Gathering Network and Host Information—Scanning

After the reconnaissance and information-gathering stages have been completed, scanning is performed. It is important that the information-gathering stage be as complete as possible to identify the best location and targets to scan. During scanning, the hacker continues to gather information regarding the network and its individual host systems. Information such as IP addresses, operating system, services, and installed applications can help the hacker determine which type of exploit to use in hacking a system.
Scanning is the process of locating systems that are alive and responding on the network. Ethical hackers use scanning to identify target systems' IP addresses. Scanning is also used to determine whether a system is on the network and available. Scanning tools are used to gather information about a system such as IP addresses, the operating system, and services running on the target computer.
Table 1 lists the three types of scanning.
Table 1: Types of scanning 
Scanning type
Port scanning
Determines open ports and services
Network scanning
Identifies IP addresses on a given network or subnet
Vulnerability scanning
Discovers presence of known weaknesses on target systems
  • Port Scanning Port scanning is the process of identifying open and available TCP/IP ports on a system. Port-scanning tools enable a hacker to learn about the services available on a given system. Each service or application on a machine is associated with a well-known port number. Port Numbers are divided into three ranges:
  • Well-Known Ports: 0-1023
  • Registered Ports: 1024-49151
  • Dynamic Ports: 49152-65535
For example, a port-scanning tool that identifies port 80 as open indicates a web server is running on that system. Hackers need to be familiar with well-known port numbers.

  • Network Scanning Network scanning is a procedure for identifying active hosts on a network, either to attack them or as a network security assessment. Hosts are identified by their individual IP addresses. Network-scanning tools attempt to identify all the live or responding hosts on the network and their corresponding IP addresses.
  • Vulnerability Scanning Vulnerability scanning is the process of proactively identifying the vulnerabilities of computer systems on a network. Generally, a vulnerability scanner first identifies the operating system and version number, including service packs that may be installed. Then, the scanner identifies weaknesses or vulnerabilities in the operating system. During the later attack phase, a hacker can exploit those weaknesses in order to gain access to the system.
    Although scanning can quickly identify which hosts are listening and active on a network, it is also a quick way to be identified by an intrusion detection system (IDS). Scanning tools probe TCP/IP ports looking for open ports and IP addresses, and these probes can be recognized by most security intrusion detection tools. Network and vulnerability scanning can usually be detected as well, because the scanner must interact with the target system over the network.
    Depending on the type of scanning application and the speed of the scan, an IDS will detect the scanning and flag it as an IDS event. Some of the tools for scanning have different modes to attempt to defeat an IDS and are more likely to be able to scan undetected. As a CEH it is your job to gather as much information as possible and try and remain undetected.

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