Vulnerability assessment and penetration testing (VAPT) is a process of securing computer systems from attackers by evaluating them to find loopholes and security vulnerabilities.
Some VAPT tools assess a complete IT system or network, while some carry out an assessment for a specific niche. There are VAPT tools for wi-fi network testing as well as web application testing. Tools that execute this process are called VAPT tools.
We get into a lot of detail on each of the tools below, but if you are short on time, here is our list of the best vulnerability assessment and penetration testing tools:
- Netsparker Security Scanner (GET DEMO) Automated vulnerability scanning and penetration testing tools available from the cloud or for installation on Windows.
- Acunetix Web Vulnerability Scanner (GET DEMO) A website vulnerability scanner and penetration testing system for websites that can be installed on-site or accessed as a cloud service.
- Metasploit An open-source penetration testing framework that is available for free or in a paid Pro version that includes professional support. Installs on Windows, Windows Server, RHEL, and Ubuntu.
- NMAP A free network vulnerability scanner with a front-end, called Zenmap. Both install on Windows, Linux, BSD Unix, and Mac OS.
- Wireshark A popular packet sniffer for wired and wireless networks. Installs on Windows, Linux, Unix, and Mac OS.
- John the Ripper Free, open-source password cracker and hash type detector. Installs on Unix, macOS, Windows, DOS, BeOS, and OpenVMS.
- Nessus Application vulnerability assessor available in free and paid versions. Installs on Windows, Windows Server, Linux, Mac OS, and Free BSD.
- Aircrack-ng Well-known wireless packet sniffer that is widely used by hackers. Runs on Linux.
- Burp Suite A platform for testing web application weaknesses. Installs on Linux.
- Probely A web application vulnerability scanner that is intended for use during development. Delivered as a cloud service.
- W3af A free, open-source web application scanner written for Windows, Linux, Mac OS, and Free BSD.
Why do we need VAPT tools?
As we become increasingly reliant on IT systems, the security risks are also increasing both in terms of quantity and scope. It has become mandatory to proactively protect important IT systems so that there are no security breaches. Penetration testing is the most useful technique adopted by companies to safeguard their IT infrastructures.
“With the cyber security landscape changing so rapidly, it’s imperative that organisations of all sizes regularly test their defences. VAPT testing, conducted by experienced security professionals, helps to identify and address network and application-level vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by criminals.
“Avoid buying specialist VAPT tools or commissioning assessments from third parties without fully considering your business’ needs. Tests vary in focus, breath and duration so ensure that you take the time to fully scope your requirements to receive the greatest benefit and value for money.” – Mark Nicholls, CTO, Redscan.
The best VAPT tools
This article goes over ten of the best VAPT tools, with careful consideration for efficiency and effectiveness. Some are available free of charge, while others will require you to loosen the purse strings.
Netsparker Security Scenner is a web application security system that includes vulnerability scanning and penetration testing tools. The vulnerability scanner includes three phases; pre-execution, scanning, and vulnerability verification. The vulnerability checks use “proof-based scanning,” which doesn’t just examine responses to web requests but searches through the code of web applications.
The vulnerability checks cover standard web applications, such as HTML5, plus content applications, including WordPress and Drupal. Access control systems, such as authentication methods are also included in the vulnerability scan.
The scanner can be set to run constantly and it can feed vulnerability alerts through to bug and issue trackers, including Jira, Fogbugz, and Github. The scanner can be set to test new applications during the testing phase of development as well.
The vulnerability scanner will run constantly, so new vulnerabilities in your websites can be spotted once the system is in production. The system checks for misconfigurations in supporting technology, such as .NET and any updates in included code that arrives from other sources, such as content delivery systems.
The penetration testing tools in the package include attacks that use SQL injection and cross-site scripting. Tests can be run automatically and repeatedly as part of the vulnerability scanning schedule. This testing automation cuts out the risk of human error and produces regulated test scripts.
The documentation produced by Netsparker is compliant with PCI DSS, so retaining a documentation library from the scans is an important factor for standards conformance.
Netsparker is available in three editions and can be installed on-site or accessed as a hosted service. The onsite software runs on Windows. You can get access to a free demo system of Netsparker to assess its capabilities before you buy it.
Some of the scans rely on sensors being placed within the code of a website and its applications. This inclusion could be difficult to manage for many organizations that don’t have their own web development team. The inclusion of data gathering functions that communicate with an external system could itself become a security weakness. However, that potential vulnerability doesn’t seem to worry the very impressive client list of Acutanix, which includes the US Air Force, AVG, and AWS.
If you do have a web development team and your site includes a lot of custom code, then you will be able to integrate Acutanix into your development management support system. The detection system forms a part of the testing software of new code and will produce a list of loopholes, inefficiencies, and vulnerabilities as a result of its testing procedures, sending recommendations on improvements back through the project management system.
The Acunetix system is available for on-premises installation or as a cloud service. You can get a look at how the system performs on your websites by accessing the free demo.
Prominent features include:
- SQL injection detection, which is the most notorious type of attack on a website
- The ability to assess 4,500+ vulnerability types
- A very smooth operation that can scan hundreds of pages quickly
- Impeccable efficiency
- Compatibility with WAFs and the ability to integrate with SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle)
- Availability as either a desktop or cloud version
Metasploit is a well-known compilation of different VAPT tools. It comes at the top of this list due to its prominence and reliability. Digital security experts and other IT specialists have utilized it for a considerable length of time to achieve different goals, including finding vulnerabilities, overseeing security assessments, and defining barrier approaches.
You can utilize the Metasploit tool on servers, online-based applications, systems, and other areas. If a security weakness or loophole is discovered, the utility makes a record and fixes it. In the event that you have to assess the security of your framework against more established vulnerabilities, Metasploit will also have you covered.
In our experience, this tool proved to be the best penetration testing tool against large-scale attacks. Metasploit is especially adept at locating old vulnerabilities that are concealed and not able to be located manually.
Metasploit is available in both free and commercial versions; you can choose one based on your requirements.
NMAP, an abbreviation of Network Mapper, is a totally free and open-source tool for checking your IT systems for a range of vulnerabilities. NMAP is useful at overcoming different tasks, including observing host or administration uptime and performing mapping of network assault surfaces.
NMAP keeps running on all the major working frameworks and is reasonable for checking both huge and small networks. NMAP is compatible with all of the major operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and Macintosh.
With this utility, you can understand the different attributes of any objective network, including the hosts accessible on the network, the kind of framework running, and the type of bundled channels or firewalls that are set up.
You can download it from their official website on NMAP.
Wireshark is an open-source system analyzer and troubleshooter. It has a streamlined feature that lets you monitor what is being done on your system network. It’s the de facto standard for corporate use as well as small agencies. Wireshark is also being used by academic institutes and government offices. Its development was started in 1998 by Gerald Combs. You can download it from Wireshark.
Prominent features are listed below:
- Profound investigation of several conventions, with more being included constantly, as well as continuous updates
- Live and offline testing and assessment
- Cross-platform compatibility with Windows, Linux, macOS, Solaris, FreeBSD, NetBSD, and numerous others
- Evaluated network information can be viewed by means of a user interface, or through the TTY-mode TShark utility
- Rich VoIP investigation
- Read/Write a wide range of capture file formats like tcpdump (libpcap), Pcap NG, Catapult DCT2000, Cisco Secure IDS iplog, Microsoft Network Monitor, Network General Sniffer® (compacted and uncompressed), Sniffer Pro, Visual UpTime, WildPackets’ EtherPeek/TokenPeek/AiroPeek, and numerous others
- Captured documents packed with gzip can be decompressed easily
- Unscrambling support for some conventions, including IPsec, ISAKMP, Kerberos, SNMPv3, SSL/TLS, WEP, and WPA/WPA2
- Shading principles can be applied to the parcel list for a fast, natural investigation.
Disturbingly, many people use easy-to-guess passwords such as admin123, password, 123545, etc. Password cracking is the most common cybersecurity breach, and usually, this occurs due to soft passwords that can be trivially cracked in under a second by a modern password cracker running good hardware. Accounts with such passwords are therefore easy prey for hackers; they can delve with reckless abandon into your system’s network and steal information like credit card numbers, your bank passwords, and sensitive media.
John the Ripper is the best tool for analyzing your entire system for easily guessable/crackable passwords. It actually launches a simulated attack on the proposed system to identify password vulnerabilities.
Its free version comes in the shape of source code, which you will obviously need a developer to integrate for your company’s use. The pro version, however, is easy to embed. It is distributed in native packages (unique for every operating system) and is easy to install.
Nessus is another vulnerability-finding tool, but it’s also a paid tool. It’s very easy to use and works smoothly. You can use it for assessing your network, which will give you a detailed summation of the vulnerabilities in your network.
Prominent vulnerabilities in which Nessus is specialized include misconfiguration errors, common passwords, and open ports.
As of this writing, 27,000 organizations are using it worldwide. It has three versions—the first one is free and has fewer features, with only basic level assessments. We suggest you go for the paid versions if you can so that your network or system will be properly protected against cyber threats.
Aircrack-ng specializes in assessing vulnerabilities in your wi-fi network. When you run this tool on your computer, it runs the packets for assessment and gives you the results in a text file. It can also crack WEP & WPA-PSK keys.
Burp Suite is a popular tool for checking the security of online applications. It comprises different devices that can be utilized for completing distinctive security tests, including mapping the assault surface of the application, investigating solicitations and reactions happening between the program and goal servers, and checking applications for potential threats.
Burp Suite comes in both a free and paid version. The free one has basic manual devices for carrying out checking exercises. You can go for the paid version in the event that you need web-testing capabilities.
Probely is also a web application assessor; companies use it to find vulnerabilities in their web apps in the development phase. It lets clients know the lifecycle of vulnerabilities and also offers a guide on fixing the issues. Probely is arguably the best testing tool for developers.
Key features include the ability to:
- Scan for SQL Injections and XSS
- Check 5,000 vulnerability types
- Be used for content management systems such as WordPress and Joomla
- Be downloaded as an API (Note: all features are available in API form)
- Capture results in PDF format
W3af is a web application known for its ‘hack and review’ system. It has three sorts of modules—disclosure, review, and assault—that works correspondingly for any vulnerabilities in a given website. For example, a discovery plugin in w3af searches for various URLs to test for vulnerabilities and then forwards it to the review module, which at that point utilizes these URLs to scan for vulnerabilities.
It can likewise be designed to keep running as a MITM intermediary. Any solicitation that is caught could be sent to the solicitation generator; after that is done, manual web application testing can be performed utilizing varying parameters. It also points out vulnerabilities that it finds and describes how these vulnerabilities could be exploited by malevolent entities.
Some prominent features of w3af:
- DNS and HTTP Caching
- Cookie and session handling
- HTTP and digest authentication
- Fake Users agent
- Custom headers for requests
Choosing the right tool
Well, that really depends on your precise needs. All the tools have their own strengths based on the types of users they are catering to. Some are dedicated to a specific task, while others try to be broader in scope. As such, you should opt for a tool according to your requirements. If you want to assess your complete system, then Metasploit or Nmap would be among the best fits. For wi-fi network assessment, there’s Aircrack-ng. Probely and Acunetix are also solid choices for scanning web applications.