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The Top 10 Penetration Testing Tools for Security Professionals


A penetration tester needs to have the right tool at hand for inspection, detection, and mitigation of malicious attacks.

There are numerous, premium-grade pen-testing tools to expedite workflows. Each of these tools uses automation to detect new forms of attacks. Do you know you can perform advanced pen testing with a tool chain consisting entirely of open-source software only?

Check out the following ten tools used by professionals for holistic pen-testing.

1. Kali Linux

Kali Linux interface

Kali Linux is not a mere penetration testing tool, but a full-fledged distro dedicated to advanced software testing.

The distribution is highly portable and boasts extensive multi-platform support. You can rely on Kali for pen-testing on desktop platforms, mobile, docker, ARM, Windows-based Linux subsystems, bare metal, VM, and many others.

Kali impresses the most demanding critics with its versatility to serve in disparate software testing use cases. Given Kali’s meta packages, anyone can modify the ISO to produce a customized distribution version suitable for specific use cases.

Kali garners ample documentation and support from the community, and its developers Offensive Security—making it a well-recognized distribution to work on.

Download: Kali

2. NMap

nmap interface

Nmap, or Network Mapper, is an auditing and network security testing tool. It is a valuable addition to your arsenal, especially if you are a network admin, taking care of network inventory, upgrade schedules, or service management and host monitoring duties.


Related: How to Scan All Open Ports on Your Network With Nmap

Nmap relies on raw IP packets to determine the available hosts on your network. This open-source tool is flexible, as it helps you conduct network scans for small to large networks to obtain OS info, server info, ping sweeps, type of packet filters, and active firewalls.

Nmap’s portability and multi-platform support allow you to use it across premium and open-source systems. This customization helps adapt it as per different security testing regimens. You can operate Nmap in either CUI or GUI mode.

Nmap comes with extensive documentation; the dedicated support community frequently updates the documentation for its end-users.

Rest assured, you can merge it into your security testing protocols across various systems.

Download: Nmap

Metasploit interface

Metasploit is a pen-testing framework to help you evaluate any network for security vulnerabilities. You can use the Ruby language-coded software to weed out vulnerabilities through CUI or GUI-guided methods.

Metasploit Framework Edition relies on CUI to achieve third-party imports, manual exploitation, and brute-forcing. The commercial version of the tool is handy for web application testing, social engineering campaign security, and dynamic antivirus payload management.

The tool allows you to write custom test cases that help identify vulnerabilities. Further on, the findings are used to identify system-wide flaws and weaknesses.

Metaspoilt offers tools like Armitage for graphical cyberattack mitigation, with session, data, and communication sharing capabilities. It includes a Cobalt Strike module to help simulate threat environments to test cyberattack readiness.

Download: Metasploit

4. Wireshark

Wireshark interface

As a network protocol analyzer, Wireshark gives granular control over network activities. The pen-testing tool helps analyze a wide array of security protocols for cyber threats. The multi-platform network security utility is capable of live captures and offline analysis.

Related: What Is Wireshark and How Can You Use It to Secure Your Network?

It gives you a suite of highly pedantic VoIP inspection tools, as it supports multiple file formats—such as Microsoft Network Monitor, NetXray, WildPackets EtherPeek/TokenPeek/AiroPeek, NetScreen snoop, and many more.

For best results, you can adapt the analyzer tool to work with discrete and confidential government agency security, commercial enterprise security, educational security, and other sector data.

Download: Wireshark

5. John the Ripper

John the Ripper is a password recovery tool tailor-made for Unix system password recovery. As a tool, its functionalities are available on Windows, macOS, and web password apps simultaneously.

It supports hash and cipher types for database servers, groupware, encrypted private keys, traffic captures, disks, and disparate file systems.

With John the Ripper, you will find wordlists supporting popular contemporary languages, password strength checking tools, modem password hashing tools, and much more.

Download: John the Ripper

6. Hashcat

Hashcat interface

Hashcat is a multi-platform password recovery tool that can crack through 90+ algorithms, including MD4, MD5, UNIX Crypt, NTLM, MySQL, SHA1, DCC, MySQL, Cisco PIX, and many others. It helps you simulate system architecture-specific attacks.

The pentesting tool is well prepare to boost your system against brute force attacks. The MIT-licensed password cracking tool is the world’s first and only password cracker, with an in-kernel rule engine.

Hashcat is available as a CPU-based recovery tool and aoclHashcat/cudaHashcat, a GPU-accelerated tool.

The recovery tool’s modern hashcat-legacy version is available on all leading premium and open-source systems with GPU, CPU, and generic OpenCL support for accelerator cards and FPGAs.

Download: Hashcat

7. Hydra

Hydra interface

Hydra is a Kali parallelized password cracker. It helps security analysts, researchers, and White Hat experts test remote accessibility and security.

Hydra supports ICQ, IMAP, IRC, LDAP, MS-SQL, MySQL, Cisco AAA, Cisco auth, Cisco enable, CVS, FTP, HTTP(S)-FORM-GET, HTTP(S)-FORM-POST, HTTP(S)-GET, HTTP(S)-HEAD, and HTTP-Proxy.

The tool is highly versatile and has extended its support for new modules, including contemporary, less-known security/authentication protocols.

This is handy for login protocol testing, commonly required for everything — from web portal security to application or system-wide security.

Download: Hydra

8. Burp Suite

Burp Suite interface

Burp Suite is a must-have tool for your pen-testing inventory. It is an automated web vulnerability detection utility. Burp is highly flexible, as it can scale vulnerability scans quickly when tested on large, enterprise-scale systems.

Burp Suite offers excellent vulnerability filtering features with scheduled scans and CI/CD integrations. Rest assured, you can count on Burp Suite for your daily DevOps pen-testing, with its intuitive remediation advisory and reports to strengthen your vulnerability detection prowess.

Download: Burp Suite

9. Zed Attack Proxy

OWASP’s Zed Attack Proxy, or ZAP, is an open-source web scanner aimed at serving pen-testing novices. Given its advanced automation features, it’s a significant leg-up to your existing security testing workflows.

The tool boasts extensive documentation, plus excellent development and community support. You can count on ZAP’s add-on modules provided by them to help extend the scope of your pen-testing routine.

Download: Zed Attack Proxy

10. Sqlmap

SQLMAP interface

Sqlmap is a penetration tool that helps you detect and prevent SQL injection flaws that cripple your database servers. The open-source pen-testing tool offers a dexterous vulnerability detection engine with a broad range of switches, including database fingerprinting, database data-fetching, file system accessibility, and out-of-band connection command execution.

Sqlmap will help you test across a broad spectrum of DBMSes, including MariaDB, MemSQL, MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Access, IBM DB2, SQLite, and several others.

Download: Sqlmap

No matter which OS you are using, it’s important to secure the system and continue protecting it from hackers and spyware. Nonetheless, depending on the system you use, you might want to use different types of compatible tools.

For example, some tools listed above might work for Windows and Linux, but not for Mac. When you are looking for pentesting tools, make sure you check your tool’s compatibility with your OS, before downloading it.

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