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Manual Reference Pages  -  OPENVASSD (8)


openvassd - The Scanner of the Open Vulnerability Assessment System (OpenVAS)


The Configuration File
Network Usage
See Also


openvassd [-v] [-h] [-c config-file] [-a address ] [-p port-number] [-D] [-R] [-P] [-q] [-f]


OpenVAS is a security auditing framework made up of several modules. The Scanner, openvassd is in charge of executing many security tests against many target hosts in a highly optimized way.

openvassd inspects the remote hosts and attempts to list all the vulnerabilities and common misconfigurations that affects them. Note that openvassd will run in daemon mode by default (unless you specify -f as an option).


-c <config-file>, --config-file=<config-file>
  Use the alternate configuration file instead of /usr/local/etc/openvas/openvassd.conf

-a <address>, --listen=<address>
  Tell the scanner to only listen to connections on the address <address> which is an IP, not a machine name. For instance, "openvassd -a" will make openvassd only listen to requests going to This option is useful if you are running openvassd on a gateway and if you don’t want people on the outside to connect to your openvassd.

-p <port-number>, --port=<port-number>
  Tell the scanner to listen on connection on the port <port-number> rather than listening on port 9391 (default).

  Sets the GnuTLS priority string for the listening socket to adjust the supported cipher suites.

  Sets the path to a PEM file containing Diffie-Hellman parameters. Needed for key DHE-based key exchange algorithms that provide Perfect Forward Secrecy. This file could be generated using tools like "openssl dhparam" and "certtool --generate-dh-params".

-f, --foreground
  Make the scanner stay in foreground (non-daemon mode)

-v, --version
  Writes the version number and exits

-h, --help
  Show a summary of the commands


The default openvassd configuration file, /usr/local/etc/openvas/openvassd.conf contains these options:

plugins_folder Contains the location of the plugins folder. This is usually /var/lib/openvas/plugins, but you may change this.
logfile path to the logfile. You can enter syslog if you want the openvassd messages to be logged via syslogd You may also enter stderr if you want the openvassd logs to be written on stderr. Because openvassd is a sensitive program, you should keep your logs.

max_hosts is maximum number of hosts to test at the same time which should be given to the client (which can override it). This value must be computed given your bandwidth, the number of hosts you want to test, your amount of memory and the horsepower of your processor(s).

max_checks is the number of plugins that will run against each host being tested. Note that the total number of process will be max_checks x max_hosts so you need to find a balance between these two options. Note that launching too many plugins at the same time may disable the remote host, either temporarily (ie: inetd closes its ports) or definitely (the remote host crash because it is asked to do too many things at the same time), so be careful.

be_nice If this option is set to ’yes’, then each child forked by openvassd will nice(2) itself to a very low priority. This may speed up your scan as the main openvassd process will be able to continue to spew processes, and this guarantees that openvassd does not deprives other important processes from their resources.

log_whole_attack If this option is set to ’yes’, openvassd will store the name, pid, date and target of each plugin launched. This is helpful for monitoring and debugging purpose, however this option might make openvassd fill your disk rather quickly.

log_plugins_name_at_load If this option is set to ’yes’, openvassd will log the name of each plugin being loaded at startup, or each time it receives the HUP signal.

dumpfile Some plugins might issue messages, most of the time to inform you that something went wrong. If you want to read these messages, set this value to a given file name. If you want to save space, set this option value to /dev/null

cgi_path By default, openvassd looks for default CGIs in /cgi-bin and /scripts. You may change these to something else to reflect the policy of your site. The syntax of this option is the same as the shell $PATH variable: path1:path2:...

port_range This is the default range of ports that the scanner plugins will probe. The syntax of this option is flexible, it can be a single range ("1-1500"), several ports ("21,23,80"), several ranges of ports ("1-1500,32000-33000"). Note that you can specify UDP and TCP ports by prefixing each range by T or U. For instance, the following range will make openvassd scan UDP ports 1 to 1024 and TCP ports 1 to 65535 : "T:1-65535,U:1-1024".

optimize_test By default, openvassd does not trust the remote host banners. It means that it will check a webserver claiming to be IIS for Apache flaws, and so on. This behavior might generate false positive and will slow the scan down somehow. If you are sure the banners of the remote host have not been tampered with, you can safely enable this option, which will force the plugins to perform their job only against the services they have been designed to check.

checks_read_timeout Number of seconds that the security checks will wait for when doing a recv(). You should increase this value if you are running openvassd across a slow network slink (testing a host via a dialup connection for instance)

non_simult_ports Some services (in particular SMB) do not appreciate multiple connections at the same time coming from the same host. This option allows you to prevent openvassd to make two connections on the same given ports at the same time. The syntax of this option is "port1[, port2....]". Note that you can use the KB notation of openvassd to designate a service formally. Ex: "139, Services/www", will prevent openvassd from making two connections at the same time on port 139 and on every port which hosts a web server.

plugins_timeout This is the maximum lifetime, in seconds of a plugin. It may happen that some plugins are slow because of the way they are written or the way the remote server behaves. This option allows you to make sure your scan is never caught in an endless loop because of a non-finishing plugin.

safe_checks Most of the time, openvassd attempts to reproduce an exceptional condition to determine if the remote services are vulnerable to certain flaws. This includes the reproduction of buffer overflows or format strings, which may make the remote server crash. If you set this option to ’yes’, openvassd will disable the plugins which have the potential to crash the remote services, and will at the same time make several checks rely on the banner of the service tested instead of its behavior towards a certain input. This reduces false positives and makes openvassd nicer towards your network, however this may make you miss important vulnerabilities (as a vulnerability affecting a given service may also affect another one).

auto_enable_dependencies OpenVAS plugins use the result of each other to execute their job. For instance, a plugin which logs into the remote SMB registry will need the results of the plugin which finds the SMB name of the remote host and the results of the plugin which attempts to log into the remote host. If you want to only select a subset of the plugins available, tracking the dependencies can quickly become tiresome. If you set this option to ’yes’, openvassd will automatically enable the plugins that are depended on.

use_mac_addr Set this option to ’yes’ if you are testing your local network and each local host has a dynamic IP address (affected by DHCP or BOOTP), and all the tested hosts will be referred to by their MAC address.

source_iface Name of the network interface that will be used as the source of connections established by OpenVAS. The scan won’t be launched if the value isn’t authorized according to (sys_)ifaces_allow / (sys_)ifaces_deny if present.

ifaces_allow Comma-separated list of interfaces names that are authorized as source_iface values.

ifaces_deny Comma-separated list of interfaces names that are not authorized as source_iface values.

sys_ifaces_allow Like ifaces_allow. Can’t be overridden by the client.

sys_ifaces_deny Like ifaces_deny. Can’t be overridden by the client.

hosts_allow Comma-separated list of the only targets that are authorized to be scanned. Supports the same syntax as the list targets. Both target hostnames and the address to which they resolve are checked. Hostnames in hosts_allow list are not resolved however.

hosts_deny Comma-separated list of targets that are not authorized to be scanned. Supports the same syntax as the list targets. Both target hostnames and the address to which they resolve are checked. Hostnames in hosts_deny list are not resolved however.

sys_hosts_allow Like hosts_allow. Can’t be overridden by the client.

sys_hosts_deny Like hosts_deny. Can’t be overridden by the client.

The other options in this file can usually be redefined by the client.

At log in attempt, openvassd checks that the certificate has been signed by a recognized authority.


Bear in mind that OpenVAS can be quite network intensive. Even if the OpenVAS developers have taken every effort to avoid packet loss (including transparently resending UDP packets, waiting for data to be received in TCP connections, etc.) so bandwidth use should always be closely monitored, with current server hardware, bandwidth is usually the bottleneck in a OpenVAS scan. It might not became too apparent in the final reports, scanners will still run, holes might be detected, but you will risk to run into false negatives (i.e. OpenVAS will not report a security hole that is present in a remote host)

Users might need to tune OpenVAS configuration if running the scanner in low bandwidth conditions (low being ’less bandwidth that the one your hardware system can produce) or otherwise will get erratic results. There are several parameters that can be modified to reduce network load:

checks_read_timeout (Introduced in OpenVAS 0.99.4) The default value is set to 5 seconds, that can (should) be increased if network bandwidth is low in the openvassd.conf or openvasrc configuration files. Notice that it is recommended to increase this this value, if you are running a test outside your LAN (i.e. to Internet hosts through an Internet connection), to over 10 seconds.

max_hosts Number of hosts to test at the same time (this value is set by the OpenVAS GUI client or by .openvasrc) it can be as low as you want it to be (obviously 1 is the minimum)

max_checks Number of checks to test at the same time (this value is also set by the OpenVAS GUI client or by .openvasrc ) it can be as low as you want it to be and it will also reduce network load and improve performance (obviously 1 is the minimum) Notice that the OpenVAS scanner will spawn max_hosts * max_checks processes.

Other options might be using the QoS features offered by your server operating system or your network to improve the bandwidth use.

It is not easy to give a bandwidth estimate for a OpenVAS run, you will probably need to make your own counts. However, assuming you test 65536 TCP ports. This will require at least a single packet per port that is at least 40 bytes large. Add 14 bytes for the ethernet header and you will send 65536 * (40 + 14) = 3670016 bytes. So for just probing all TCP ports we may need a multitude of this as nmap will try to resend the packets twice if no response is received.

A very rough estimate is that a full scan for UDP, TCP and RPC as well as all NASL scripts may result in 8 to 32 MB worth of traffic per scanned host. Reducing the amount of tested part and such will reduce the amount of data to be transferred significantly.




The canonical places where you will find more information about the OpenVAS project are: (Official site) (Developers site) (Bug Tracker)



openvassd was forked from nessusd in 2005. Nessusd was written by Renaud Deraison <>. Since 2005 the OpenVAS development team improved and extended the tool.

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The OpenVAS Project OPENVASSD (8) January 2011

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