Nmap Hosted Scanner
The goal of this project is to create a hosted application which
allows users to log in and execute Nmap scans. They should be able to
view the results online (using Nmap XML output, rendered to XHTML
using the nmap.xsl stylesheet distributed with Nmap) or have the
normal (-oN) output emailed to them. Users should also be able to view
online (or have mailed to them) differences since the last time they
executed a particular scan.
Update [March 26, 2011]: We already have an
initial version named Rainmap.
It was written last year by SoC student Alexandru Totolici in Python
(using the Django framework). It is anticipated that a sponsored
student will work on improving and extending Rainmap rather than
starting from scratch. That being said, it is 100% OK to write your
application as if you were starting from scratch. That will allow you
to express your own vision and you may be able to add many of those
ideas to Rainmap during the summer.
If users like this application enough, the Nmap Project may be
willing to continue hosting it. It can be very handy to see what your
network looks like from the outside. Being notified automatically
when new ports open/close or machines go online (or offline) is also
useful. Obviously providing such a service carries serious security
and abuse risks, which is why those are a key focus of this document.
If you think of other important features/requirements for this
document, or feel it should be changed in other ways, please post your
suggestions to nmap-dev. Labels such as "should" or "would be nice"
denote less-critical features that can be worked on last, while
"musts" have to be met unless we agree to make changes. Here are the
proposed features and infrastructure requirements for the new Nmap
- Everything in the General
Obviously security is a huge concern with this sort of application. You
don't want people passing "target" names such as
"www.microsoft.com;mail firstname.lastname@example.org &ld; /etc/passwd". All user
input must be sanitized very carefully. Follow best-practices
for CGI security, such as limiting field values to
known-trusted patterns rather than trying to remove "bad" characters.
- On the topic of security, you may not have Nmap be setuid root or
run the web server or all of your CGIs as root. You may want a
privileged daemon which picks up commands from a file (or whatever)
created by the application and then runs Nmap and stores the results
such that they are accessible by the CGI app. The main app would then
be running as a custom, unprivileged user. And the Nmap daemon in
that case would treat the app data as untrusted. You also may want to
consider sandboxing approaches such as SELinux, or chroot + privilege
dropping. Virtualization may play an important role.
- You must have root access to a UNIX machine connected to the
Internet that you can set this up on. A virtual hosting provider such
as Linode.com would likely be
sufficient. If it turns out that you need a Linode account for
testing, the Nmap Project will pay for it. You need to know how to
set up Apache for CGIs (or whatever technology you wish to use). A
Linux machine connected to a normal broadband connection should work
fine. Note that the goal here is to produce an open source system that
anyone can install on their own web servers. You certainly
don't have to open this up to the public yourself. Fyodor needs an
account during development for testing. He will only scan his own
machines, and not get you into trouble :).
- Some people might open this up to the public, while others might
only give their sysadmins access. So granular access controls are
needed to prevent abuse. Email authentication (e.g. email them their
first password) must be supported so that admins at least have a tiny
amount of information on users. Admins should also be able to control
which Nmap features are available to certain classes of users. In
particular, new users should only be able to scan a limited number of
hosts per day. Maybe 1024 daily IPs for PING scanning, and 32 for
more intrusive scans such as what you get with -A. We need to be
careful not to allow just anyone to use arbitrary NSE scripts like
*-brute. We will have a very limited set of options allowed. Admins
must be able to set network ranges that may never be scanned
(Nmap supports this through its excludefile option). Admins must have
the option to ban users based on their email address, as well as blocking future signups from an IP range or email address or email domain.
- If a database is used, work with Fyodor to decide which one to use (probably PostgreSQL, though there is some flexibility).
- Apache is suggested as the web server used, but using other UNIX
web servers instead is probably fine.
- Users should be able to download results from a scan in Normal or
- The system must work on Linux (ideally tested on a recent
CentOS/RHEL). Supporting other systems may be desirable but is not
- You have a bit of lattitude in selecting the language for this
system. Perl, Python, or C would be good choices. PHP is probably
not OK. ASP and .Net are out of the question :). The term CGI is
used in this document in a general sense to encompass just about any
dynamic web functionality which will serve this (hosted Nmap) purpose.
- It must have a history feature so you can see results of your
- When viewing a scan (as in from history), there should be a
"repeat this scan" function which runs the same scan again. For example,
you might want to scan your new server, disable some stupid services
in an ssh window, then repeat the scan to ensure that the ports are
- You should be easily able to see the changes between two
scans. Nmap comes with a tool named Ndiff for showing the changes.
- Automated scanning should be supported. Users can have it scan
them every day, week, or month and email them the full results or just
the difference since the previous scan.
- It needs to scale well enough to support thousands of users,
including dozens of them executing scans at once.
- The system must be well-designed to be both pretty and usable.
Obviously this is subjective, but it is still one of the most imporant
- The Admin must be able to specify options that are always used
with Nmap. For example, they might want to always use a certain
source address (-S) or a host-wide --excludefile. This may be a system-wide configuration file.
- The system must support Nmap status reports through progress
reports or completion time estimates. Nmap provides this information in its XML output (and in its normal output too).
- You don't need to support all Nmap options, but must support the
"most important" ones, like SYN scanning, version detection, OS
detection, host discovery, traceroute, default NSE scripts (we may
want to provide mor flexibility in the future on what NSE may be run),
port specification, and more. Examples you don't need are Idle scan,
FTP bounce scan, and maybe decoys and spoofing (-D, -S). Users can
use the command-line version on their own machines for really custom
and rare stuff. Work with Fyodor to define the list of supported
- Maybe the most trusted set of users should be able to execute
their own custom command lines.
- Code should be clean and extensible. Adding support for a new
Nmap option shouldn't be a huge pain.
- You should probably be able to store named profiles of scan
types. Maybe users could make and save their own, or perhaps they have
to be configured in the application in a config file or by admins with
the web interface.
- May want to allow annotations (text string) to be added to scanned
hosts. But if the app is just displaying but not parsing Nmap
results, this may be more trouble than it is worth.
- Be careful of dependencies. This isn't as big of a deal as with
other Nmap projects, but don't go overboard adding required
infrastructure that isn't critical.
- The system must be documented with online help pages. These are
probably best written Docbook XML or HTML or on a wiki. They may not
be written in Word or a WYSIWYG HTML editor.
- Installation instructions must also be documented. And you should
try to make installation and dependencies as easy and minimal as
possible, while still meeting all of these requirements.
- Here is an example timeline for the project:
- Come up with an initial proposal, deciding how the system will
work. Mock up the pages in HTML or with a photo editor like The
Gimp/Photoshop and post a link to your proposal to nmap-dev for
comments. Be sure to describe the security/sandboxing measures
you plan to take.
- Write your initial timeline/milestones
- Incorporate feedback from nmap-dev and Fyodor. If changes are
dramatic, repeat the review cycle until you and Fyodor are happy with
it, and everyone has had a chance to contribute ideas.
- Actually implement the system. Test, re-test, fix
bugs, etc. You may want to create a very limited, but usable version
first. Then start adding all of the features. Make an account for
Fyodor to play with. Be sure to document all the set-up tasks so that
others can try installing this if they wish.