Tip

How to conduct a firewall security test using Nmap

Open source security tool Nmap can do more than map a network and examine what information it reveals to a potential attacker. This tip explains how value-added resellers (VARs) and consultants can use

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Nmap as part of a firewall security test.

Nmap: Firewall configuration testing
One of the best ways to understand how your customer's firewall handles uninvited traffic is to verify that its filters and rules are working as anticipated. For example, one mistake many administrators make when creating rules for allowing traffic through their firewall is to trust traffic based simply on its source port number, such as DNS replies from port 53 or FTP from port 20. To test whether your customer's firewall allows all traffic through on a particular port you can use most of Nmap's TCP scans, including the SYN scan, with the spoof source port number option (--source-port or abbreviated just to –g). Simply provide a port number, and Nmap will send packets from that port where possible. For example, the following command will run a FIN scan using a spoofed source port number of 25 (SMTP) saving the output to file firewallreport.txt.

nmap -sF -g 25 -oN firewallreport.txt www.yourorg.com

It's also worthwhile to test the firewall's ability to cope with fragmented traffic. Attackers often split up the TCP header over several packets to make it harder for packet filters and intrusion detection systems to detect an attack. While fragmented packets won't get past packet filters and firewalls that queue all IP fragments, many devices have queuing disabled by default to avoid a drop in performance. Just add the -f option to set a scan to send fragmented IP packets.

Read more on how to conduct a firewall security test using Nmap.

About the author
Michael Cobb, CISSP-ISSAP is the founder and managing director of Cobweb Applications Ltd., a consultancy that offers IT training and support in data security and analysis. He co-authored the book
IIS Security and has written numerous technical articles for leading IT publications. Mike is the guest instructor for SearchSecurity's Web Security School and, as a SearchSecurity.com site expert, answers user questions on application and platform security.

This tip originally appeared on SearchSecurity.com.


This was first published in December 2006

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