What Are Network Scanning Tools?

Modern businesses can’t function without an internal network, where data and files are kept and shared by the employees. Businesses, whether big or small, need to have experienced IT staff to protect the company’s network from data theft and interference. If you think your business is too small for cybercriminals to notice, it’s time to review your security measures. As per the statistics published by Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), approximately 43% of all cyber-attacks targeted small businesses.

Hackers utilize vulnerability scanners to search for loopholes in the network. A vulnerable network is easy to hack and can pose a huge threat to the system and sensitive information. Thus, it’s imperative to check your network’s security rigorously and regularly.

Regular scanning of your network allows you to keep track of the devices on your network, view how they’re performing, spot the flaws, and understand the flow of traffic between connected devices and applications. Thus, network scanning is a process helping admins gather information from all devices or endpoints on a network. During a network scan, all the active devices on the network send signals, and once the response is received, the scanner evaluates the results and checks to see if there are inconsistencies.

Network scanning allows companies to:

  • Keep a tab on the available UDP and TCP network services
  • Access the operating systems in use by monitoring the IP responses
  • Identify the filtering systems between nodes

Network scanning involves network port scanning and vulnerability scanning.

In port scanning, the scanner sends data packets to a specified service port number over the network. This helps to identify the available network services on a particular system for troubleshooting.

Vulnerability scanning allows the scanner to detect known vulnerabilities of computing systems available on a network. This process helps the scanner to identify specific weak spots in application software or the operating system.

Both network port and vulnerability scanning gather relevant information from the network. This information, when used by unauthorized personnel, poses a serious threat to the company.

Network scanning is also closely related to packet sniffing or passive scanning.

Passive scanning captures and tracks the flow of data packets over the network. Packet-level traffic on your network can be tracked by implementing sensors on the devices and using tools to translate packet data into relevant information easily. With this approach, the scanner evaluates the traffic flow as soon as the devices start sending messages to the network, without having to ping the devices separately.

Although passive scanning is an important part of your toolkit, it has some limitations. The passive scanner cannot detect those devices or applications not communicating.

How Does a Network Scan Work?

Network scanning helps to detect all the active hosts on a network and maps them to their IP addresses. Network scanners send a packet or ping to every possible IP address and wait for a response to determine the status of the applications or devices (hosts). The responding hosts are considered active, while others are considered dead or inactive. These responses are then scanned to detect inconsistencies.

Using an Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) scan, admins can manually ping the subnet. But for a wider reach across all subnets, it’s better to use tools capable of automatically running scans and discovering devices. Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) scans allow you to map network topology.

To keep the networking systems up and running, companies need to rely on robust Network scanning tools. A Network scanning tool is essential for companies who have a large network with multiple subnets. The companies must always invest in those scanners providing flexibility with the changing requirements. The chosen network scanner should be able to scale up easily with time as per the network security requirements without having to incur any substantial additional costs. Some of the top scanning tools available in the market include Swascan, Spyse, Acunetix, SolarWinds® IP Address Manager, SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, and Nikto. We have discussed a couple of these tools in detail below:

SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM)

solarwinds network performance monitor showing all connected devices

SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor can scan your network automatically. This tool uses passive scanning to show critical information regarding your network. This tool also functions as a network discovery and performance management tool. It allows companies to create network topologies and helps to keep a check on the devices and applications on your network. With functions like Heat Maps and Comparative Graphs for intelligent visualizations, it’s possible to understand the network from a node-by-node perspective. The network information retrieved from this tool can further be used to detect possible anomalies.

SolarWinds IP Address Manager (IPAM)

solarwinds ip address manager showing dhcp scopes, dns mismatch and ip conflicts

SolarWinds IP Address Manager is a network scanning tool which uses IP addresses to manage devices. Companies can do away with bulky IP tracking spreadsheets and use this tool to scan and discover IPv4 and IPv6 addresses across subnets actively.

  • Using IPAM, companies can monitor the usage of IP addresses, spot mismatched DNS entries, and quickly rectify issues related to subnet capacity and IP address conflicts.
  • IPAM allows admins to manage DHCP and DNS servers from a centralized console. Admins can also monitor resource records and manage the DNS zones.
  • IPAM allows users to create, modify, and delete IP records in IPv4 and IPv6 environments. Using API, users can also create new subnets in IPAM and create, update, or remove DNS entries.
  • The users can automatically reserve IP addresses by utilizing the built-in IP Request Form.
  • IPAM provides a detailed history of all the past and current IP addresses along with the status of subnets to effectively allocate them for the future.
  • The advanced alerting tools in IPAM help the network admins to catch IP-related problems instantly. SolarWinds IP tracker software allows admins to easily monitor different MAC address changes and IP conflicts.

Conclusion

In today’s world, every company, be it big or small, strives hard to safeguard its devices and systems from unauthorized access. The companies must have a prevention plan in hand to avoid future attacks on the network. They need to invest in robust network scanning tools to secure their system against potential cyberattacks without compromising with the performance. Before choosing a tool, they need to take time to understand which type of scanning tool is a perfect fit for their network. The admins need to implement the right sensors and tools to protect the systems from being hacked along with a robust scanner to translate packet data into easily readable information.