I'm attempting to do a simple port scan with nmap:

$ nmap

Starting Nmap 6.47 ( http://nmap.org ) at 2015-03-10 19:30 IST
Nmap scan report for
Host is up (0.0048s latency).
Not shown: 998 closed ports
5555/tcp  open  freeciv
24800/tcp open  unknown

Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 0.10 seconds

But when I attempt the same with sudo, it fails claiming the host is down:

$ sudo nmap

Starting Nmap 6.47 ( http://nmap.org ) at 2015-03-10 19:30 IST
Note: Host seems down. If it is really up, but blocking our ping probes, try -Pn
Nmap done: 1 IP address (0 hosts up) scanned in 0.48 seconds

I'm on OS X Yosemite.
GNU bash, version 3.2.57(1)-release (x86_64-apple-darwin14)

Thank you.

  • 1
    Please include output for these commands with the -d option, as well as output of nmap --version and whether you installed via the .dmg package, via Macports, or some other way. Thanks! Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 23:54

3 Answers 3


By default an unprivileged scan uses -sT (TCP Connect) while privileged (root) uses -sS (TCP SYN Stealth).

TCP Connect (-sT) Connect scan uses the system call of the same name to scan machines, rather than relying on raw packets as most of the other methods do. It is usually used by unprivileged Unix users and against 1Pv6 targets because SYN scan doesn't work in those cases.

TCP SYN Stealth (-sS) This is far and away the most popular scan type because it the fastest way to scan ports of the most popular protocol (TCP). It is stealthier than connect scan, and it works against all functional TCP stacks (unlike some special-purpose scans such as FIN scan).

1) To figure what is happening with your machine I would suggest using the extra verbose mode (-vv) or --packet-trace to see what happens.

$ sudo nmap --packet-trace -vv

2) Another approach would be to force an unprivileged scan as privileged user using the following commands and see the result.

$ sudo nmap -sT -vv
$ sudo nmap --unprivileged -vv

3) Finally the reason why nmap stops the scan is because IMCP Type 8 (echo a.k.a ping) doesn't return an ICMP Type 0 (echo reply). This command ignores ping and keep scanning:

$ sudo nmap -PN

Can you please try those commands and post the output ?


Basically, by default:

  • A privileged user executes an -sS (TCP SYN scan).
    This type of scan requires raw socket / raw packet privileges.
  • An unprivileged user executes an -sT (TCP connect scan).
    This type of scan does not require raw socket / raw packet privileges.

Adapted from Nmap's official docs:

Most of the scan types are only available to privileged users. This is because they are able to send and receive raw packets, which requires root access on Unix systems. Using an administrator account on Windows is recommended, though Nmap sometimes works for unprivileged users on that platform when WinPcap has already been loaded into the OS. Requiring root privileges was a serious limitation when Nmap was released in 1997, as many users only had access to shared shell accounts. Now, the world is different. Computers are cheaper, far more people have always-on direct Internet access, and desktop Unix systems (including Linux and Mac OS X) are prevalent. A Windows version of Nmap is now available, allowing it to run on even more desktops. For all these reasons, users have less need to run Nmap from limited shared shell accounts. This is fortunate, as the privileged options make Nmap far more powerful and flexible.

--privileged (Assume that the user is fully privileged).
Tells Nmap to simply assume that it is privileged enough to perform raw socket sends, packet sniffing, and similar operations that usually require root privileges on Unix systems. By default, Nmap quits if such operations are requested but geteuid is not zero. --privileged is useful with Linux kernel capabilities and similar systems that may be configured to allow unprivileged users to perform raw-packet scans. Be sure to provide this option flag before any flags for options that require privileges (SYN scan, OS detection, etc). The NMAP_PRIVILEGED environment variable may be set as an equivalent alternative to --privileged.

-sS (TCP SYN Scan).
TCP SYN Scan is the default scan option for privileged users. It can be performed quickly, scanning thousands of ports per second; when on a fast network, not hampered by any restrictive firewalls. It is also relatively unobtrusive and stealthy since it never completes TCP connections. A TCP SYN Scan works against any compliant TCP stack rather than depending on the idiosyncrasies of specific platforms (as Nmap's other scans do). It allows clear, reliable differentiation between the (open), (closed), and (filtered) states.
This technique is often referred to as a Half-Open Scan, because it doesn't open a full TCP connection. You send a SYN packet, as if you are going to (open) a real connection and then wait for a response. A SYN/ACK indicates the port is listening (open), while a RST (reset) is indicative of a non-listener (closed). If a SYN/ACK is received, a RST is immediately sent to tear down the connection. The primary advantage to this scanning technique is that fewer sites will log it. Unfortunately you need root privileges to build these custom SYN packets. If no response is received after several retransmissions, the port is marked as (filtered). The port is also marked (filtered) if an ICMP unreachable error (type 3, code 0, 1, 2, 3, 9, 10, or 13) is received. The port is also considered (open) if a SYN packet (without the ACK flag) is received in response. This can be due to an extremely rare TCP feature known as a simultaneous (open) or split handshake connection. (https://nmap.org/misc/split-handshake.pdf)

--unprivileged (Assume that the user lacks raw socket privileges).
This option is the opposite of --privileged. It tells Nmap to treat the user as lacking network raw socket and sniffing privileges. This is useful if testing, debugging, or the raw network functionality of your operating system is somehow broken. The NMAP_UNPRIVILEGED environment variable may be set as an equivalent alternative to —unprivileged.

-sT (TCP Connect Scan).
TCP Connect Scan is the default TCP scan type for unprivileged users. This is the most basic form of TCP scanning. The connect() system call, provided by your operating system is used to (open) a connection to some interesting ports on the machine. If the port is (listening), then connect() will succeed, otherwise the port is (filtered). One strong advantage to this technique is that it doesn't require any special privileges. Usually, on most UNIX boxes, any user can make this call because it doesn't involve writing raw packets like most other scan types do. This connect() call is the same high-level system call that web browsers, P2P clients, and most other network-enabled applications use to establish a connection.
When the TCP SYN Scan is available, it is usually a better choice. Nmap has less control over the high level connect() call than with raw packets, making it less efficient. Rather than performing the half-open (reset) that a SYN Scan does, the connect() system call makes complete connections to (open) target ports. This not only takes longer, it requires sending more packets to obtain the same information, and target machines are more likely to log the connection. A decent IDS will catch either. Most machines, however, have no such alarm system. Many services on your average Unix system will add a note to syslog, and sometimes a cryptic error message, when Nmap connects and then closes the connection without sending data. Truly pathetic services crash when this happens, though that is uncommon. An administrator who sees a bunch of connection attempts in her logs from a single system should know that she has been TCP Connect Scanned.


I have noticed the same behavior on my Mac. It is really strange.

It appears that NMAp with sudo privileges gets some informations from the ARP cache. And so, if you scan a device that is disconnected from the network but is still in the ARP cache (the cache is updated after 2 or 3 minutes on my computer), then it will appears as online for NMAP.

From NMAP man page :

If no host discovery options are given, Nmap sends an ICMP echo request, a TCP SYN packet to port 443, a TCP ACK packet to port 80, and an ICMP timestamp request. (For IPv6, the ICMP timestamp request is omitted because it is not part of ICMPv6.) These defaults are equivalent to the -PE -PS443 -PA80 -PP options. The exceptions to this are the ARP (for IPv4) and Neighbor Discovery. (for IPv6) scans which are used for any targets on a local ethernet network. For unprivileged Unix shell users, the default probes are a SYN packet to ports 80 and 443 using the connect system call.. This host discovery is often sufficient when scanning local networks, but a more comprehensive set of discovery probes is recommended for security auditing.

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