What are Penetration Testing Tools?
Penetration testing (pentesting) is a simulated attack launched for the purpose of uncovering security vulnerabilities. A pentest helps organizations discover security gaps, using a realistic simulation of a cyber attack, which does not cause damage or expose sensitive data. There are several tools available for this purpose:
- Bright Security is an advanced penetration testing tool based on the dynamic application security testing (DAST) approach, which uses artificial intelligence to identify complex security vulnerabilities traditional methods might miss.
- Metasploit can perform vulnerability scanning, listening, and evidence collection, making it a good choice for pentesters who manage multiple companies or applications.
- Kali Linux is a pentesting operating system including multiple powerful tools, including sniffing and injecting, password cracking, and digital forensics.
- Burp Suite offers both a free community edition and a commercial professional edition, and is a versatile web application security testing tool.
- Nmap is capable of scanning a single IP, port, or host to a range of IPs, ports, and hosts, and can also identify services that are running on hosts.
- Sqlmap, with its testing engine and multiple modes of injection attacks, is good for detecting injection flaws, but may be limited in detecting other vulnerabilities.
- Wireshark, an open-source tool, analyzes network traffic in real-time and can show which systems and protocols are live in a network.
- Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP) is a free and libre software that sits between your browser and the website you’re testing.
- Nessus can examine a target machine, identify running services, and provide a list of detected vulnerabilities.
- Aircrack-ng is designed specifically for cracking flaws within wireless connections.
- Nikto, an open source web server scanner, performs comprehensive tests against web servers.
Other notable penetration testing tools include Cain and Abel, CANVAS by Immunity, John the Ripper, Kali Linux, Struts-Scan, and W3af.
Related content: read our guide to penetration testing services
In this article, you will learn:
- Penetration Test Phases
- Types of Penetration Testing Tools
- Top 10 Pentesting Tools
- Penetration Testing with Bright
Penetration Test Phases
The penetration testing process usually occurs in five stages. In each of these stages, penetration testers use tools to automate data gathering and exploitation of organizational resources.
- Planning and reconnaissance—the pentester defines the goal and scope of the test. To properly plan the test, the pentester gathers intelligence, which can help in better understanding how a targeted environment works and discover its potential weaknesses.
- Scanning—helps the pentester to better understand how the targeted application might respond to various intrusion attempts. The pentester may use either static or dynamic analysis to access a network.
- Gaining access—the pentester uses several pentesting techniques, such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS), to detect vulnerabilities.
- Maintaining access—the pentester tries to understand if a cybercriminal can exploit weakness, achieve persistent presence in the system, and gain more access.
- Analysis—the pentester compiles the results of the penetration test into a detailed report. The report usually specifies the vulnerabilities that were exploited, the time spent undetected within the system, the sensitive data that was accessed, and more.
Types of Penetration Testing Tools
There is a wide range of tools you can use when running a pentest, each providing different capabilities. Here are the most commonly used penetration testing tools:
- Port scanners—can locate potential attack vectors during the reconnaissance phase. A port scanner can detect open ports, which provide insight into operating systems (OS) and applications running with network access.
- Vulnerability scanners—can identify known application vulnerabilities and configuration errors. A pentester can use the report generated by a vulnerability scanner to identify an exploitable vulnerability for initial access.
- Network sniffers—can collect and analyze network traffic. A pentester can use a network sniffer to locate active applications and then look for sensitive data or exposed credentials moving through the network.
- Web proxy—can help pentesters intercept and change traffic flowing between the pentester’s browser and the web server of the organization. The goal is to find and exploit HTML application vulnerabilities, which enable the tester to launch attacks like XSS and cross site request forgery (CSRF).
- Password cracker—can help pentesters identify weak passwords within the network. Attackers use password hashes to expand or elevate their privileges levels. A password cracker helps pentesters determine if weak passwords are putting the network at risk.
Related content: read our guide to web application penetration testing
Top 10 Pentesting Tools
Here are ten of the best and most commonly used tools used in penetration tests.
Bright provides a penetration testing platform powered by artificial intelligence (AI). It lets organizations automate and scale the detection of vulnerabilities, including zero-day attacks, business logic weaknesses, and known vulnerabilities.
Bright automatically scans multiple layers of your environment and provides comprehensive reports, guaranteed to be free of false positives, on par with reports provided by manual penetration testers.
Metasploit is a popular open source framework for penetration testing. The tool lets you pass a code that breaches a system, and then runs a payload that performs actions on a target machine. Metasploit is often used for manual brute force attacks and website pentesting.
You can use Metasploit on various environments, including servers, applications, and networks. It comes with a clickable graphical user interface (GUI), which works on Linux, Microsoft Windows, and Apple Mac OS.
Burp Suite is a comprehensive web vulnerability scanner, which supports both automated and manual testing of web applications. It includes tools for mapping out application contents, analyzing requests and responses, and identifying security flaws.
The professional edition offers features like automated scanning, intruder attacks, and the ability to save and resume sessions. Its user-friendly interface and powerful testing capabilities make it a favorite among security professionals.
Kali lets you configure customized backup and recovery schedules, but it works only on Linux. Kali offers the use of several tools, curated to help you perform many penetration testing tasks, including sniffing and injecting, password cracking, and digital forensics. Kali is offered under the open source license, and can be integrated with Metasploit and Wireshark.
Nmap (Network Mapper) is a free and open-source utility for network discovery and security auditing. It is used to discover hosts and services on a computer network by sending packets and analyzing the responses.
Nmap provides a variety of features for probing computer networks, including host discovery, port scanning, version detection, and OS detection. It is a versatile tool that can be used for a range of network-related tasks, from inventorying the network to monitoring host or service uptime to network security auditing.
Sqlmap is an open source tool that provides automation capabilities for detecting and exploiting SQL injection vulnerabilities. The tool provides password cracking capabilities, and lets you execute arbitrary code commands. It supports six SQL injection techniques and lets you directly connect to a database without having to pass through the injection.
Wireshark is a network packet analyzer that captures live traffic and enables offline analysis. It supports most operating systems including Linux, Windows, Solaris, and FreeBSD. It provides both a graphical user interface and terminal interface.
WireShark can analyze VoIP traffic, read live data from protocols like PPP/DLC, bluetooth and ATM, decompress compress files on the fly, and decrypt transmission encrypted by protocols like IPSec and WPA/WPA2.
Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP)
ZAP is an open source vulnerability scanner for web applications. It can perform passive scanning, or simulate attacks on applications to discover security weaknesses. ZAP can identify open ports, perform brute force search on files or directories, crawl to discover the structure of a site, and supply random inputs (fuzzing) to test if the website crashes or behaves unexpectedly.
Nessus is one of the most widely used vulnerability scanning tools in the cybersecurity field. Developed by Tenable Network Security, it is known for its robust detection of vulnerabilities and misconfigurations in networks and systems.
Nessus scans for known vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and provides detailed remediation reports. Its continuously updated vulnerability database makes it effective in identifying the latest threats and compliance issues.
Aircrack-ng is a suite of tools for assessing WiFi network security. It focuses on different areas of WiFi security: monitoring, attacking, testing, and cracking. With its ability to capture network packets and analyze them, Aircrack-ng can be used to recover lost keys of Wi-Fi networks, assess their security, and understand the strategies used by attackers to breach wireless networks.
Nikto is an open-source web server scanner which performs comprehensive tests against web servers for multiple items, including over 6700 potentially dangerous files/programs, checks for outdated versions of over 1250 servers, and version-specific problems on over 270 servers. It also checks for server configuration items such as the presence of multiple index files and HTTP server options, and will attempt to identify installed web servers and software.
Penetration Testing with Bright
Bright goes far beyond finding the OWASP Top 10 technical vulnerabilities in your applications and APIs. With more than 7,000 payloads Bright’s AI powered engine automatically detects a long list of known vulnerabilities and unknown Zero-Day and Business-Logic Flow vulnerabilities.
This significantly reduces lengthy and costly manual testing, saving you time and money with False Positive free reporting and remediation guidelines. Bright is also built for automation. It seamlessly integrates into your SDLCand provides false-Positive Free reports generated in real-time, with pinpoint code instrumentation, empowering the highest security standards, without losing development speed or agility.