Penetration tests, or pen tests as they’re colloquially known, primarily consist of hacking or cyber-attacking your own system so that you can determine if there are any vulnerabilities that can be exploited by third parties.
This process is used to strengthen a web application firewall, and it provides a great amount of insight that can be used to improve our system’s security, which is vital for any kind of organization. Pen tests simply are much more effective and efficient with the aid of specialized tools, and that’s why today we will be exploring the best ones out there.
We get into detail on each of the tools below, but in case you only have time for a quick summary, here is our list of the best penetration testing tools:
- Network Mapper (NMAP) free and open-source utility for network discovery and security auditing
- Netsparker Security Scanner can handle large scale operations, uses automation to check for false positives
- Metasploit lightweight command-line tool, trusty for assessing and keeping you on top of threats
- BeEF solid command-line tool, great for monitoring the network’s ‘open door’ – the browser – for any unusual behavior
- Wireshark a trusty network protocol analyzer with a well-known user interface, packs a lot of power
- w3af python-based network protocol analyzer with similar features to Wireshark, yet very extendable
- Acunetix Scanner slick tool with plenty of automation, can detect and fix issues before they arise
- John the Ripper great command-line password cracker to test how secure the user passwords on your network are
- Aircrack mainly focuses on wifi security and known vulnerabilities
- Burp Suite Pen Tester comprehensive set of tools, great for analyzing and tracking traffic between servers and client browsers
The objective of a pen test is not only to find vulnerable elements of your security system but also to check the compliance of your security policy in your organization, measure the awareness and scope of any security issues, and to take a look at the possibility of what disasters could befall your network in the event of a real foreign-entity cyber-attack.
In essence, penetration testing allows you to reveal areas of weakness that you might not have otherwise considered. Often, organizations are stuck in their ways (or simply become apathetic), but pen testers offer an unbiased and fresh perspective that will result in strong improvements and the adoption of a more proactive approach.
The 10 best Pen Testing Tools
Given that a penetration test is meant to provide such important information, its success depends on using the right tools. This is a complex task, so automated tools make it easier and more effective for testers to identify the faults. So, without further ado, here are the top 10 tools for pen testing (in no particular order), according to our in-depth analysis:
NMAP is a great tool for discovering any type of weakness or holes in the network of an organization. Plus, it’s also a great tool for auditing purposes. What this tool does is take raw data packets and determine which hosts are available on a particular segment of the network, what OS is in use (aka fingerprinting), and identify the different types and versions of data packet firewalls or filters that a particular host is using.
Just like the name implies, this tool creates a comprehensive virtual map of the network, and it uses it to pinpoint all the major weaknesses that can be taken advantage of by a cyber-attacker. NMAP is useful for any stage of the penetration testing process. Best of all, it’s free.
This web application for pen testing is totally automatic. It has become very popular due to the fact that developers can use this on many different platforms for entire websites, including web services and web applications. It can identify everything pen testers need to know to make an informed diagnosis—from SQL injection to cross-site scripting.
Another characteristic that makes this tool so popular is that it allows pen testers to scan up to 1,000 web apps at once while also allowing users to customize security scans to make the process robust and more efficient. The potential impact of vulnerabilities is instantly available; it takes advantage of weak points in a read-only way. This proof-based scanning is guaranteed to be effective, including the production of compliance reports among other great features, including the ability to work with multiple members for collaboration, making it easy to share findings; there’s no need to set up anything extra due to the fact that scanning is automatic.
Metasploit is an exceptional tool because it’s actually a package of many pen testing tools, and what’s great is that it keeps evolving and growing to keep up with the changes that are constantly coming up. This tool is preferred by both cybersecurity professionals and certified ethical hackers, and they contribute their knowledge to the platform to help it grow, which is great. Metasploit is powered by PERL, and it can be used to simulate any kind of penetration testing you need. Plus, Metasploit is customizable and only has a process of four steps, so it’s super quick.
The features available will help you determine the prepacked exploits you should use, and it also allows you to customize them; you can also configure them with an IP address and remote port number. What’s more, you can also configure the payload with the IP address and local port number. You can then determine which payload you’d like to deploy before launching the exploit at the intended target.
Metasploit also integrates a tool called Meterpreter, which displays all results when an exploit occurs, which means you can analyze and interpret results effortlessly and formulate the strategies a lot more efficiently.
Related: Metasploit Cheat Sheet
This kind of pen-testing tool is best suited to check web browsers because it’s designed to combat web-borne attacks. That’s why it tends to benefit mobile clients the most. This tool uses GitHub to find vulnerabilities, and the best thing about this tool is that it explores weaknesses beyond the network perimeter and the client system. Just keep in mind that this is specifically for web browsers because it will look at vulnerabilities within the context of a single source. It connects with several web browsers and allows you to launch directed command modules.
Wireshark is a network protocol and data packet analyzer that can fish out security weaknesses in real time. The live data can be collected from Bluetooth, Frame Relay, Ipsec, Kerberos, IEEE 802.11, any connection based on Ethernet, and more.
The greatest advantage this tool has to offer is that the results of the analysis are produced in such a way that even clients can understand them at first glance. Pen testers can do so many different things with this tool, including color coding, to enable a deeper investigation, and to isolate individual data packets that are of top priority. This tool comes in quite handy when it comes to analyzing security risks inherent to information and data posted to forms on web-based apps.
Related: Wireshark Cheat Sheet
This penetration-testing suite was created by the same developers of Metasploit, and its objective is to find, analyze, and exploit any security weakness that may be present in web-based applications. The package is complete and features many tools, including user-agent faking, custom headers to requests, DNS cache poisoning or DNS spoofing, and many other attack types.
What makes W3AF such a complete tool is that the parameters and variables can be quickly saved into a Session Manager file. This means that they can be reconfigured and reused quickly for other pen tests on web apps, thus saving you a lot of time because you won’t have to re-enter all the parameters and variables every time you need them. Plus, the results of the test are displayed in graphic and text formats that make it easy to understand.
Yet another great thing about the app is that the database includes the best-known threat vectors and customizable exploit manager so that you can execute attacks and exploit them to the maximum.
This is another automated tool that will allow you to complete pen tests without any drawbacks. The tool can audit complicated management reports and issues, and it can handle many of the network’s vulnerabilities. It’s also capable of including out-of-band vulnerabilities. The Acunetix Scanner also integrates issue trackers and WAFs; it’s definitely the kind of tool you can rely on because it’s one of the most advanced tools in the industry. One of its crowning achievements is its exceptionally high detection rate.
This tool is amazing, covering more than 4,500 weaknesses. The Login Sequence Recorder is easy to use; it scans areas that are protected by passwords. The tool contains AcuSensor technology, manual penetration tools, and built-in vulnerability testing. It can crawl thousands of web pages quickly and also run locally or through cloud solutions.
This is a well-known tool and is an extremely elegant and simple password cracker. This tool allows you to determine any unknown weaknesses in the database, and it does this by taking text string samples from a word list of complex and popular words that are found in the traditional dictionary and encrypting them in the same format as the password that’s being tampered with. Simple and effective, John the Ripper is a highly recommended addition to the toolkit of any well-prepared pen tester.
Aircrack is a must-have tool to detect flaws inside wireless connections. Aircrack does its magic by capturing data packets so that the protocol is effective in exporting through text files for analysis. It’s supported by different operating systems and platforms, and it offers a great array of tools that will allow you to capture packets and export data, test WiFi devices and driver capabilities, and many other things.
This tool contains all the essentials to successfully perform scanning activities and advanced penetration testing. It this fact that makes it ideal to check web-based apps, because it contains tools to map the tack surface and analyze requests between destination servers and the browser. It does so by using web-penetration testing on a Java platform. It’s available on numerous different operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and OS X.
Pen testing is extremely important for the integrity of security systems in any kind of organization, so choosing the right tool for each individual job is essential. The ten tools presented here today are all effective and efficient for what they were designed to do, which means they will allow pen testers to do the best possible job to provide organizations with the information and forewarning they need. The goal here is to strengthen systems and eliminate any vulnerability that will compromise system integrity and security.