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Getting Started with Nessus on Kali Linux

Kali Linux, a Linux distribution designed specifically for penetration testing, comes prepackaged with many pen test tools. Nessus® provides a penetration tester with a wealth of capabilities that will assist in the engagement, such as:

  • Identifying local and remote vulnerabilities
  • Configuration and compliance audits
  • Checking for default credentials
  • Web application scanning

Because the Kali Linux installation of Nessus has been very popular over the past several years, we decided to update the instructions to help you make the most of your pen testing environment.

Nessus isn’t installed on Kali Linux by default, but this post will show you how to install Nessus and provide some suggestions for using it in a penetration testing engagement to gain a more complete understanding of your organization's security posture.

Installing and configuring Nessus

Prior to downloading Nessus, ensure that your Kali Linux installation is up to date:

apt update && apt upgrade

Step 1: Purchase Nessus and obtain an Activation Code

Nessus can be purchased directly from Tenable or through an authorized reseller.

After purchasing Nessus, an Activation Code will be available on the Tenable Support Portal.

Step 2: Download Nessus

Navigate to the Tenable Nessus downloads page and select the appropriate version for your installation of Kali Linux, either the 32-bit or 64-bit Debian package:

Nessus-6.10.4-debian6_i386.deb Nessus 6.10.4 for Debian 6, 7, 8 / Kali Linux 1, 2016 Rolling - i386
Nessus-6.10.4-debian6_amd64.deb Nessus 6.10.4 for Debian 6, 7, 8 / Kali Linux 1, 2016 Rolling - AMD64

Step 3: Install Nessus

Using the command line, install the Nessus package:

dpkg -i Nessus-6.9.4-debian6_amd64.deb

Once the installation completes, start the Nessus service:

/etc/init.d/nessusd start

If you would like Nessus to start when Kali Linux boots, issue the command:

update-rc.d nessusd enable

Installing Nessus

After the Nessus service starts, using a web browser to navigate to the Nessus Web Interface at: https://localhost:8834/.

Step 4: Configure and use Nessus

You may see a warning about the SSL certificate not being configured appropriately. You can continue past this warning or consult the Nessus User Guide to properly set this up.

To configure Nessus, follow the installation wizard. Create an administrator user account, activate with your activation code from the Tenable Support Portal, and let Nessus fetch and process the plugins.

Refer to the official Nessus documentation for any other questions or issues with installing Nessus.

Nessus interface

Using Nessus in a penetration test

Kali Linux tools complement your Nessus installation, with everything in one place for easy maintenance. Nessus reports on host discovery, vulnerability detection and exploitability. Here are some of the ways that Nessus can be used to support penetration testing:

Conclusion

Nessus is the world’s most widely-deployed vulnerability assessment solution. Nessus quickly and accurately identifies vulnerabilities, configuration issues and malware in physical, virtual and cloud environments to help you prioritize what to fix first. Combine Nessus with Kali Linux to build a superior pen testing toolkit that provides deep insight into your network systems.

For more information

To download Nessus, visit the Nessus Download page or evaluate Nessus Professional for 7 days.