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About OpenVAS

OpenVAS is a full-featured vulnerability scanner. Its capabilities include unauthenticated testing, authenticated testing, various high level and low level Internet and industrial protocols, performance tuning for large-scale scans and a powerful internal programming language to implement any type of vulnerability test.

The scanner is accompanied by a vulnerability tests feed with a long history and daily updates. This Greenbone Community Feed includes more than 50,000 vulnerability tests.

The scanner is developed and maintained by Greenbone Networks since 2009. The works are contributed as Open Source to the community under the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL).

Greenbone develops OpenVAS as part of their commercial vulnerability management product family "Greenbone Security Manager" (GSM). OpenVAS is one element in a larger architecture. In combination with additional Open Source modules, it forms the Greenbone Vulnerability Management solution. Based on this, the GSM appliances use a more extensive feed covering enterprise needs, a GVM with additional features, appliance management and a service level agreement.

History of OpenVAS

In 2005, the developers of the vulnerability scanner Nessus decided to discontinue the work under Open Source licenses and switch to a proprietary business model.

At this point, developers from Intevation and DN-Systems (the two companies which would later found Greenbone Networks) already contributed developments to Nessus, focussing on client tools. The works were primarily supported by the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI)

In 2006, several forks of Nessus were created as a reaction to the discontinuation of the Open Source solution. Of these forks, only one continued to show activity: OpenVAS, the Open Vulnerability Assessment System. OpenVAS was registered as a project at Software in the Public Interest, Inc. to hold and protect the domain "openvas.org".

The years 2006 and 2007 had little activity beyond clean-ups of the status quo. But in late 2008, the company Greenbone Networks GmbH, based in Osnabrück, Germany was founded to push forward OpenVAS. Essentially, Greenbone's business plan was about 3 cornerstones:
  • 1. Go beyond plain vulnerability scanning towards a comprehensive vulnerability management solution.
  • 2. Create a turn-key appliance product for enterprise customers.
  • 3. Continue the Open Source concept of creating transparent security technology.
Also in 2008, two further companies became active, Secpod from India and Security Space from Canada. Both of them had a focus on contributing vulnerability tests, and teamed up with Greenbone to start producing a reliable and up-to-date feed of vulnerability tests. This started with removing any source code and vulnerability tests where the license was not clear or not compatible. Several thousands of vulnerability tests were eliminated for a clean starting point. Shortly after this, the feed content was growing quickly and steadily.

In 2009, Greenbone added the first additional modules to build a vulnerability management solution. The web interface and the central management service were developed from scratch, defining generic protocols as their API. At the same time, the OpenVAS scanner was carefully improved, and quickly lost compatibility with its ancestor. All the Open Source works were published under the brand "OpenVAS". The first "Greenbone Security Manager" appliance products entered the market in the spring of 2010.

In the years 2010 to 2016, the commercial product was systematically improved and extended, and so were the Open Source modules as well. The vulnerability management was extended to carry daily updated security advisories, contributed to the public with a GPL-compatible license from German CERTs DFN-CERT and CERT-Bund, a division at the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) who supported OpenVAS in various ways over these years.

In March 2017, the so-called OpenVAS framework reached version 9. Many new modules and numerous features were added during the release cycles. Some hundred thousands lines of code were produced and there was almost no day without a couple of published code improvements by a growing developer team.

The year 2017 marked the beginning of a new era: First of all, Greenbone became visible as the driving force behind OpenVAS, reducing the brand confusion. This included several activities, the most essential one the renaming of the "OpenVAS framework" to "Greenbone Vulnerability Management" (GVM), of which the OpenVAS Scanner is one of many modules. It also lead to "GVM-10" as the successor of "OpenVAS-9". No license changes happened, all modules remained Open Source.

The second big change in 2017 was about the feed service. Apart from the branding confusion, several companies were integrating the technology and feed and passing it off as their work or claiming to be an alternative to Greenbone's product at a better price. Only a minority of them properly complied with the GPL licenses. None of them cooperates with Greenbone commercially. For achieving better visibility, less misunderstanding and better distinction from other OpenVAS-based products, the public feed was renamed to "Greenbone Community Feed" and the feed development was internalized. Furthermore, the release scheme changed from a 14-days delay to a daily publication without delay where now vulnerability tests for enterprise products are not included anymore.

The third big change towards the new era was the transition to a modern infrastructure, namely GitHub and a community forum. The whole transition was completed in 2018 and boosted both productivity and community activity.

In 2019 the branding separation was completed. OpenVAS now represents the actual vulnerability scanner as it did originally. The framework where OpenVAS is embedded is the Greenbone Vulnerability Management.

OpenVAS Scanner as released with GVM-10 received numerous performance optimization to address the challenge of a growing number of vulnerability tests, scanning target networks of increasing size and heterogeneity.