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9 security penetration testing tools you should consider

Security penetration tools help security professionals challenge organizations’ networks and systems in order to find gaps in their security. As they automate otherwise manual and repetitive tasks, penetration testers can pay more attention to the strategy of testing security systems. Discover the main types of penetration testing tools and the best nine tools to use.

9 security penetration testing tools you should consider

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Why use penetration testing tools?

Security penetration tools help security testers, who are often ethical hackers, assess the weak points of a network or system by simulating attacks against them. Penetration testing, or pen testing, helps these experts to find gaps in the security infrastructure that a hacker might exploit and patch vulnerabilities to avoid real-life attacks.

Though pen testers are usually able to execute pen testing manually, pen testing tools come in handy for automating certain tasks and making security network analysis faster and more efficient. Security penetration tools are especially useful when assessing risks in more complex hybrid networks because they allow pen testers to broaden and deepen the scope of their penetration tests.

Penetration testing tools are also irreplaceable when pen testers are trying to detect “zero-day” threats. In fact, malicious entities themselves use penetration testing tools and techniques to break into targeted networks, only proving their effectiveness.

Types of penetration testing tools

Penetration testing software was designed to detect vulnerabilities of different nature within the targeted networks and systems. To run a successful security testing campaign, ethical hackers must first target the particular element they want to test and select the right type of testing tool. These tools typically fall into five main categories:

  • Network testing tools help to find gaps within the targeted network’s infrastructure. They usually scan traffic, monitor devices connected to the network, assess how they communicate, and determine what protocols and ports are being used. Network testing tools allow security personnel to identify communication paths that could be exploited during a cyberattack.
  • Web application testing tools try to intercept web traffic and modify its flow between the browser and the targeted organization’s web servers. Web application testing allows pen testers to detect various HTML and hidden form field features that can contribute to cross-site scripting (XSS) or cross-site request forgery (CSRF) attacks.
  • Database testing tools were designed to try the targeted database’s resilience and examine how malicious entities could snatch valuable data from them.
  • Vulnerability scanners search for weak points in computer systems, servers, and applications. They also examine possible misconfigurations that can be used to access and exploit the network or system.
  • Port scanners help identify the ports left open within the targeted system. They enable security experts to see what operating system is in use and wish applications are active on the targeted network.
  • Password crackers allow to determine if an organization and its employees are using strong enough passwords to survive brute force or rainbow table attacks.

The best security penetration testing tools

Security-testing tools can vary in their function and scope. To enable you to make the best choice for your situation, we’ve prepared a list of the best penetration testing tools. Discover how each of the tools works and what benefits they offer.

Kali Linux

Designed by Offensive Security, Kali Linux was created to thoroughly test the security of systems and networks. It’s an open-source operating system known for its comprehensive collection of security tools, including port scanners, packet analyzers, password crackers, and web application security scanners. These tools are typically used to analyze networks, identify vulnerabilities, and exploit network security gaps. However, it’s important to note that Kali Linux is tailored for offense and not defense of the network and can be easily exploited by malicious entities.

Burp Suite

Burp Suite is a Java-based web application testing and vulnerability scanning tool developed by PortSwigger. It inspects network traffic and detects vulnerabilities that malicious entities can exploit on the web. Burp Suite can recognize and decode encrypted data packets within the network as well as encode the data. Its suite of application security testing tools also includes web proxy Burp Proxy, which pen testers often use to run man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks between a web server and a browser.


Nmap, short for network mapper, determines what ports are open and what information runs through them. It can also reveal what devices can be accessed on the targeted network and identify operating systems, firewalls, and services used on those devices. It regularly scans the IPv4 range with specialized port-scanning software to pinpoint the network’s security vulnerabilities.


Wireshark is an open-source network protocol analyzer that examines data packets and helps pen testers assess what kind of traffic passes through the network. It’s typically used to dig into TCP/IP connection issues but can equally analyze numerous other protocols, providing detailed real-time analysis of network traffic. It enables pen testers to identify malfunctioning elements within the network and detect protocol configuration errors. Wireshark can also capture and analyze Voice over Internet Protocol data packets – calls made over the targeted network.


Aircrack-ng is a Wi-Fi security testing tool with widely available source code that analyzes wireless networks and exploits their vulnerabilities. It does that by exporting data packets into text files so it can thoroughly examine the network. Aircrack-ng aims to detect poor configurations and weak passwords as well as identify weaknesses in outdated protocols.

John the Ripper

John the Ripper is a popular open-source password breaker that typically conducts dictionary-based attacks. It uses a list of words most often used for passwords and simulates their variations to break into the network or system. However, security testers can choose to customize John the Ripper to lead many other types of attacks targeting passwords. It’s a valuable tool for checking a password’s strength that can also crack password encryptions.


Sqlmap is a pen test tool designed to detect and exploit SQL injection flaws. Sqlmap helps security testers determine if the targeted database is strong enough to hold against various cyberattacks. This penetration testing tool can also serve as a password-cracking asset because it can recognize password hash formats and use dictionary attack-based techniques. On the other hand, Sqlmap has a degree of false positives, which means that security teams usually need to additionally manually test found vulnerabilities.


Metasploit is a penetration testing framework that automates various tasks that help to identify the targeted system’s vulnerabilities. It consists of modules that provide multiple functionalities, including exploits, payloads, auxiliary functions, encoders, and post-exploitation tools. Metasploit allows testers to use their chosen payload during their attempts to exploit targeted networks.


Hashcat was created to break down complex hashes by exfiltrating hashed passwords and exploiting the credentials hidden behind them. It’s able to work offline and supports various kinds of password-guessing attacks, including brute force, dictionary, and mask attacks. Hashcat can manipulate and crack one-way function hash keys that are typically hard to reverse.

Don’t overlook the importance of pen testing tools

Security testing tools make the work of penetration testers easier because they allow them to automate many processes involved in testing systems’ security. Pen test tools can vary in types and functions they perform, as well as their scope of action and abilities. Penetration testing is considered essential to keeping organizations’ cybersecurity intact and making it resilient to hackers’ attempts to intrude.