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The Best 10 Free Vulnerability Scanners for 2023

Vulnerability scanning has become an essential practice for organizations to identify and manage security risks in their networks, applications, and devices. With the increasing complexity of the cloud, virtual machines, and connected devices, it’s crucial to have the right tools to detect vulnerabilities and protect your infrastructure as part of your vulnerability management program. In this blog post, we’ll introduce the top 10 free vulnerability scanners for 2023, which offer a range of features and benefits to help you stay ahead of security threats.


Article Highlights

  • Free vulnerability scanners provide cost-efficient solutions for organizations to detect and manage security vulnerabilities as part of effective vulnerability management phases.

  • This overview provides the top 10 free vulnerability scanners for 2023, including features, benefits, and potential drawbacks.

  • Organizations must consider the limitations & challenges of free vulnerability scanners in order to make an informed decision when selecting a scanner.


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Why Use Free Vulnerability Scanners?

Free vulnerability scanners enable organizations to identify and manage security risks without breaking the bank. They come in various forms, including open-source tools and free online vulnerability scanners with trial periods, offering cost-efficiency and accessibility to businesses of all sizes. The benefits of utilizing free vulnerability scanners include a helpful user community, a graphical user interface for ease of use, and a broad range of vulnerability sources and languages, making them valuable tools for DevOps teams.


As the demand for vulnerability scanning has grown, so has the number of available tools. These scanners have evolved to accommodate the increasing intricacy of the cloud, virtual machines, and connected devices. Organizations can efficiently detect and manage security vulnerabilities, such as cross-site scripting, network vulnerabilities, and compliance scanning, without incurring additional costs by using free vulnerability scanners.


Essential Features in Free Vulnerability Scanners

When selecting a free vulnerability scanner, it’s important to consider key features that will contribute to its effectiveness. Here are some important features to look for:

  1. An up-to-date vulnerability database, as it increases the likelihood of detecting the latest security threats.

  2. Comprehensive reporting provides valuable insights into security risks and helps prioritize remediation efforts.

  3. Ease of use, ensuring that the tool can be effectively utilized by both technical and non-technical users.

In addition to these essential features, compatibility with your existing systems, including operating systems, and applications is crucial. For example, Sniper modules provide coverage for vulnerabilities in software from:

  • Microsoft

  • VMware

  • Oracle

  • F5

  • Cisco

  • MobileIron

  • Numerous other vendors

By choosing a vulnerability scanner that offers these key features, you can ensure that your organization is well-equipped to identify and manage security risks effectively through vulnerability management.


Top 10 Free Vulnerability Scanners for 2023

The following section provides an overview of the top 10 free vulnerability scanners for 2023, complete with their features, benefits, and potential drawbacks. These scanners have been selected based on feedback from various industry resources, such as community forums, tool websites, and more.


Whether you’re looking for a comprehensive network vulnerability scanner or a specialized web application scanning tool, our list covers a wide range of options to help you find the right solution for your needs.


OpenVAS

OpenVAS is a comprehensive, open-source vulnerability scanner that offers extensive coverage and a comprehensive database of CVEs. With over 50,000 network vulnerability tests (NVTs) conducted on the OpenVAS framework, it provides a robust solution for scanning endpoints and networks. The tool utilizes a client-server architecture, where search, storage, and processing operations are conducted on the server side, while network administrators, vulnerability scanners, and penetration testers can utilize the client side to configure scans and view reports.


OpenVAS is most suitable for scanning endpoints and networks, offering a wide range of vulnerability sources and languages. It implements each test as a plugin referred to as an NVT (Network Vulnerability Test), with plugins created using the Nessus Attack Scripting Language (NASL). This makes OpenVAS a powerful and flexible solution for detecting and managing security vulnerabilities in various environments, including open ports, virtual environments, and cloud infrastructure.


Nmap

Nmap, also known as Network Mapper, is a freely available and open-source network scanning tool that enjoys extensive use among network administrators and security professionals for the purpose of:

  • Identify vulnerabilities and secure their networks

  • Perform network exploration and security auditing

  • Conduct port scanning, service fingerprinting, and vulnerability detection

Additionally, Nmap supports multiple output formats, including HTML, XML, and plain text, making it versatile and adaptable to various use cases.


However, Nmap has certain limitations in its ability to detect vulnerabilities related to application-level security. Furthermore, it is not capable of detecting all types of network traffic, including encrypted traffic.


Despite these limitations, Nmap remains a popular and powerful tool for network scanning and vulnerability detection, offering a range of capabilities that can be valuable for security professionals and network administrators alike.


ZAP (OWASP Zed Attack Proxy)

ZAP is an open-source web application security testing tool offered by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) that performs vulnerability scans on web applications. With features such as XSS testing and simulating user behavior, ZAP provides a comprehensive solution for assessing and mitigating security risks in web applications.


The benefits of utilizing ZAP include its open-source nature, its capability to test for XSS vulnerabilities and its user-friendly interface. However, it does have some drawbacks, such as a lack of support for certain web technologies and limited scalability.


Despite these limitations, ZAP remains a valuable tool for web application security testing and vulnerability detection, providing an effective solution for identifying and managing security risks in web applications.


Wapiti

Wapiti is an open-source web application security scanner designed to detect potential vulnerabilities on websites. It offers the following features:

  • Employing a vulnerability database that is refreshed daily

  • Ensuring accurate reports and up-to-date information on potential security risks

  • Particularly suitable for SQLi testing, making it a valuable resource for detecting and managing database vulnerabilities.

While Wapiti may not offer the same breadth of features as some other vulnerability scanners, its focus on database vulnerabilities and SQLi testing makes it an important tool for organizations looking to secure their web applications and databases. Using Wapiti guarantees your web applications are safeguarded against potential security risks and vulnerabilities, especially those related to database access and manipulation.


Sqlmap

Sqlmap is an open-source tool designed for scanning and testing database vulnerabilities. By providing a comprehensive solution for vulnerability scanning and penetration testing on multiple databases, Sqlmap offers an effective way for DevOps teams to assess potential security risks before integrating code into their production environment.


As an open-source penetration testing tool, Sqlmap facilitates the detection and exploitation of SQL injection vulnerabilities in web applications. Its wide range of capabilities and features makes it a valuable resource for organizations looking to secure their databases and web applications from potential security threats and vulnerabilities.


OpenSCAP

OpenSCAP is an open-source framework maintained by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It is based on the Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP) and is specifically designed for the Linux platform. It provides a comprehensive selection of tools to support scanning for:

  • Web applications

  • Network Infrastructure

  • Databases

  • Hosts

OpenSCAP stands out from other scanners as it evaluates the device against the SCAP standard. This is in contrast to others that assess Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs). The SCAP standard is an open standard employed to identify vulnerabilities and misconfigurations, making OpenSCAP a unique and valuable tool for organizations looking to secure their Linux-based systems and applications.


Wireshark

Wireshark is a free, open-source tool for inspecting protocols and analyzing network traffic. Available for Linux, Windows, and OS X, Wireshark offers a range of capabilities for network administrators and security professionals to monitor and assess network traffic, identify potential security risks, and troubleshoot network issues.


Expert pentesters have contributed valuable feedback and suggestions to enhance the capabilities of Wireshark, making it a powerful and versatile tool for inspecting protocols and analyzing network traffic. By using Wireshark, organizations can gain greater visibility into their network traffic and identify potential security risks, ensuring a more secure and stable network environment.


WebScarab

WebScarab is a free, open-source vulnerability scanner developed by OWASP that uses HTTP/HTTPS protocols to assess web applications for potential security risks. With features such as the detection of common vulnerabilities like SQL injections and server misconfigurations, WebScarab provides a robust solution for securing web applications.

While WebScarab may not offer the same range of features as some other vulnerability scanners, its focus on HTTP/HTTPS protocols and detection of SQL injections make it an important tool for organizations looking to secure their web applications from potential security threats.


The use of WebScarab ensures your web applications remain secure against potential security risks and vulnerabilities, particularly those related to server misconfigurations and database access.


Metasploit Community Edition

Metasploit Community Edition is a free version of the popular network scanning tool, offering basic vulnerability scanning capabilities. With a user-friendly, Java-based interface, Metasploit Community Edition provides an accessible solution for network administrators and security professionals looking to assess and manage potential security vulnerabilities in their networks.


While the free version of Metasploit may not offer the same range of features as the Express or Pro Editions, it still provides a valuable resource for organizations looking to secure their networks and identify potential security threats. Using Metasploit Community Edition provides a foundational understanding of your network’s security posture, allowing you to take the necessary protective measures against potential vulnerabilities.


Limitations and Challenges of Free Vulnerability Scanners

While free vulnerability scanners offer numerous benefits, they also come with certain limitations and challenges. One primary limitation is the need for technical expertise to effectively utilize open-source scanners, as well as additional time and effort from the IT team members using the tool. Many organizations opt to purchase commercial vulnerability scanning tools or VMaaS in order to save time and money. Even though they have expertise in-house, they feel this move will benefit them.


Another challenge is the potential for network issues, such as errors, reboots, and performance degradation, when utilizing scanners. It’s essential to balance these challenges with the benefits of using free scanners and to consider factors such as regular updates, support, and integration with other security tools and systems when selecting a scanner.

For some organizations, it may make more sense to explore the paid vulnerability scanners. We've identified the top 8 vulnerability scanners to help in your research. Understanding these limitations and challenges empowers organizations to make informed decisions and select the vulnerability scanner that best fits their needs.


Tips for Maximizing the Benefits of Free Vulnerability Scanners

To maximize the benefits of free vulnerability scanners, it’s important to conduct regular scans and prioritize critical vulnerabilities. Periodic scanning allows organizations to confirm corrections made based on the initial vulnerability scan and detect any vulnerabilities that were not identified during the initial scan. Prioritizing critical vulnerabilities assists organizations in focusing on the most pressing vulnerabilities first and ensuring that they are addressed promptly.


Another tip for maximizing the benefits of free vulnerability scanners is to integrate them with other security tools and systems. By combining tools, organizations can gain a more comprehensive understanding of their security posture and detect any potential vulnerabilities that may have been overlooked.


Following these tips enables organizations to fully utilize their free vulnerability scanners and protect their networks, applications, and devices from potential security threats.


How to Choose the Right Free Vulnerability Scanner for Your Needs

When selecting the right free vulnerability scanner for your specific needs, it’s important to consider factors such as:

  • Features

  • Compatibility

  • Ease of use

  • Community support

  • Updates and support

  • Integration

  • Reputation

By evaluating these factors, you can ensure that you choose a scanner that provides the right balance of features and support for your organization.

Keep in mind that customer support may be limited with free vulnerability scanners, but open-source tools are maintained by sizable communities of security professionals who are willing to share their expertise and provide assistance with any issues that may arise. Regular updates and support are essential for ensuring that the free vulnerability scanner is current with the latest security threats and vulnerabilities.


Taking these factors into account before selecting a scanner ensures your organization is well-prepared to identify and manage security risks effectively.


Summary

Vulnerability scanning is a critical practice for identifying and managing security risks in networks, applications, and devices. Free vulnerability scanners offer a range of benefits, including cost-efficiency, community support, and diverse features. However, it’s important to be aware of the limitations and challenges associated with using free scanners, such as technical expertise requirements and potential network issues.


By following the tips provided in this blog post, such as conducting regular scans, prioritizing critical vulnerabilities, and integrating tools, organizations can maximize the benefits of free vulnerability scanners and choose the most suitable solution for their specific needs. With the right vulnerability scanner in place, organizations can effectively protect their networks, applications, and devices from potential security threats and vulnerabilities.


Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any free vulnerability scanners?

Yes, there is a free vulnerability scanner called Vega Vulnerability Scanner. It is open-source and also available as a commercial product developed by OpenVAS.


Is OpenVAS still free?

Yes, OpenVAS is still a free open-source vulnerability scanner and its components are all free software under the GNU GPL license. It's a comprehensive system with a committed developer community that offers great security.


How can I check the vulnerability of a website for free?

You can check the vulnerability of a website for free by using any one of the top 14 online vulnerability scanners, such as Astra Pentest, Intruder, Qualys, HostedScan Security, Probely, ZAP, Wapiti, and WebScarab, which offer features to identify potential security threats.


Is Saint vulnerability scanner free?

SAINT Security Scanner was originally developed as a free UNIX tool but is now a commercial vulnerability assessment platform. Therefore, it is not free.


What are the benefits of using free vulnerability scanners?

Free vulnerability scanners provide cost-efficiency and comprehensive features to help organizations manage security risks without additional expense. They also offer community support, allowing users to benefit from the collective experience of others.

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