A penetration tester’s job is to seek out, test, and identify network or systems vulnerabilities. Pen tests are usually carried out by an ethical hacker, security consultant, or security operations center (SOC) teams.
Pen testers need the latest penetration testing tools to identify network or security weaknesses to protect and prevent cyberattacks. We’ve prepared an overview of the best penetration testing tools for your cybersecurity toolkit, what they test, and the benefits and differences of each.
What Is Penetration Testing?
Cybersecurity experts use penetration testing to simulate network or systems attacks and identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities before the hackers do. In football terms, this is known as a “prevent defense.”
A pen tester uses the same tools and techniques used by hackers to break into systems, inflict malware, initiate attacks and lockdowns, take over accounts, and steal valuable data and information in real-time. While a critical cybersecurity process, penetration testing can also be contentious because it may expose vulnerabilities and security problems that IT departments should have under control.
Five Common Penetration Tests
Ethical hackers typically use five penetration tests to check for network, system, and application vulnerabilities. They include:
- White box tests – also known as transparent or glass box testing. This test looks at the quality of application code and any vulnerabilities by giving ethical hackers security information in advance.
- Black box tests – these blind tests do not provide security information to allow a deeper security simulation and testing for weaknesses.
- Double-blind tests – these are covert tests with no security information, and they analyze vulnerabilities without informing internal cybersecurity teams.
- External tests – these test vulnerabilities remotely, including websites and other network services accessed by customers, visitors, and hackers.
- Internal tests – they look for organizational vulnerabilities from the inside, checking for a wide range of potential cyber risks.
Eight Recommended Penetration Testing Tools & Software
According to Checkpoint research, the number of cyberattacks grew by 50% in 2021. Organizations faced an average of 925 cyberattacks weekly, and more than 30,000 websites were hacked every day.
To build the best cybersecurity threat management and attack prevention strategies, we’ve profiled the top eight penetration testing tools with brief descriptions of their advantages and what they’re used for. These recommended pen-testing tools and software will ensure you detect your organization’s network and system vulnerabilities and help you devise threat management programs to make them more secure.
This Linux distribution is widely regarded as one of the best comprehensive penetration testing tools for injecting and password sniffing and brute force password cracking. However, you will need some TC/IP skills to use its 600+ ethical hacking tools fully.
It can also be used for vulnerability analysis, information gathering, wireless attacks, spoofing, reverse engineering, hardware hacking, and exploitation tools. As a bonus, Kali Linux integrates easily with Metasploit, Wireshark, and other tools. It also tests for WLAN and LAN vulnerability and is like the Swiss Army knife of pen-testing tools.
Netsparker can test from 500 to 1,000 web applications simultaneously. It identifies cross-site scripting, exploitable SQL, and XSS vulnerabilities and can be used to detect potential threats on websites, web applications, and web services.
The software is easily customized for security scans with authentication, attack options, and URL rewrite rules. Multiple team members can use it to collaborate and quickly share threat reports. By using proof-based scanning, it ensures accurate vulnerability detection.
Nmap or network mapper helps cybersecurity professionals and has been used as a penetration testing tool for more than 25 years. It tests which ports are open and what’s running on each port. In fact, it’s often described as the equivalent of knocking on all the front doors in your neighborhood to see who’s at home.
It’s proven effective in mapping network security for organizations of every size. Nmap also has a colorful history and is mentioned in several movies, including hacking Matt Damon’s brain in Elysium and launching nuclear missiles in G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
One of the most popular open software pen-testing tools, Metasploit helps cybersecurity teams check security and pinpoint problems. Network administrators often use it to break into systems and identify security risks while testing for more than 1,500 exploits. In addition, the GUI interface and command-line make it easy to use and is popular with beginning ethical hackers.
It can be used to check for older cybersecurity risks and is available for Mac Os X, Windows, and Linux platforms. Metasploit is ideal for use on servers, networks, and applications.
Wireshark quickly captures and interprets network packets. It is an open-source tool and is available for multiple platforms. The software enables live-capture and offline analysis and provides a detailed assessment of TCP/IP connection issues and a deeper understanding of network activity. Wireshark is an award-winning network analyzer created by more than 600 authors.
John the Ripper
This password cracker is a free open-source software used to check for password vulnerabilities. It automatically identifies password hashes and discovers database password weaknesses. John the Ripper includes a customizable password cracker, and a Pro version is available for Mac Os X, Linux, Hash Suite, and Hash Suite Droid platforms.
Flaws in wireless network security are common. Aircrack-ng captures packets and the WP handshake and uses a password dictionary to test for WEP security weaknesses. Aircrack allows attack testing using fake access points, de-authentication, and replay attacks.
It can check Wi-Fi cards, driver capabilities, and cracking vulnerability for WEP and WPA PSK. Aircrack was updated in 2021 and works primarily on Linux as well as Windows, Mac Os X, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD, Solaris, and eComStation 2.
This automated testing tool checks 4,500+ weaknesses, including SQL and XSS. It can crawl hundreds of thousands of web pages without delay on local or cloud networks. Black and white box testing is faster using AcuSensor Technology, a built-in vulnerability management system, and manual penetration tools.
Penetration Testing Tools Summary
Cybersecurity professionals will have most of the tools needed to secure networks and systems from cyberattacks with these eight crucial pen-testing tools. We hope you found a few new pen tools to add to your cybersecurity toolbox. Be sure to check out our comprehensive SOC analyst training courses by active industry leaders for more tips.