Definition

port scan

Contributor(s): Stephanie Ireland

A port scan is a series of messages sent by someone attempting to break into a computer to learn which computer network services, each associated with a "well-known" port number, the computer provides. Port scanning, a favorite approach of computer cracker, gives the assailant an idea where to probe for weaknesses. Essentially, a port scan consists of sending a message to each port, one at a time. The kind of response received indicates whether the port is used and can therefore be probed for weakness.

Types of port scans include:

  • Vanilla - An attempt to connect to all ports (there are 65,536)
  • Strobe - An attempt to connect to only selected ports (typically, under 20)
  • Stealth scan - Several techniques for scanning that attempt to prevent the request for connection being logged
  • FTP Bounce Scan - Attempts that are directed through an File Transfer Protocol server to disguise the cracker's location
  • Fragmented Packets - Scans by sending packet fragments that can get through simple packet filters in a firewall
  • UDP - Scans for open User Datagram Protocol ports
  • Sweep - Scans the same port on a number of computers
This was last updated in April 2005

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