Cyber SecurityPen Tester’s Notebook – Part 1 – Formatting Nmap Results
Published: December 14, 2022
By: Herm Cardona
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In this series, Winmill Pentest Engineer Herm Cardona, OSCP, shares professional pen testing tips to help you elevate your ethical hacking skills to the next level. You will learn how professional penetration testers solve some of the most common hurdles encountered during the various phases of real-life ethical hacking engagements.
Nmap (“Network Mapper”) is a free and open source utility for network discovery and security auditing. Many systems and network administrators also find it useful for tasks such as network inventory, managing service upgrade schedules, and monitoring host or service uptime. Nmap uses raw IP packets in novel ways to determine what hosts are available on the network, what services (application name and version) those hosts are offering, what operating systems (and OS versions) they are running, what type of packet filters/firewalls are in use, and dozens of other characteristics. It was designed to rapidly scan large networks, but works fine against single hosts.
Nmap runs on all major computer operating systems, and official binary packages are available for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. In addition to the classic command-line Nmap executable, the Nmap suite includes an advanced GUI and results viewer (Zenmap), a flexible data transfer, redirection, and debugging tool (Ncat), a utility for comparing scan results (Ndiff), and a packet generation and response analysis tool (Nping).
Nmap CLI results display a tremendous amount of information. In this example we scan host 10.129.1.15 with high verbosity -vv, no name resolution -n, no Ping -Pn, stealth scan -sS, on all ports -p-, and aggressive mode -A. We also specify all output formats with -oA nmap-demo (Figure 1).
The oA switch gives us the output in three formats: Greppable Nmap: nmap-demo.gnmap, XML: nmap-demo.xml, and Raw: nmap-demo.nmap. Let’s take a look. First we look at the nmap raw results nmap-demo.nmap (Figure 2).
Next, we look at the greppable output (Figure 3).
Finally, we look at the XML Output (Figure 4).
While all outputs provide useful information, none of them is truly suitable for displaying as an illustration. Here’s where the “—webxml” flag can help us create a better report. We run the same scan, but this time we add the “—webxml” flag (Figure 5).
We look again at the .xml output, but this time we use our Firefox browser to look at the file with “firefox nmap-demo.xml”. This time we are presented with a nicely formatted scan report (Figure 6).
The XML output, which you can also give on its own as -oX, allows you to read the results in a webpage with some slick formatting like that seen in Figure 6 above.
What it does is it uses an XSLT file to add styling to the XML. By default, that XSLT points to a specific, local file on the host you’re running Nmap from. This can be problematic and annoying, with multiple possible paths existing based on how you installed nmap.
But there’s good news. If you add –webxml to your command string it’ll produce an XML that has the web version of the XSLT, so it doesn’t matter how or where Nmap was installed!
Consider adding -oA and –webxml to your default nmap command line.