I remember reading once that, in this world, you can’t be certain of anything, except, of course, death and taxes. We should also add “malware” to that list, since, in today’s cyber-world, having to tackle malware and their aftereffects, is no longer of If; rather a When. Enterprise cybersecurity can no longer take the proverbial back seat – it’s riding shotgun or ditching the ride altogether.

Companies failing to employ cybersecurity countermeasures are just going to have to figure out a way to put hit-and-run hackers on their permanent payroll.  It may very well sound too surrealistic, but the idea remains unchanged – no online (and offline) security infrastructure means that even the most inexperienced hacker can pick clean your company’s bank account.

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 a 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) vulnerability management tools your sysadmins can use to identify gaps in your company’s cybersecurity infrastructure.

What are 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.

Vulnerability Open-Source and Paid Vulnerability Assessment Tools

Here are my top 5 choices in 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 network 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 it’s 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 vulnerability 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 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.
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Tips on how to solve the most common network vulnerabilities

Using 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 short list 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. Working with existing AG frameworks like Microsoft Azure’ 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 Thor AdminPrivilege™ 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, AdminPrivilege™ 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 Thor Vigilance Enterprise).

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 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.


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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