Headless OpenVAS install

I needed to run OpenVAS (OpenVAS stands for Open Vulnerability Assessment System) the Linux based vulnerability management software on a virtual machine, which means it does not have its own monitor that one sits at to see this screen:

OpenVAS is made by Greenbone, “which develops OpenVAS as part of their commercial vulnerability management product family “Greenbone Security Manager” (GSM). “(from their main web page:)

OpenVAS was developed out of the Nessus code base since 2005, now at github.  The developer of Nessus decided to make Nessus closed source(proprietary) in October of 2005, so openVAS was created and initially named GNessUs.

Why am I talking OpenVAS today? Because I was tasked to install it on a virtual system.

So, one has to install OpenVAS (or update on some Linux distributions since it is already installed by default).  So I work with Kali Linux,  since I use a lot of other tools that are built into the distribution. I wanted to keep some familiarity and so run OpenVAS on Kali Linux.

What are you installing? Several pieces that will need to run on the virtual machine:

As you can see in the image above the Greenbone Security Assistant is software that connects to the OpenVAS Manager and Scanner to run the scans to the targets. OpenVAS uses NVTs(Network Vulnerability Tests) to run the scans. Up to this point (3/18/2019) there are over 49600 tests. CVEs now number 115906.

So in a standard kali Linux install one has the OpenVAS version that comes with it, so to use OpenVAS you have to upgrade Kali first using the following commands:

apt-get update && apt-get install openvas

So now that you have the latest version on your machine how are you going to access OpenVAS? since you cannot sit at the monitor of a virtual system (or what is called a headless install).


After some (actually a lot) of review online and some tinkering I found it useful to know some systemd.  And it just so happens that systemd has several configuration files in a few directories:





The one that is important and relevant for OpenVAS is the /lib/systemd/system directory.

In here there are 3 files that are of importance:




What we have to do to make the installation complete is to replace the ip address of the virtual machine to the greenbone-security-assistant.service file.


change it in this manner, run the following command(changing <your ip> to the virtual system ip address):

Sed –e ‘s/mlisten=<your ip>/’  greenbone-security-assistant.service

Example the virtual system ip address is  so this is what should be run:

Sed –e ‘s/mlisten=’  greenbone-security-assistant.service

After running this command you have to run the following:

Systemctl  daemon-reload

(these commands need to be run with root permissions(sudo))

So once the ip address is entered in command line, and the systemd file .service file reloaded you can restart the gsad  and then log into the web interface assuming you already set up the users.  To access the Greenbone-security-assistant program enter the following in your browser:

From there you will have to learn how to create scans and more.  But at least it is working remotely.

There is also a small issue with this procedure, it is not supported by Greenbone, they want you to install the Greenbone community edition

The security feed is more stable than the community feed (the free version) and has encrypted transmissions.

Contact us to discuss

Vulnerability Management Fixed!

So that we are all on the same page -Vulnerability Management is when an IT department manages it’s inventory of devices with regard to what vulnerabilities each device could be at risk for.

So if every system you own has a vulnerability, and you have 1000 systems it could get a bit challenging to manage. Consistently updating all systems for all vulnerabilities is a constant job of testing the patch, and updating the production system at a convenient time to the business.

At cvedetails.com you can review all cve’s (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures)Each piece of software and hardware can have a potential vulnerability. This is much bigger than you think.

Powershell can give you a list of your programs:

Get-ItemProperty HKLM:\Software\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall\* | Select-Object DisplayName, DisplayVersion, Publisher, InstallDate | Format-Table –AutoSize

From the “How-To Geek” website:

A sample in this image:

The image above has 38 pieces of software(which is likely not comprehensive).   Technically all of these can have a vulnerability(not including Windows and all of it’s subpieces).

So already you can see that 100 systems with at least 40 or 50 pieces can have 4000 to 5000 software versions that may not be the same versions for your network.

This is why there are 109403 vulnerabilities, since a vulnerability for software ABC v1.0 is different from ABC v2.0.

So if this is such a large difficult beast, how can we tame it? Or even fix it?

Actually it is relatively easy to fix by combining Risk management and vulnerability management.


Evaluate all your systems – which system has the most risk and highest impact with failure?

Finding this system should receive most of your focus on testing and updating. And that is just the start, as now the difficult part of figuring what to do with  the other systems, as if you ignore the other systems attackers will come in from that angle.

Contact us to review your systems and set up a risk management matrix for all your systems.

Run Microsoft(Powershell) Software On Linux? More Risk

Did you think it would never happen? Microsoft and Linux are increasing in their ties to each other.

So as we protect systems in our networks, we are increasingly incorporating Linux systems for various reasons, Web servers, specific SQL server database needs  or other reasons (file sharing or other support systems).

A potential threat vector to the Microsoft Windows environment/ network could be the Linux machine. Especially if Microsoft Powershell  commands can be run on a Linux machine. Now you can truly have any machine  that is taken over be the breach entry that takes down your network.

How is this possible (viewing Internet Storm Center posts)? By installing a number of software pieces:

  1. First install Powershell itself
  2. Second install Mono (an open source implementation of Microsoft’s .NET framework)
  3. Install OpenXML
  4. Now you can run Powershell

This is an interesting development as it means that even a Linux machine can be turned into a sophisticated attack machine into your environment.  Of course we knew that as Kali Linux has specific attack tools. But now we are not using attack tools but Microsoft tools running on Linux.

I want to switch directions a little bit and discuss the problems of directing a company:  By stating “Business Decisions” — “External Pressure”  in a Risk Assessment discussion.

The cybersecurity – world of vulnerabilities is in the space of “External Pressure”, but I wanted to create a picture of the whole world of Risk for a company. And the risks are in Supply Chain,cloud, leadership/labor,change in technologies.  When one sees risk for the company in its totality, the new vulnerabilities risk is much smaller in comparison to the others. especially if the other risks are changes in competitors(Amazon) or changes in environment.

It is only when some news event comes into the fore, like a major breach, then it is obvious that Cybersecurity needs to be reviewed periodically.

Of course if one did that in the first place, then one can focus on the market and technology changes.

This is the problem we computer risk professionals wage, as the CEO/CFO are forever working the major problems for the company, and they rarely see cybersecurity as a major threat – due to much more important problems for the company.

Contact Us to discuss how we can let you focus on more important things, let us do some of the Cybersecurity items.

Test Your Incidence Response Plans

So we all must have an Incidence response plan, which is only used after a computer security problem:

  1. Detect problem
  2. Investigate problem
  3. What type of the threat to the business?
  4. Does it rise to level of “Breach”? With significant legal disclosure requirements
  5. Did the attackers steal information/data?


We know practice makes perfect, but how do we practice responding to a known attack without actually getting a hacker and hacking your systems?

So of course getting a pentester and having your environment tested for problems is a good thing. But we need to also have a method of trying to get our IT staff to not be afraid to follow the crumbs to a potential breach. People tend to get better the more they do something, so a pentest would also be useful for IT staff incident reports.


With or without a pentest it is wise to create a “write-up”  report that acts as if the breach or hack happened so the IT personnel computers will be used to working through the “paperwork” process.


So let us do it together?

1. We detected a problem in the logs, they were zeroed out on our windows 2012 server.

2. we do not know why this happened, but the event logs now have a handful of events (going back to yesterday only).

3. Is this a threat to the business? If there are no logs to see how will we  know what happened in the last few days before the logs were deleted?

4. Review systems, to see if any new files have been added, you will have to make comparisons to recent backups.  Also review any customer data if it resides on the server (is customer data valid?).  If you have no way of doing this today, better start working on a process now.

5. The last point is where the most difficult assessment has to be performed. Is this a threat to the business? was data stolen?

And this is exactly where many companies get tripped up. Every day you are running your business and it seems like any other day. Losing event logs does not mean much… but it could be a sign of a serious breach.

Find out if your files have been altered. the problem is that some malware is only here for other purposes, so some files being altered have lower risk and impact. How can we know if there is a high impact high risk alteration?

To have any chance of knowing a breach happened means that you need IT Personnel to do the following:

  • Vigilant employees
  • Notice  unauthorized logins
  • See unauthorized usage of computer systems
  • Reboots are mysteriously happening on the own, why?
  • review administrative account access on actions that are unknown to administrators.
  • Notice unusual outbound traffic
  • Are files being added to your computer systems without IT department knowledge?
  • Logs are being deleted or very few event logs available on critical systems
  • Was data stolen?


A lot of these bullet points assume you can see potential breach indicators, so here is an Infographic to help you with this process.


If you are not testing your incident response plans, what will happen when a real attack happens?

Contact us to help you with Oversite or auditing needs.


How are Hackers Always a Step Ahead of Defense?

So the Defense (also known as Blue team) has been inundated with spam, the goal of the spam(for the hackers) is for an unsuspecting user to give up their credentials(username and password). Hackers are always trying to get your usernames and passwords.

Opening a word document? What if it included a small file that is unlikely  or even impossible to detect when first opening the file? because it gets resized to a small point in the document.

Notice the above image shows how to create a link inside a picture.

the above image is from ISC.sans.edu link.

So due to various dirty tricks in spam we have built 2FA (Two Factor Authentication) so that the connecting to the email server and getting your email will effectively shut out the spam merchants… until now with this nifty trick.  (Do you have to re-establish 2FA every time you get email? Or only when first logging in?)

When you open the word document the picture activates and tries to connect to the criminal-hacker-website.com which then sends the credentials of the computer to criminal-hacker-website.com.

Clearly only username and password defense is not going to do the job, as many tricks will pry the information to your account out of you.  And an incorrectly set up 2FA also would be a problem.

The defense must have a good logging and egress filter setup. (Block port 445/tcp , 137/tcp, 139/tcp, and 137/udp and 139/udp.

Back to my question “How are Hackers Always a step ahead of the Defense?”

The answer lies in logic actually:  If you have to defend 24 hours per day every day while trying to use software of the Internet then it is only a matter of time before a hacker uses ingenuity to break or bypass your defenses as shown above. We have to constantly be aware of new attacks and thus ways of defending against new vulnerabilities found every day.

True it would be nice if all software did not have security issues, but as we know security is not the highest effort while making a product. Making money is, and sometimes a security audit is not high on the priority scale.

So it is the same old story “The risk versus Security” see-saw.

The people who focus on Security might spend more in resources rather than others, so if you hear a new potential attack are you impulsively scoffing? Or saying I have to learn this attack and defend against it (thus spending resources?

if you are scoffing and wish to take on more risk by thinking the security problems might go away just by thinking they will go away. The risk on the internet these days is not that low, the ingenuity of new attacks are coming so fast that if you have not upped your ante, then one day it will be too late and the headlines will serve your epitaph.

So We believe that you should do both seek some risks while also staying secure  by employing Security Auditors.


Contact Us to discuss