Active information gathering

Port and service scanning

The more you discover about a target, the more opportunities for exploitation you have. It's good to know how to use a variety of tools (and a variety of options for each tool) because network conditions may vary.


This tool is used to scan a network for live machines:

netdiscover -r


Nmap is awesome. There are many commands and options, but below are some commonly used ones which work well in both lab and penetration testing scenarios.

Nmap is a command-line tool but has a user-friendly GUI version called Zenmap, available for all major OS platforms. Zenmap also has preconfigured commands for common scans.

Host discovery (ping scan):

nmap -sn

Host discovery (specific range):

nmap -sn

Nmap also has the -Pn option which will disable the host discovery stage altogether on a scan. This option can be useful when the target is reported as down when it’s actually up but not responding to host discovery probes (e.g. due to host-based firewall that drops ICMP packets). Using this option with the intense scans below can be helpful.

TCP connect scan:

nmap -sT [host]

OS fingerprinting and service detection:

nmap -sV -O [host]

Intense scan, all TCP ports:

nmap -p 1-65535 -T4 -A -v [host]

Intense scan, all TCP ports, no ping:

nmap -p 1-65535 -T4 -A -v -Pn [host]

Intense scan, plus UDP

nmap -sS -sU -T4 -A -v [host]

Aggressive scan:

nmap -A [host]

Warning: Big, nasty scans are great for labs, but sometimes get rate-limited. In real life settings, it's even worse. Start with light scans and do targeted scans when you discover something interesting.

Nmap scripting engine (NSE)

NSE is awesome too, its scripts can be used to detect a variety of vulnerabilities.

Running NSE scripts

General usage:

nmap --script=[scriptname] [host]


nmap --script=http-robots.txt [host]

Arguments can be passed to Nmap scripts using the --script-args option or from a file using the --script-args-file option.

Finding NSE scripts

Nmap scripts are located in the following directory:



ls -l /usr/share/nmap/scripts/ftp*


ls -l /usr/share/nmap/scripts/http*


ls -l /usr/share/nmap/scripts/smtp*


ls -l /usr/share/nmap/scripts/smb*


ls -l /usr/share/nmap/scripts/mysql*


ls -l /usr/share/nmap/scripts/http-wordpress*


ls -l /usr/share/nmap/scripts/http-drupal*


ls -l /usr/share/nmap/scripts/citrix*

Nmap script help

Most scripts have a help function that displays instructions when you type --script-help :

nmap --script-help ftp-anon

Updating Nmap scripts

If a script isn't available on your system, download it with the following command:

wget -O /usr/share/nmap/scripts/smb-vuln-ms17-010.nse

Once the script has downloaded, use the following command to update the Nmap script database so that the script will become available to Nmap:

nmap --script-updatedb

Detecting WAF

Web application firewalls (WAF) may drop malicious requests, such as those with SQL injections, or otherwise interfere with enumeration or testing:

Detect WAF using NMAP:

nmap -p80 --script http-waf-detect [host]

Fingerprint WAF using NMAP:

nmap -p80 --script http-waf-fingerprint [host]

Fingerprint WAF using WAFw00f: [url]


Check if anonymous FTP access is available:

ftp [host]
Username: anonymous
Password: anything

Test if you can navigate, list, read, get or put files:

cd ..          # move up one directory
pwd            # print working directory
dir -C         # list files
mkdir [folder] # make a directory
get [file]     # get a file
put [file]     # send a file


You can connect to an SMTP server with netcat and run the vrfy command to check if email addresses are valid. You can also check mailing list membership with expn.

nc -nv [host] 25
(UNKNOWN) [host] 25 (smtp) open
VRFY root
250 2.1.5 root <>


Server Message Block (SMB) is a network file sharing protocol that provides access to shared files and printers on a local network. Older versions of SMB tend to be vulnerable to major exploits, such as EternalBlue.


SMB VersionWindows version


Microsoft Windows NT 4.0

SMB 1.0

Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2

SMB 2.0

Windows Vista & Windows Server 2008

SMB 2.1

Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2

SMB 3.0

Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012

SMB 3.0.2

Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2

SMB 3.1.1

Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016

SMB uses these ports, which can be discovered using Nmap scans:

  • netbios-ns 137/tcp - NETBIOS Name Service

  • netbios-ns 137/udp

  • netbios-dgm 138/tcp - NETBIOS Datagram Service

  • netbios-dgm 138/udp

  • netbios-ssn 139/tcp - NETBIOS session service

  • netbios-ssn 139/udp

  • microsoft-ds 445/tcp - Active Directory


Linux/Unix machines can browse and mount SMB shares, and transfer files.

To see which shares are available on a given host:

smbclient -L [host]

To reach a directory that has been shared as 'public' on a host:

smbclient \\\\host\\public mypasswd

Server time is Sat Aug 10 15:58:44 1996
Timezone is UTC+10.0
Domain=[WORKGROUP] OS=[Windows NT 3.51] Server=[NT LAN Manager 3.51]
smb: \>

View available commands from the smb prompt:

smb: \> h
ls             dir            lcd            cd             pwd            
get            mget           put            mput           rename         
more           mask           del            rm             mkdir          
md             rmdir          rd             prompt         recurse        
translate      lowercase      print          printmode      queue          
cancel         stat           quit           q              exit           
newer          archive        tar            blocksize      tarmode        
setmode        help           ?              !

Nmap SMB scripts

Nmap has scripts specifically for the SMB protocol (see above).

To scan a host for all known SMB vulnerabilities:

nmap -p 139,445 --script=smb-vuln* [host]

If you want to scan a target for a particular SMB vulnerability, for instance MS08-067 (which allows remote code execution) you can run this command:

nmap -p 139,445 --script=smb-vuln-ms08-067 [host]

MS17-010 EternalBlue script

EternalBlue is one of the exploits leaked by the Shadow Brokers in April 2017. It exploits a critical vulnerability in the SMBv1 protocol and leaves a lot of Windows installations vulnerable to remote code execution, including Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and Windows Server 2003/2008/2012(R2)/2016.

Nmap script to test for EternalBlue vulnerability:

nmap -p 445 [host] --script=smb-vuln-ms17-010


Rpcclient is a Linux tool used for client-side MS-RPC functions (port 445) using a null session, a connection that does not require a password. Null sessions were enabled by default on legacy systems but have since been disabled from Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003.

rpcclient -U "" [host]
rpcclient $> querydominfo
rpcclient $> srvinfo
rpcclient $> enumdomusers
rpcclient $> queryuser [username]
rpcclient $> getdompwinfo

The above commands return domain information, including users. More enumeration commands are available here.

Take special note of the srvinfo response, because googling it may give you the exact exploit you need. It looks like gibberish:

    HOSTNAME            Wk Sv PrQ Unx NT SNT Samba Server
    platform_id     :    500
    os version      :    4.9
    server type     :    0x9a03


Enum4linux is used to enumerate data from Windows and Samba hosts. It's really helpful if you aren't that familiar with SMB commands because it can pull a lot of information out quickly:

enum4linux [host]

-U        get userlist
-M        get machine list*
-S        get sharelist
-P        get password policy information
-G        get group and member list
-d        be detailed, applies to -U and -S
-u user   specify username to use (default “”)
-p pass   specify password to use (default “”)
-a        Do all simple enumeration (-U -S -G -P -r -o -n -i).
-o        Get OS information
-i        Get printer information

It will also pull OS information via srvinfo that is helpful when searching for exploits:

HOSTNAME    Wk Sv PrQ Unx NT SNT Samba Server


Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) an older UDP-based protocol that is often vulnerable. They are commonly left in default configurations which can reveal a lot of network information.

The SNMP Management Information Base (MIB) is a database containing network management information organized in a tree of functions.


OneSixtyOne brute forces community strings based on dictionary and the target IP address. You can also provide a list of host IP addresses to be scanned by onesixtyone using the -i option. Single values can be passed via the command line.

onesixtyone -c [community list] -i [host list]


SNMPwalk queries MIB values to retrieve information about managed devices. It requires a valid SNMP read-only community string.

To run SNMPwalk with the default community string ‘public’ on an SNMPv1 device:

snmpwalk -c public -v1 [host]

Enumerate the entire MIB tree:

snmpwalk -c public -v1 [host]

Enumerate based on a single object ID:

snmpwalk -c public -v1 [host] [OID]

Enumerate Windows users:

snmpwalk -c public -v1 [host]

Enumerate running Windows processes:

snmpwalk -c public -v1 [host]

Enumerate open TCP ports:

snmpwalk -c public -v1 [host]

Enumerate installed software:

snmpwalk -c public -v1 [host]

Website scanning

Web servers are a common target for hackers, because they can be used to get a foothold on the system (e.g. shell) or even an organization's network. Scanning is usually detectable, but also can identify opportunities for further exploitation.


Nikto is a popular (but noisy) assessment tool, good for quickly enumerating a web server:

nikto -h [host]

Specify a port:

nikto -h [host] -p 8080

Test multiple ports:

nikto -h [target host] -p 80,88,443

Specify a port range:

nikto -h [target host] -p 80-88

Scan Tuning

Use the -Tuning parameter to run a specific set of tests instead of all tests:

0 – File Upload
1 – Interesting File / Seen in logs
2 – Misconfiguration / Default File
3 – Information Disclosure
4 – Injection (XSS/Script/HTML)
5 – Remote File Retrieval – Inside Web Root
6 – Denial of Service
7 – Remote File Retrieval – Server Wide
8 – Command Execution / Remote Shell
9 – SQL Injection
a – Authentication Bypass
b – Software Identification
c – Remote Source Inclusion
x – Reverse Tuning Options (i.e., include all except specified)


Dirb is a web content scanner that guesses web objects using a dictionary.

dirb [http://host]

It can also use a custom wordlist if one is provided:

dirb [http://host] [wordlist]

Wordlists are located here:


By default, dirb will use common.txt which works well in most lab situations. However, if you're enumerating a machine with a very small attack surface (e.g. only port 80 is open) you may want to try big.txt instead.


Dirbuster is a web scanner with a GUI and some additional features, including more wordlists:


Wordlists are located here:



WordPress is a popular website/blogging platform and is frequently targeted by hackers. Vulnerabilities are typically introduced through community-developed modules and themes. WPScan is a tool that scans for a variety of module/theme vulnerabilities and can also enumerate users.

Update WPScan with the latest information:

wpscan --update

Default scan:

wpscan --url [http://host]

Active enumeration

Scan time can be reduced by choosing specific options:

  • p Scans popular plugins only.

  • vp Scans vulnerable plugins only.

  • ap Scans all plugins.

The same options are available for WordPress themes:

  • t Scans popular themes only.

  • vt Scans vulnerable themes only.

  • at Scans all themes.

Enumerate specific options:

wpscan --url [http://host] --enumerate [p/vp/ap/t/vt/at]

Scan for all popular plugins:

wpscan --url [http://host] --enumerate p

Scan for vulnerable plugins:

wpscan --url [http://host] --enumerate vp

Scan for all plugins:

wpscan --url [http://host] --enumerate ap

Enumerate users:

wpscan --url [http://host] --enumerate u

Further reading

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