Network scanning is a procedure for identifying active hosts on a network, either for the purpose of attacking them or for network security assessment. Scanning procedures, such as ping sweeps and port scans, return information about which IP addresses map to live hosts that are active on the Internet and what services they offer. Another scanning method, inverse mapping, returns information about what IP addresses do not map to live hosts; this enables an attacker to make assumptions about viable addresses.
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Scanning is one of three components of intelligence gathering for an attacker. In the foot printing phase, the attacker creates a profile of the target organization, with information such as its domain name system (DNS) and e-mail servers, and its IP address range. Most of this information is available online. In the scanning phase, the attacker finds information about the specific IP addresses that can be accessed over the Internet, their operating systems, the system architecture, and the services running on each computer. In the enumeration phase, the attacker gathers information such as network user and group names, routing tables, and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) data.