SOLUTION: Find All Servers Running an Insecure or Nonstandard Application Version


A common task is scanning a range of IP addresses to find all servers of a particular version or even satisfying a particular property. This is something that Nmap's version detection excels in.

One of the most popular database application is the open-source MySQL server. MySQL can be configured to disallow all remote logins from untrusted IPs. This is a good security practice when remote logins aren't required. A case in point: in 2005 a MySQL remote code execution vulnerability was discovered and published. Fortunately, an attacker must be able to log in first—no doubt saving the Internet from yet another devastating worm. In light of problems like this and the fact that SQL logins and passwords are frequently guessable or discoverable through SQL injection attacks, intuition, and inside knowledge of the network, remote logins should be denied when possible.

The problem for a network administrator is to discover MySQL servers that needlessly allow logins from untrusted IPs and take appropriate defensive measures.


This solution was contributed by Nmap developer Doug Hoyte.


Nmap's version detection comes in handy in this situation because it adds the word unauthorized to the service detection info line when the server forbids our host any access. If we want to scan the network of a simple yet effective strategy is to run the following command from an untrusted source:

nmap -sV -p 3306 -oG 10.0.0-mysqls-032506.gnmap

Next we can use the Unix grep utility to find IPs that accept connections from our IP and don't disallow logins by default (grep's -v switch specifies inverse results and only prints out lines that don't match the given pattern):

grep 'Ports: 3306/open/tcp//mysql' 10.0.0-mysqls-032506.gnmap | grep -v unauthorized

The resulting output shows the MySQL servers that allow remote logins:

Host: ( Ports: 3306/open/tcp//mysql//MySQL 4.1.11/
Host: ( Ports: 3306/open/tcp//mysql//MySQL 4.0.24-standard/
Host: () Ports: 3306/open/tcp//mysql//MySQL 4.1.11-Debian_4sarge2/
Host: () Ports: 3306/open/tcp//mysql//MySQL 4.0.25-standard/
Host: () Ports: 3306/open/tcp//mysql//MySQL 4.0.25-standard/


The trick to this is understanding some MySQL protocol basics and knowing how to read the nmap-service-probes file. Grepping the file for Probe and mysql match lines leads to the following (line wrapped) output:

$ cat /usr/local/share/nmap/nmap-service-probes | egrep '^(Probe|match mysql)'
Probe TCP NULL q||
match mysql m/^.\0\0\0\xffj\x04.*Host .* is not allowed to connect to this 
               MySQL server$/ p/MySQL/ i/unauthorized/
match mysql m|^.\0\0\0\xffj\x04Host hat keine Berechtigung, eine Verbindung
              zu diesem MySQL Server herzustellen\.| p/MySQL/ 
              i/unauthorized; German/
match mysql m/^.\0\0\0...Al sistema '[-.\w]+' non e` consentita la
              connessione a questo server MySQL$/ p/MySQL/ 
              i/unauthorized; Italian/
match mysql m|^.\0\0\0\xffi?\x04?Host .* is blocked because of many connection
              errors\.| p/MySQL/ i/blocked - too many connection errors/
match mysql m/^.\0\0\0.(3\.[-.\w]+)\0.*\x08\x02\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0\0$/s
              p/MySQL/ v/$1/
match mysql m/^.\0\0\0\n(3\.[-.\w]+)\0...\0/s p/MySQL/ v/$1/
match mysql m/^.\0\0\0\n(4\.[-.\w]+)\0.../s p/MySQL/ v/$1/
match mysql m|^.\0\0\0\n(5\.[-.\w]+)\0...\0|s p/MySQL/ v/$1/
match mysql m|^.\0\0\0\xffj\x04'[\d.]+' .* MySQL|s p/MySQL/
Probe TCP GenericLines q|\r\n\r\n|
Probe TCP GetRequest q|GET / HTTP/1.0\r\n\r\n|
Probe TCP HTTPOptions q|OPTIONS / HTTP/1.0\r\n\r\n|

We see that the mysql match lines are designed to be triggered by the NULL probe so no custom probes are needed to determine which servers allow remote logins (for that see the section called “SOLUTION: Hack Version Detection to Suit Custom Needs, such as Open Proxy Detection”). By looking at these mysql match lines that we discover MySQL services that don't allow remote logins will result in an info field containing the word unauthorized.

In addition to service types and version numbers, there are many cases where version detection is able to gather useful information on scan targets. The probes file is full of such gems that can turn a time-consuming task of protocol research, script coding, locating test servers, and debugging into a simple Nmap command. A few interesting tidbits of information that version detection can sometimes reveal are:

  • SSH protocol versions

  • Whether a CVS pserver is properly configured

  • The usernames used by popular peer-to-peer file sharing clients

  • Whether an X server is accepting connections

  • Language and other localization parameters of many services

  • The wordsize of the target's CPU

  • The configured botnames of popular IRC bots such as eggdrop

  • Whether posting is allowed on Internet news (NNTP) servers

The version detection database is constantly growing and being refined thanks to the amazing Nmap user community and their service fingerprint submissions. This solution is a good example of how investigating the capabilities of Nmap's service detection can provide elegant, sometimes non-obvious solutions to many diverse problems.