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Monitoring open ports on RHEL 5

A Linux security expert describes how to determine which ports are open in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (RHEL 5) and how to figure out if your ports have been compromised by an attack.

When using Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (RHEL 5), how can you monitor which ports are open on different servers to make sure someone hasn't compromised ports for other uses?

There isn't an easy and automated way to do this from a monitoring environment. Perhaps the best method is regular Nmap or Nessus scans of your hosts (though this has some risks and you will have to ensure that you set up both to scan in a non-intrusive manner) with the output compared a pre-defined baseline. Both tools will also generate a lot of network 'chatter' and if you have an IDS/IPS installed, then this will potentially look like an attack and generate false positives.

In the event your host may have been compromised there is also hardscan, a netstat replacement for scanning local ports, attempting a handshake and outputting the results. This can often help in identifying a host infected with a rootkit that has compromised ports open.

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