Nmap, BuiltWith, Phantalyzer, Wappalyzer, and Skipfish.

Other features:

  • Local CVE database. Watchdog periodically fetches CVE updates from NIST, MITRE< Microsoft Bulletin, d2sec, capec, and more.
  • Scan any IP or domain. Quickly scan any IP range or domains using the built-in tools.
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Tips on how to solve the most common network vulnerabilities

Using paid and open source vulnerability management tools like the ones discussed throughout the article is just one of the many ways of ensuring that there are no loose ends in your security. However, there’s still the matter of prevention. On that note, here’s a shortlist of the most common network vulnerabilities and some tips on how to fix them.

1. Too many admin rights

There’s a reason why every company should start embracing the Zero Trust model – if one device hooked up to the network, becomes compromised, the other ones will quickly follow. Malware will try what is called rights escalation to propagate throughout the network. This one of the many reasons why you should instate an access governance program apart from using one or more of the vulnerability management tools listed in this article.

Working with existing AG frameworks like Microsoft Azure’s Active Directory can be challenging and, in the end, utterly useless, scalability-wise. AG automation is the answer to eliminating creeper rights. Heimdal Security’s Heimdal™ Privileged Access Management is a powerful Privileged Access Management (P.A.M) solution that, upon deployment, automatically de-escalates the users’ admin rights.

The unified dashboard allows for granular control over all elevated rights requests. Approval or denials are both logged and can be called up at any time for further investigation.  Furthermore, Heimdal™ Privileged Access Management is the only P.A.M solution on the market that de-escalates requested admin rights and kills admin-type tasks if a threat is detected on the machine (only works when associated with Heimdal Next-Gen Antivirus & MDM​).

2. (Regular) Data Backups

I know that it sounds like a no-brainer, but the fact of the matter is that many people, including those handling highly sensitive data, forget to make backup copies. Why should you stress the importance of regularly backing up your work? In case of a ransomware attack, the backup can make the difference between telling the hacker to go take a hike (ransomware-encrypted data can easily be restored from backups) and having to pay a truckload of money to get your data back.

3. Weak passwords

Passwords are your first lines of defense in case of a malicious attack. Weak passwords can be quickly bypassed. So, do yourself a world of good and put in place some sort of password-changing policy. More than that, you must also make sure that your employees abide by it.


Bear in mind that the above list of paid and open source vulnerability management tools is not all-inclusive. There are plenty of open-source and paid vulnerability management tools out there. Have you had the chance to test out these amazing tools? Hit the comments section and tell me about your experience.

What Is Nmap and How to Use It to Enhance Network Security

8 Free and Open Source Patch Management Tools for Your Company [Updated 2023]

What Is Vulnerability Management?

The Zero Trust Security Model Explained

Vulnerability Assessment 101

What Is a CVE? Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures Explained

10 Common Network Vulnerabilities and How to Prevent Them

What Is Risk-Based Vulnerability Management?

A List of Vulnerable Products to the Log4j Vulnerability


Great post Vladimir, this blog seems to be a great resource center for everyone looking for advice with vulnerability management, there are a lot of tools out there that people who aren’t any wiser could become overwhelmed.

A wonderful blog that provides complete idea on vulnerability management and fixing security gaps. This will help the readers to know about website vulnerabilities that may damage their website. You said it right! No system is safe as any kind of electronic device or software can be hacked, virtually. The only method to safeguard the website is to conduct periodic vulnerability and penetration testing.

This is great! Where can I download a copy?

Vladimir Unterfingher on July 3, 2020 at 5:46 pm

Hi Robert,

Just hit the hyperlink under each tool. They will take you to the matching download pages. Hope this helps. Cheers!

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