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Traditional active scanning using scanners such as Nessus Professional has long been the preferred method for scanning systems in the enterprise environment. Active scanning is done remotely and requires access to key services that are typically disabled as part of system hardening (for example, Remote Registry access). The hardening of systems can actually limit the data collected by active scanning. Compounding this problem is that enumeration of key services requires credential scanning. In order to access key data sets, elevated privileges are required (that is, root, local admin, or domain admin). Many security professionals are hesitant to use these elevated privileges across the network. On high-value targets such as domain controllers, this caution is further elevated.
Nessus Agents do not require elevated privileges or extra accounts because they operate at the system level. The use of Nessus Agents allows a low-risk approach to scanning hardened systems without requiring that you reduce security. You can effectively eliminate the need for credentials while scanning at the system level.