Penetration testing tools

15 Best Penetration Testing Tools for Your IT Ecosystem

With the millions of everyday attacks on computer systems, proactively protect your vital IT infrastructure is key. And, one of the best methods for the businesses and individuals to safeguard themselves is via penetration testing (pen test).

These tests are often conducted by third parties, but as they can be expensive and become dated quickly, many companies perform their own tests with pen testing tools. Some tools are proprietary, and others are freeware. Many security professionals use both. This article will give an overview of what pen testing is, its benefits, types, and the most commonly used tools today.

What is Penetration Testing?

It’s an authorized simulated cyber-attack on a computer system, designed to evaluate the security of the system. Test is performed to locate weaknesses, including the potential for unauthorized parties to get access to the system’s data and features, along with strengths, allowing a full risk assessment to be completed.


They’re four core benefits to doing a pen test, which is as follows:

1. Detect and arrange security threats

It estimates the ability of a business to protect its apps, networks, users, and endpoints from internal/external attempts to bypass its security controls to gain privileged or unapproved access to protected assets.

Test results confirm the threat from particular security vulnerabilities or faulty processes, enabling IT management and security professionals to arrange remediation efforts. Businesses can more efficiently anticipate emergent security threats and prevent unauthorized access to crucial information/critical systems by executing regular/complete penetration test.

2. Meet monitoring requirements and avoid penalties

IT sectors address the overall auditing/compliance facets of procedures, including Sarbanes – Oxley, GLBA, and HIPAA, as well as report testing requirements recognized in the federal NIST/FISMA and PCI-DSS commands. The complete reports delivered by these tests can help businesses in skipping substantial penalties for non-compliance and allow them to show ongoing due diligence into assessors by maintaining required security controls to auditors.

3. Evade the rate of network downtime

Recuperating from a security leak is very expensive. It may include IT remediation efforts, retention programs, and customer protection, reduced revenues, legal activities, dropped employee output along with discouraged trade associates. It supports the company to circumvent these financial problems by proactively identifying and addressing threats before attacks or security breaches take place.

4. Protect customer loyalty and brand image

Just a single occurrence of compromised customer data can ruin your brand and negatively impact its bottom line. Pen test helps an organization to prevent data incidents that may put the business’s reputation and reliability at stake.

what is penetration testing


Pen tests can consist of one or more of the following types:

  • White box tests – In this test organizations provide the pen testers with a host of security information relating to their systems, to assist them better identify vulnerabilities;
  • Blind tests – With this black-box test, companies provide penetration testers with no security information about the system being penetrated. The intent is to expose vulnerabilities that wouldn’t be detected otherwise;
  • Double-blind tests – A double-blind test (covert test), is one which not only do businesses not provide testers with security information. They also don’t inform their own computer security teams of the tests. These tests are typically highly controlled by those managing team;
  • External tests – An external test is one in which pen testers endeavor to find vulnerabilities remotely. Due to the nature of these kinds of tests, they’re performed on external-facing apps like websites;
  • Internal tests – An internal test is one in which the penetration test takes place within a company’s premises. They focus on security vulnerabilities that someone working within an organization could take advantage of.

Top Penetration Testing Tools

Obviously, pen testing can be a sophisticated and complex task. It could take literally hours and even days if it all had to be done by hand. Therefore, the need for automated tools arises, to carry out these tests efficiently and quickly.

Here are 15 best tools which are being used by pen-testing teams worldwide.

1. Netsparker

Netsparker is a sought-after automatic unit and one of the leading web application penetration testing tools that detects everything from cross-site scripting to SQL injection. Developers can utilize this cybersecurity tool on web apps, web sites, and web services.

It’s powerful enough to scan anything between 500 and 1000 web apps simultaneously. You’ll be able to customize your security scan attack with authentication, URL rewrite rules, and options. The system automatically takes advantage of weak spots in a read-only way. Proof of exploitation is produced while the impact of vulnerabilities is automatically viewable.

Key features

  • Dead accurate vulnerability detection with the Proof-Based Scanning technology;
  • The minimal configuration needed;
  • The scanner automatically identifies URL rewrite rules and custom error 404 pages;
  • REST API for easy integration with the SDLC, bug tracking systems, and more;
  • Fully scalable solution – scan 1,000 web apps in 24 hours.

2. Kali Linux

Many experts claim this is the best tool for both injecting and password snipping. Still, you’ll need skills in both TCP/IP protocol to gain the most benefit. As an open-source project, this tool provides listings, version tracking, and meta-packages. It allows you to create a backup and recovery schedule that meets your needs.

A few core attributes of Kali Linux penetration testing tools include Full Customization of Kali ISOs, Accessibility, Full Disk Encryption Live USB with Multiple Persistence Stores, Disk Encryption on Raspberry Pi 2, Running on Android, and so on.

Key features

  • Addition of 64-bit support lets brute force password cracking;
  • Comes with pre-loaded tools for vulnerability scanning, digital forensics, and LAN and WLAN sniffing;
  • Integrates with tools like Wireshark and Metasploit;
  • Includes xmms, pidgin, k3b, Mozilla, etc.;
  • Supports KDE and Gnome.
Kali Linux

3. Nessus

Nessus has been used as a penetration testing software for 22 years. 27,000 companies utilize the application worldwide. The software is one of the most potent testing tools on the market, with over 100,000 plugins and 45,000 CEs. Perfectly suited for scanning websites, IP addresses, and completing sensitive data searches. With Nessus, you’ll be able to locate “weak spots” in your system.

It’s easy to use and gives accurate scanning and at the click of a button, showing an overview of your network’s vulnerabilities. The pen test app scans for weak passwords, misconfiguration errors, and open ports.

Key features

  • Perfect for locating and identify missing patches as well as malware;
  • The tool only has .32 defects per every million scans;
  • You can make customized reports including types of vulnerabilities by plugin or host;
  • In addition to the web app, mobile scanning, and cloud environment, the system offers priority remediation.

4. Metasploit

Metasploit is the most exploited penetration testing automation framework on the market. It helps professional teams verify/manage security assessments, improves the awareness, and arms/empowers defenders to stay a step ahead in the game. It’s available on Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows.

It’s helpful for checking security and pinpointing flaws, setting up a defense. As open-source software, it’ll let a network administrator break-in and detect fatal weak points. Beginners use this tool to build their skills. Also, this tool provides a way to replicates websites for social engineers.

Key features

  • Handy to use with GUI clickable interface and command line;
  • Manual brute-forcing capability;
  • Collects testing data for over 1,500 exploits;
  • Includes MetaModules for network segmentation tests;
  • It can be used on apps, servers, and networks.



5. Wireshark

Wireshark is one of the best free penetration testing tools that can assist you in seeing the smallest details of the activities taking place in your network. It’s an actual network analyzer, network sniffer, or network protocol analyzer for assessing the vulnerabilities of your network traffic in real-time.

This tool is widely used for scrutinizing the details of network traffic at different grades – from the connection-level information to the pieces that form a package of data. Capturing data packages will enable you to investigate the characteristics of individual packages, like security weaknesses in your network.

Key features

  • Delivers both offline analysis and live-capture options;
  • Capturing data packets lets you explore various traits including source and destination protocol;
  • Has the ability to investigate the minutest details for activities throughout a network;
  • Optional adding of coloring rules to the package for quick, intuitive analysis.

6. Burp Suite

Burp Suite is a widely used tool for checking the security of web-based apps. It consists of different tools which can be used for performing various security tests, including mapping the attack surface of the application, analyzing request as well as responses occurring between the browser and destination servers, plus crawling web-based apps automatically.

This system has two versions – the free and the professional version. The free model has the essential manual tools for executing scanning activities. You can opt for the professional version if you need advanced web penetration testing capabilities.

Key features

  • Capable of automatically crawling web-based apps;
  • Available on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X;
  • Checks applications for potential threats;
  • Investigates solicitations and reactions between the browser and destination servers.
Burp Suite

7. Nmap

Nmap, also known as a Network Mapper, is a free and one of the best network penetration testing tools for scanning networks or systems for vulnerabilities. It’s also useful in carrying out other activities such as monitoring host or service uptime and executing mapping of network attack surfaces.

It runs on all major OS and is suitable for scanning both small and large networks. With the Network Mapper, you can understand the various characteristics of any target network, including the hosts available on the network, the form of OS running, and the sort of packet filters or firewalls in place.

Key features

  • Network and port scanning;
  • Easily scripted and analyzed;
  • A huge amount of options;
  • Good enumeration service;
  • A unique process of fingerprinting applications/devices to help you identify their communications patterns quicker.

8. Intruder

Intruder is a popular vulnerability scanner that finds cybersecurity weaknesses in your IT department, and explains the risks and helps with their remediation before a breach occurs. It’s the ideal tool to automate your testing efforts.

With over 9,000 security checks available, it makes enterprise-grade vulnerability scanning accessible to businesses of all sizes. Its security checks include identifying misconfigurations, missing patches, and common web app issues, including SQL injection & cross-site scripting.

Key features

  • Real-time monitoring;
  • Reporting & statistics;
  • Third-party integration;
  • Two-factor authentication.

9. Probely

Probely scans your web apps to find vulnerabilities or security issues and provides guidance on how to fix them, with developers in mind. It not only features a sleek and intuitive interface but also follows an API-First development approach, delivering all features through an API. This enables Probely to be integrated into Continuous Integration pipelines to Automate Security Testing.

The tool covers OWASP TOP10 and thousands of more vulnerabilities. It can also be utilized to check specific HIPPA, GDPR, PCI-DSS, and other requirements.

Key features

  • Scans for XSS and SQL injections;
  • Checks 5,000 vulnerability types;
  • Can be used for CMS such as WordPress and Joomla;
  • Captures results in PDF format.

10. Acunetix

Acunetix is a 100% automated web vulnerability scanner that identifies and reports on over 4500 web app vulnerabilities, including all types of XSS and SQL Injection. It supplements the role of a penetration tester by automating tasks that can last for hours to test manually, providing accurate results with no false positives at top speed.

It fully supports HTML5, JavaScript, and Single-page applications as well as content management systems. Acunetix includes advanced manual tools for penetration testers and integrates with Issue Trackers and WAFs.

Key features

  • SQL injection detection;
  • The ability to access 4,500+ vulnerability types;
  • Can scan hundreds of pages quickly;
  • Compatibility with WAFs and the ability to integrate with SDLC;
  • Availability as either a cloud or desktop version.

11. w3af

w3af is a powerful web application attack and audit framework. It includes 3 forms of plugins; discovery, audit, and attack that communicate with each other for any vulnerabilities in a site, for instance, a discovery plugin looks for different URL’s to test for vulnerabilities and send it to the audit plugin which then applies these URL’s to search for vulnerabilities.

This tool can also be configured to run as a MITM proxy. The request intercepted could be sent to the request generator – then manual web app testing can be executed using variable parameters. w3af also can exploit the vulnerabilities that it finds.

Key features

  • DNS/HTTP caching;
  • Cookie and session handling;
  • HTTP/digest authentication;
  • Custom headers for requests;
  • Fake Users agent.

12. John the Ripper

One of the best penetration testing tools that is used for password protection is John the Ripper. It’s a simple, free tool that combines different password crackers into a single pack, automatically identifies different types of password hashes, and includes a customizable cracker. Also, password hash code and strength-checking code are made available to be integrated into your own software/code.

It works in most of the environments, although it’s primarily for UNIX systems. It’s considered as one of the quickest tools in this genre. It tool comes in a professional and free form.

Key features

  • Automatically detects various password hashes;
  • Identifies password weaknesses within databases;
  • The professional version is available for Linux, Mac OS X, Hash Suite, Hash Suite Droid;
  • Enables users to explore documentation online – including a summary of changes between separate versions.
John the Ripper

13. Aircrack-NG

Aircrack-NG is engineered for cracking flaws within wireless connections by capturing data packages for an efficient protocol in exporting via text files for analysis. It’s supported on various OS and platform with support for WEP dictionary attacks.

This tool provides an improved tracking speed compared to most other products on the market and supports multiple cards/drivers. After capturing the WPA handshake, the tool is capable of using a password dictionary and statistical methods to break into WEP.

Key features

  • Works with Linux, Windows, OS X, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, and Solaris;
  • You can use this suite to capture packages and export data;
  • Designed for testing Wi-Fi devices as well as driver capabilities;
  • Concentrates on different areas of security including attacking, monitoring, testing, and cracking;

14. Dradis Pro

Dradis Pro is an open-source framework (a web app) that helps with maintaining the information that can be shared between the participants of a test. The information gathered assists in understanding what is done and what needs to be done.

It achieves the purpose of using the plugins to read and collect data from network scanning tools such as Nmap, Nessus, Burp Suite, w3af, and much more. It features a GUI interface, works on Linux, Apple Mac OS X, and Microsoft Windows.

Key features

  • Seamless process for report generation;
  • Support for attachments;
  • Easy collaboration;
  • Integration with existing systems and tools via server plugins;
  • Independent platform.
Dradis Professional

15. sqlmap

This incredibly sufficient SQL injection tool is open-source and automates the process of identifying and exploiting SQL injection flaws and overcoming database servers. sqlmap arrives with many detection engines and features for a perfect penetration test. It supports all the usual targets, including Oracle, MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Access, SQLite, Sybase, Informix, H2, Firebird, PostgreSQL, SAP MaxDB, IBM DB2, and HSQLDB.

Key features

  • Full support for 6 SQL injection techniques;
  • Enables direct connection to the database without passing through a SQL injection;
  • Support to enumerate users, privileges, password hashes, roles, databases, tables, and columns;
  • Automatic recognition of password given in hash formats and support for cracking them;
  • Support to dump database tables entirely or specific columns.

Bottom Line

Choosing the right pen testing software doesn’t have to be complicated. The software platforms listed above represent some of the best solutions for developers in 2020. Remember, one of the best methods to protect your IT system is to utilize penetration testing proactively. Fortify your IT security by seeking for and detecting issues before attackers do.

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