Install and Setup Nessus Scanner on Ubuntu 20.04

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In this tutorial, you will learn how to install and setup Nessus scanner on Ubuntu 20.04. Nessus is the de-facto industry standard vulnerability assessment solution. It is one of the most widely deployed vulnerability assessment solution world-wide.

Install and Setup Nessus Scanner on Ubuntu 20.04

Nessus features high-speed asset discovery, configuration auditing, target profiling, malware detection, sensitive data discovery, and more. Nessus supports more technologies than competitive solutions, scanning operating systems, network devices, hypervisors, databases, web servers, and critical infrastructure for vulnerabilities, threats, and compliance violations. With the world’s largest continuously-updated library of vulnerability and configuration checks, and the support of Tenable’s expert vulnerability research team, Nessus sets the standard for vulnerability scanning speed and accuracy.

Install and Setup Nessus Scanner on Ubuntu 20.04

There are different versions of Nessus scanners that you can use for vulnerability assessment:

In this tutorial, we will learn how to install and setup Nessus Professional trial version scanner on Ubuntu 20.04. Some of the features provided by the Nessus professional trial version include;

  • Real-Time Vulnerability Updates
  • Vulnerability Scanning
  • Unlimited Scans
  • 32 IPs Per Scanner
  • Web Application Scanning
  • Exportable Reports
  • Free for 7 days

To install Nessus Professional trial version on Ubuntu 20.04;

Obtain the Trail activation code

In order to get the Nessus professional trial version activation code, you need to register an account on Nessus activation code page. Once you have registered an account, login to your trials account and obtain activation code. You will receive instructions in your email inbox.

Download Nessus Professional Installer

Navigate to Nessus downloads page and grab Ubuntu installation package. Nessus 8.13.1 is the current stable release as of this writing.

You can simply execute the command below to download Nessus 8.13.1 Ubuntu installer.

curl -o Nessus-8.13.1-Ubuntu1110_amd64.deb "https://www.tenable.com/downloads/api/v1/public/pages/nessus/downloads/12207/download?i_agree_to_tenable_license_agreement=true&file_path=Nessus-8.13.1-Ubuntu1110_amd64.deb"

Calculate the checksum hash of the downloaded file and compare it with the checksum hash as provided on the downloads page.

md5sum Nessus-8.13.1-Ubuntu1110_amd64.deb
eeff7141132f064f879bd11835e76901  Nessus-8.13.1-Ubuntu1110_amd64.deb

Ensure that the hashes match before you can proceed with installation.

Install and Setup Nessus Scanner on Ubuntu 20.04

Next, install Nessus professional trial version on Ubuntu 20.04 by running the command below;

apt install ./Nessus-8.13.1-Ubuntu1110_amd64.deb

As the installation runs, you will see such information on how to start and access Nessus web user interface.

...

 - You can start Nessus Scanner by typing /bin/systemctl start nessusd.service
 - Then go to https://ubuntu20:8834/ to configure your scanner

Running Nessus Deamon

Start and enable Nessus Professional service to run on system boot.

systemctl enable --now nessusd

Checking the status;

systemctl status nessusd
● nessusd.service - The Nessus Vulnerability Scanner
     Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/nessusd.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
     Active: active (running) since Thu 2021-01-14 20:46:56 UTC; 57s ago
   Main PID: 5529 (nessus-service)
      Tasks: 13 (limit: 2282)
     Memory: 51.7M
     CGroup: /system.slice/nessusd.service
             ├─5529 /opt/nessus/sbin/nessus-service -q
             └─5530 nessusd -q

Jan 14 20:46:56 ubuntu20 systemd[1]: Started The Nessus Vulnerability Scanner.

Set up and Activate Nessus Professional

After initial installation you are required to set up and activate Nessus. Login to UI, using the URL as shown in the installation output: https://<your-hostname-or-IP>:8834/.

If UFW is running, open port 8834/tcp to allow external access;

ufw allow 8834/tcp

Next, access Nessus professional from browser to finalize the setup. Accept the SSL warning as an exception and proceed.

Choose Nessus Type to Run

When you first access Nessus, you are prompted to choose the Nessus you want to deploy.

Install and Setup Nessus Scanner on Ubuntu 20.04

In our case, we choose Nessus Professional and continue.

Registering Nessus Professional Trial version

Copy the key from the trials account page and paste it to activate the trial version.

Install and Setup Nessus Scanner on Ubuntu 20.04

Click Continue

Create Nessus Administrator Account

Next, you are required to create an admin account.

Install and Setup Nessus Scanner on Ubuntu 20.04

Click submit once done.

Once the Nessus setup is complete, it will start to initialize by downloading and compiling the plugins needed for scanning. This may take a while though.

After the initialization is done, such an interface welcomes you.

Install and Setup Nessus Scanner on Ubuntu 20.04

Adding Scan Targets

You can choose to add hosts that you want to scan. You can use hostnames, IPv4 addresses, or IPv6 addresses. For IP addresses, you can use CIDR notation (e.g., 192.168.0.0/24), a range (e.g., 192.168.0.1-192.168.0.255), or a comma-separated list (e.g., 192.168.0.0, 192.168.0.1).

Sample scans dashboard.

Install and Setup Nessus Scanner on Ubuntu 20.04

You can further customize your scanner by creating scan rules and policies.

That marks the end of our tutorial on how to install and setup Nessus Scanner on Ubuntu 20.04.

Further Reading

You can utilize the Nessus User guide on how to use Nessus scanner;

Nessus Professional 8.x User Guide

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