Nessus Home: Scanning your network for vulnerabilities

I recently came across Nessus Home which is a network vulnerability scanner and free for personal use. It scans for a wide range of vulnerabilities such as misconfigured network settings, devices using the default password or firmware that’s out-of-date. According to the Nessus website, the home version is limited to 16 IP addresses per scanner but I was able to add my subnet address and every device on my network was scanned (~32 devices). I’m still learning how to use Nessus and will continue to update this blog post as I discover new features, but for now this guide will explain how to get the basics up and running.

1. Register for an activation code at the Nessus Home website. It will be sent to you via email and on the next page, download links are provided to download Nessus Home. I choose to install this in my virtualized Ubuntu (VirtualBox) setup, but it’s also available for Mac OS. The installation process will depend on which OS you choose to use but it should be fairly straight forward.

2. Once installed, start Nessus Home. This will depend on what OS you’re using but you can find instructions on the official website here.

Note: On my Ubuntu setup, the Nessus installer automatically configured it to start at login.

3. Access the Nessus Home web GUI by accessing https://localhost:8834 in a web browser. If you’re trying to access it from outside the OS you installed it on (i.e. another computer or from your host machine if installed in a virtual environment), simply replace ‘localhost’ with the IP address of where Nessus Home was installed.

3. You will receive a security error when trying to access the web GUI which you can ignore. You will then be asked to create an account followed by registering your scanner. Select ‘Home, Professional or Manager’ for the Scanner Type and enter the activation key that was sent to you via email. Once complete, you should see the main page.

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4. Next, create a basic network scan by clicking ‘New Scan’ in the upper right corner to create a new scan. On the Scan Template page, select ‘Basic Network Scan’.

nessushomescantemplates

5. On the New Scan page, provide a name and description (as desired). You can leave ‘Folder’ set to ‘My Scan’. In the ‘Targets’ box, enter the specific IP address you would like to scan. If you want to scan your entire network, enter the subnet address (i.e. 172.16.16.0/24). Click ‘Save’.

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(Optional): Click the ‘DISCOVERY’ link on the left and change the ‘Scan Type’ from ‘Port scan (common ports)’ to ‘Port scan (all ports)’. On the ‘ASSESSMENT’ page, you can also change from the ‘Default’ scan type to ‘Scan for all web vulnerabilities (complex)’. Doing either of these will increase the amount of time the scan takes.

6. Back on the ‘My Scans’ page, start the scan by clicking the play icon on the right side of the scan that was just created. Depending on how many devices you’re scanning and configuration settings in the scan, it can take a while to complete (30+ minutes). Leaving the ‘My Scans’ page or even closing the browser will not interrupt the scan as it will continue running in the background.

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7. Once the scan is finished (indicated rotating green arrows disappearing), click the scan you created which will bring you to a page with the scan results. Clicking on any of the entires will show you a detailed description of the vulnerabilities that were found. Of note, while the vulnerability classification levels will give you an idea of the severity, it’s really going to come down to doing some research and making a decision on what’s acceptable for your home network.

Note: You can view the results of what’s already been scanned while the scan is still in progress.

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There’s obviously a lot of other features and scan types you can setup, but hopefully this covered enough to get everything setup and a basic scan completed.

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