OpenVAS explained

OpenVAS: The Powerhouse Vulnerability Scanner in InfoSec

4 min read ยท Dec. 6, 2023
Table of contents

OpenVAS (Open Vulnerability Assessment System) is a powerful and widely-used open-source vulnerability scanner that plays a crucial role in the field of Information Security (InfoSec). In this article, we will dive deep into the world of OpenVAS, exploring its origins, functionality, use cases, industry relevance, and career aspects.

What is OpenVAS?

OpenVAS is a comprehensive vulnerability scanning and management solution designed to detect and assess security Vulnerabilities in computer systems, networks, and applications. It provides a framework for vulnerability scanning, vulnerability management, and vulnerability assessment. OpenVAS consists of various components, including a scanner, a manager, and a collection of network vulnerability tests.

The History and Background of OpenVAS

OpenVAS originated from the Nessus vulnerability scanner, which was initially an open-source project. However, Nessus transitioned to a proprietary model in 2005, leaving a void in the open-source vulnerability scanning space. This led to the creation of the OpenVAS project, with the goal of providing a free and open alternative.

The OpenVAS project was initiated by Tim Brown in 2005, and it quickly gained popularity within the InfoSec community. Over the years, OpenVAS has evolved and matured, becoming a powerful and reliable tool for vulnerability assessment.

How OpenVAS Works

OpenVAS follows a client-server architecture. The main components of OpenVAS include:

  1. OpenVAS Scanner: The scanner component is responsible for actively scanning target systems, networks, and applications for Vulnerabilities. It uses a set of pre-defined vulnerability tests, known as Network Vulnerability Tests (NVTs), to identify potential weaknesses.

  2. OpenVAS Manager: The manager component acts as the central control and coordination point for the entire OpenVAS system. It handles tasks such as scheduling scans, managing scan configurations, storing scan results, and generating reports.

  3. OpenVAS Greenbone Security Assistant (GSA): GSA is a web-based interface that allows users to interact with the OpenVAS system. It provides a user-friendly interface for configuring scans, viewing scan results, and generating reports.

The scanning process in OpenVAS involves the following steps:

  1. Target Selection: The user specifies the target(s) to be scanned, such as IP addresses, domain names, or network ranges.

  2. Scan Configuration: The user configures various scan parameters, such as scan intensity, scan targets, and scan schedules.

  3. Scan Execution: The OpenVAS scanner initiates the vulnerability scan by sending a series of requests to the target systems and analyzing the responses.

  4. Vulnerability Detection: The scanner compares the responses received from the target systems with the NVTs to identify vulnerabilities.

  5. Report Generation: The scan results are stored in the OpenVAS Manager, and reports can be generated using the GSA interface. These reports provide detailed information about the vulnerabilities found, their severity, and recommended mitigation strategies.

Use Cases and Industry Relevance

OpenVAS is widely used across various industries and organizations for vulnerability assessment and management. Some key use cases of OpenVAS include:

  • Security Auditing: OpenVAS enables organizations to perform regular security Audits to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in their IT infrastructure.

  • Compliance Monitoring: OpenVAS helps organizations meet compliance requirements by scanning systems for known vulnerabilities and ensuring they adhere to security standards and regulations.

  • Penetration Testing: OpenVAS is often used as a part of penetration testing activities to identify potential entry points and vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers.

  • Continuous Monitoring: By regularly scanning and monitoring systems, OpenVAS helps organizations stay vigilant and proactively identify and address vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.

OpenVAS is particularly relevant in the InfoSec industry due to its open-source nature, extensive vulnerability tests, and its ability to integrate with other security tools and frameworks. Its flexibility and scalability make it suitable for organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to large enterprises.

Best Practices and Standards

To ensure effective usage of OpenVAS and maximize its benefits, it is important to follow certain best practices and adhere to industry standards. Some recommended practices include:

  1. Regular Scanning: Perform regular Vulnerability scans using OpenVAS to identify and address new vulnerabilities as they emerge.

  2. Scan Coverage: Ensure comprehensive coverage by scanning all critical assets, including servers, network devices, and applications.

  3. Scan Configuration: Fine-tune scan configurations based on the organization's specific requirements and environment to minimize false positives and false negatives.

  4. Patch Management: Integrate OpenVAS with a robust patch management system to prioritize and remediate vulnerabilities based on their severity.

  5. Report Analysis: Thoroughly analyze OpenVAS reports to understand the impact of identified vulnerabilities and prioritize remediation efforts.

Career Aspects and Opportunities

Professionals with expertise in OpenVAS and Vulnerability management are highly sought after in the InfoSec industry. A strong understanding of OpenVAS can open up various career opportunities, such as:

  1. Vulnerability management Analyst: Professionals responsible for performing vulnerability assessments, managing OpenVAS deployments, and providing remediation recommendations.

  2. Penetration Tester: OpenVAS skills can complement a career in penetration testing, allowing professionals to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in systems and networks.

  3. Security Consultant: OpenVAS expertise is valuable for professionals offering security consulting services, helping organizations assess and improve their security posture.

  4. Security Engineer: OpenVAS skills can be leveraged by security engineers to design and implement vulnerability management programs and integrate them with other security systems.

  5. Open Source Contributor: OpenVAS being an open-source project, professionals can contribute to its development, documentation, and community support, enhancing their visibility within the InfoSec community.


OpenVAS is a powerful and versatile open-source vulnerability scanner that has become an integral part of the InfoSec landscape. Its ability to detect vulnerabilities, generate comprehensive reports, and facilitate vulnerability management makes it an invaluable tool for organizations across industries. By following best practices and staying up-to-date with emerging vulnerabilities, professionals can leverage OpenVAS to enhance the security posture of organizations and advance their careers in the field of Information Security.

References: - OpenVAS Website - OpenVAS on Wikipedia - OpenVAS Documentation

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