In business today, computers are evidently heavily utilized throughout different industries, hence being often considered as vital tools in business. Although often considered to be helpful in making the different aspects of business more efficient especially in terms of interconnectivity and organization, there are still potential drawbacks in relation to the use of computers in firms and organizations. In fact, the uses of computers have opened new possibilities on how a certain business may be compromised without any direct physical means. Such possibilities and actions which involve the use of technical knowledge of computer systems and networks for different manifestations of harmful acts have led to the formation of a distinct classification of crime termed as a cybercrime (McClure, Scambray, and Kurtz, 2009).
Since there are new forms of threats and attacks through the use of computers, new forms of identifying potential victims have also arisen. Two of these methods are ping sweeps and port scans. Therefore, being concerned about the safety and integrity of a business, it is important to develop a general yet effective understanding of both methods.
Ping sweeps are associated with the identification of potential vulnerabilities across a network of computers. However, the process does not necessarily focus on searching for weaknesses across the network but is rather primarily concerned with the identification of computers which may then be assessed for possible attacks that may be made depending on the security measures present (McClure, Scambray, and Kurtz, 2009). Thus, even though ping sweeps alone may not be considered as harmful, it is evident that ping sweeps may be used as a preparatory tool for actual attacks. To provide further detail regarding the process of ping sweeps, it is most appropriate to provide an overview of the process. Ping sweeps are highly similar to conducting a single ping; however, the main difference is that ping sweeps are capable of numerous pings sent out to different computers often conducted through an automated manner (McClure, Scambray, and Kurtz, 2009). Thus, ping sweeps take advantage of the simple process of sending pings, albeit the difficulty in manually identifying active computers through a one is to one process is eliminated.
In relation to the identification of active computers and its relevance to pings, it is important to keep in mind that a computer in a network may be identified to be active if it reacts by providing a relevant response; specifically, for a person conducting a ping sweep, an internet control message protocol (ICMP) ECHO reply in response to the ICMP ECHO request sent is a determinant signal pertaining to whether a computer is active or not (McClure, Scambray, and Kurtz, 2009). Hence, for individuals with proper knowledge of networks, conducting ping sweeps are relatively easy which further adds to ping sweeps being a risk factor. In fact, several programs have already been developed for various operating systems which make the process of ping sweeps along with the process of collating the information gathered even easier to accomplish (McClure, Scambray, and Kurtz, 2009).
Port scans on the other hand are very similar to ping sweeps although arguably more specific in terms of its capabilities for identification. First of all, it is important to assess the importance of ports in the context of computers that are linked through a network. By definition, a port – which is in a way managed by TCP and UDP protocols – is the point where the exchange of information between computers through the network passes through (Shinder and Tittel, 2002). Simply by analyzing the definition, one may initially develop an idea as to how port scans may be used. To expound, there are three main reasons for an individual to use port scans; these three reasons include target enumeration, target identification, and service identification (Shinder and Tittel, 2002). It is in these core reasons that port scans are made distinct and potentially more dangerous if compared with ping sweeps. Port scans are capable of active system which may be targeted as well as determining a level of identification regarding the system similar to ping sweeps; however, port scans are also capable of locating the ports which are considerably prone to outside attacks (Shinder and Tittel, 2002).
Again, similar to the process of how ping sweeps are conducted, port scans are also made more efficient through the use of specifically designed software or programs. In fact, certain port scanning programs, which are easily obtained through different websites, are capable of accomplishing a set of tasks in relation to port scanning which often includes finding a potential computer to attack as well as TCP/IP services identification and vulnerability assessment (Shinder and Tittel, 2002). Hence, it is not difficult to perceive that port scanning does not necessarily require high levels of knowledge in order to be done, but it is also important to consider in relation to properly assessing the risk of the process that an attack to a computer if to be done requires further steps in order to be completed. One example in which a hacker may use to follow up a successful attempt of identifying vulnerable ports is to attempt to gain access to the system of a business firm through different means of systematically determining the password of the system (Shinder and Tittel, 2002).
From the discussion, it has become apparent that ping sweeps and port scans are tools which are generally alike not only in purpose but also in terms of capability. In this sense, both ping sweeps and port scans may be considered as significant threats to a business, although not necessarily an immediate one. The reason for this is that both are initial steps made in order to begin the actual attack in which vital and classified information may be acquired or it is also possible that the individual may attempt to cripple the system or network of a business or firm. Therefore, even though port scans and ping sweeps are not directly dangerous to a business, such nefarious computer activities must be watched out for since such acts generally precede acts of serious risk and concern.
McClure, S., Scambray, J., Kurtz, G. (2009). Hacking Exposed 6: Network Security Secrets and Solutions. 10th Anniversary Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies.
Shinder, D.L. and Tittel, E. (2002). Scene of the Cybercrime: Computer Forensics Handbook. Rockland, MA: Syngress Publishing Incorporated.