Top 5 Most Common Penetration Testing Tools

Penetration testing, also known as ‘ethical hacking,’ is a critical practice for organisations to proactively identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in their computer systems, networks, and applications. By conducting comprehensive security assessments, businesses can evaluate their security posture and take necessary measures to protect against potential cyber threats. There are  various different types of penetration testing tools commonly used by cybersecurity professionals to conduct thorough security assessments.

What Are the Different Types of Penetration Testing Tools?

There are several types of penetration testing tools on the market to help assist your business in safeguarding its digital assets. Each one has a different function, so if you’re after comprehensive penetration testing, you may need to look into utilising more than one tool.

However, there are companies out there, such as ThreatSpike, whose expert teams provide managed services for complete penetration testing from every angle using every tool available, so you can rest easy knowing your digital security is being fully taken care of. Below, we’ve outlined some of the most common types of penetration testing tools and what they do so you can gain a broader understanding of just what happens when you decide to invest in penetration testing.

Network Scanning Tools

Network scanning tools play a crucial role in mapping and discovering devices, systems, and services on a network. These tools help identify open ports, services running on those ports, and potential vulnerabilities. One popular network scanning tool is Nmap,  known for its versatility and extensive features. Nmap can perform host discovery, port scanning, version detection, and OS fingerprinting, providing valuable information about network configurations and exposing potential entry points for attackers.

In addition to Nmap, vulnerability scanners like Nessus, OpenVAS, and QualysGuard are widely in use for network penetration testing. These tools automate the process of scanning networks, servers, and software to identify known security vulnerabilities. They meticulously examine systems for weaknesses, misconfigurations, and outdated software versions. Vulnerability assessment tools generate detailed reports, highlighting the vulnerabilities discovered, and providing recommendations for remediation.

Exploitation Tools

Exploitation tools are specifically designed to simulate real-world attack scenarios by exploiting identified vulnerabilities to gain unauthorised access to systems and applications. These tools assist penetration testers in assessing the effectiveness of existing security measures and identifying potential entry points for attackers. One of the most prominent exploitation frameworks is Metasploit, which provides a comprehensive set of tools and resources for penetration testing. 

Metasploit enables testers to exploit vulnerabilities, launch attacks, and gain control over compromised systems. It includes a vast collection of exploits, payloads, and auxiliary modules, allowing testers to simulate various attack vectors. The framework also offers post-exploitation modules for privilege escalation, lateral movement, and data exfiltration, aiding in comprehensive security assessments.

Web Application Testing Tools

Due to their widespread usage and potential vulnerabilities, web applications often serve as prime targets for attackers. Web application testing tools focus on assessing the security of web applications, identifying common web-based vulnerabilities, and ensuring robust protection against potential threats. Popular tools in this category include Burp Suite, OWASP ZAP, and Acunetix.

Burp Suite, a widely used web application security testing platform, provides a comprehensive set of tools for manual and automated testing. It enables testers to intercept, modify, and analyse HTTP/S requests and responses, allowing for thorough vulnerability identification.

OWASP ZAP (Zed Attack Proxy) is an open-source web application security scanner that helps testers identify security vulnerabilities during the development process. Acunetix is a commercial web vulnerability scanner that automates the process of identifying and prioritising web application vulnerabilities, thus facilitating efficient remediation.

Wireless Network Testing Tools

Wireless network testing tools are employed to assess the security of wireless networks and detect potential vulnerabilities. These tools aid in identifying weaknesses in wireless encryption, misconfigurations, and rogue access points that attackers could exploit. Some commonly used wireless network testing tools include Aircrack-ng, Kismet, and Wireshark.

Aircrack-ng is a suite of tools that assists in auditing wireless networks by capturing and analysing network packets, testing network encryption, and conducting dictionary-based attacks against Wi-Fi passwords. Kismet is an open-source wireless network detector, sniffer, and intrusion detection system. It identifies nearby wireless networks, collects information about connected devices, and detects potential security threats. Wireshark is a popular network protocol analyser that captures and analyses network traffic, enabling testers to identify vulnerabilities and potential attacks within wireless networks.

Social Engineering Tools

Social engineering is a technique that attackers use to manipulate individuals into divulging sensitive information or performing actions that compromise security. These testing tools simulate various social engineering attacks to assess an organisation’s susceptibility to these tactics. These tools help evaluate the effectiveness of security awareness training programs and identify potential weaknesses in an organisation’s human factor security.

One widely recognised social engineering tool is SET (Social Engineering Toolkit). SET is an open-source framework that automates social engineering attacks, such as phishing, credential harvesting, and malicious USB drops. It provides a range of attack vectors and pre-configured templates to replicate real-world social engineering scenarios. SET allows penetration testers to launch targeted attacks, measure user awareness, and gauge an organisation’s resilience against social engineering threats.