Nmap Gets a Major Update

by Ostatic Staff - Jan. 22, 2010

Nmap users have a lot to be excited about in the 5.20 release announced on Wednesday. The 5.20 release brings a bunch of changes and improvements to Nmap. The traceroute engine has been rewritten, Nmap now has more than 10,000 signatures to detect the operating system and version of devices, and Nmap has received numerous performance improvements and reduced memory consumption.

Network admins will no doubt be excited to learn that Nmap is now ready to identify Snow Leopard systems, Android Linux smartphones, and Chumby's, among other OSes that Nmap can now identify. How much has Nmap reduced memory consumption? According to the release notes, Nmap has seen a dramatic improvement:

We performed a memory consumption audit and made changes to dramatically reduce Nmap's footprint. This improves performance on all systems, but is particularly important when running Nmap on small embedded devices such as phones. Our intensive UDP scan benchmark saw peak memory usage decrease from 34MB to 6MB, while OS detection consumption was reduced from 67MB to 3MB.

This release also brings an additional 31 Nmap Scripting Engine scripts, bringing the total collection up to 80 pre-written scripts for Nmap. The scripts include X11 access checks to see if X.org on a system allows remote access, a script to retrieve and print an SSL certificate, and a script designed to see whether a host is serving malware.

Nmap also comes with netcat, Ndiff, and a GUI frontend for Nmap called Zenmap. Source code and binaries are available from the Nmap site, including RPMs for x86 and x86_64 systems, and binaries for Windows and Mac OS X. Nmap is available under the GPLv2, with an exception for linking to any version of the OpenSSL library.

Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is a longtime FOSS advocate, and currently works for Novell as the community manager for openSUSE. Prior to joining Novell, Brockmeier worked as a technology journalist covering the open source beat for a number of publications, including Linux Magazine, Linux Weekly News, Linux.com, UnixReview.com, IBM developerWorks, and many others.