SummaryNetRecon, developed by Axent Technologies, was the first really non-intrusive network vulnerability scanner. Axent was one of those small security companies that had a lot of innovative products. The ESM was an important product, but our personal favorite at the time was NetRecon. This was a vulnerability scanner in the days when your choice was NetRecon and the Internet Security Scanner (ISS). ISS was an excellent choice, but it had the ability to knock a system offline if there were certain types of vulnerabilities. NetRecon, on the other hand, was nonintrusive in that it did not attempt exploits of any kind.
There was a real need in some quarters for exactly this kind of scanner. Those were the days when Dan Farmer and Weitse Venema created SATAN and the business world was terrified that it would fall into the wrong hands. Legend tells us that Farmer was told by his employer, Sun Microsystems, that if he released the product on the internet he would be fired. So, the story goes, he did and they did. True or not, the point is that there was a lot of hacker paranoia back then, and the time was right for a way to test for vulnerabilities over the network without worrying about bringing the target down.
It is interesting that NetRecon was in active use in 2002 and did not reach its end of life until two years ago in 2007. As recently as 2001, Network Computing named NetRecon as a finalist in the vulnerability assessment category of its Well-Connected Award for securely enabling eBusiness. Probably, NetRecon's most important capability, beyond being viewed as safe for use in testing the network for vulnerabilities, was its ability to correlate all of the security holes it found to develop the path to a hypothetical intrusion.
The tool disclosed the set of steps that it used to uncover vulnerabilities. This was a primitive penetration test tool in that it was able to hypothesize a successful penetration from the data it gathered. While today we have tools such as Core Impact to perform full penetrations, for its day NetRecon was remarkably advanced.