Which are the best penetration testing tools in 2021?
Penetration testing is the process of scanning systems, networks or applications with the intention of discovering vulnerabilities before hackers identify them.
It’s more of a simulated cyber attack where the penetration tester users the tools and techniques that are available to a hacker. With these penetration testing tools you can then attack a system from outside or inside, just the way a hacker would do it.
Once you discover the security holes or vulnerabilities, you proceed to fix them.
Some of these top penetration testing tools scan ports or Wi-Fi, some test software while others focus on web applications.
In this article, we are going to look at the top 11 penetration testings tools you should learn in 2021.
Even though there are many other penetration testing tools, these are the tools that are most common among pentesters.
Most penetration testing tools work from a list of known vulnerabilities and security holes and then try to penetrate the system’s defences.
As a penetration tester, you’ll realize that there’s no one tools fits all…
You’ll often need to rely on a collection to be able to perform your duties to your satisfaction.
Let’s get started.
Metasploit is an open source penetration testing tool written in Ruby that is hugely popular among penetration testers.
This vulnerability exploitation tool is basically a collection of pentesting tools and frameworks capable of performing various pentesting tasks.
Through the metasploit security framework, you’ll be able to gain critical information regarding security vulnerabilities in a target machine.
With this information you can formulate a proper penetration testing and IDS testing plan and exploitation methodology.
I would consider this a “must learn” for anyone who wants to get serious about penetration testing in 2021.
Being one of the most popular pentester tools, there’s a huge collection of incredibly great learning resources and tutorials out there to get you started.
Nmap, also known as the ‘Network Mapper’, is another very popular open source pentest tool.
It is a console based application available in various Linux distros that is used by security professionals for network discovery and auditing.
As a penetration tester, you’ll use it for network inventory, to check for open ports, to manage service upgrades, schedules as well as to monitor host uptime.
Apart from being able to work on Linux, Mac and Windows, it is popular because it’s easy to use and has powerful searching/scanning capabilities.
Nmap uses raw IP packets to determine what hosts are available on the network, what services those hosts are providing information about as well as what operating systems and firewalls they are running.
Even though Nmap is a console based app, it also comes with a GUI called version called Zenmap.
If you are a complete beginner to penetration testing, though, I think it’s best to first learn Nmap with the ‘command line’ before you start using the GUI.
Burp suite is one of the top pentesting tools that is used by pentesters for performing security testing of web applications.
It has various tools that work seamlessly together to support the entire testing process.
The testing process ranges from the initial mapping of the application’s attack surface to finding and exploiting its security vulnerabilities.
It provides various features for web application security testing including advanced and essential manual tools.
Burp suite is popular, not only because it’s easy to use but also because it enables you to combine advanced manual techniques with automation for efficient testing.
You’ll also find it very easy to configure with a lot of useful features for even more experienced penetration testers.
Apart from being able to detect over 3000 web application vulnerabilities, it can also detect these critical vulnerabilities with 100% accuracy.
Wireshark is one of the best penetration testing tools in 2021 that’s used mainly for monitoring network traffic in real time.
Basically, it is a packet analyzer that can perform deep analysis of many internet protocols.
It captures data packets in a network and displays them in human readable format by exporting the output to different file formats like XML, CSV or TXT.
To make analysis of network traffic and individual packets even easier, it provides a facility to apply coloring rules to the packet list output.
Apart from being a cross-platform tool, Wireshark can also decompress gzip files on the fly.
Among the various protocols you can decrypt using Wireshark include IPsec, ISAKMP, SSL, TLS among others.
This is also one of the top penetration testing tools you have to learn if you really want to take your pentesting game to the next level.
With a lot of learning resources out there, learning Wireshark is quite easy.
In fact, here is an article I wrote about the best Wireshark tutorials online to get you started.
Nikto is an open source pentest tool used to scan and detect web server vulnerabilities.
It can perform a comprehensive scan of a web server for potentially dangerous items including over 6500 dangerous files or programs.
Like other web server scanners, it can also scan for outdated versions of over 1300 servers as well as version specific problems on 270+ servers.
You can also use Nikto to check the server configuration for the existence of multiple index files as well as HTTP server options.
After scanning the server for dangerous files, outdated server versions and server version specific problems, you can export this report in various formats, like TXT, XML, HTML, CSV etc. for further analysis.
Nikto can be used on any system that supports basic Perl installation which includes Windows, Mac, Linux and Unix.
It is interesting to note that Nikto uses headers, favicons or files to detect the installed software on the server.
It is definitely a great addition to your arsenal of pentesting tools.
John The Ripper
This top penetration testing tools list would not be complete without the mention of John The Ripper.
Quite a cool name for a pentest tool, right?
John The Ripper is one of the best open source penetration testing tools that is used for cracking passwords, including the very complicated ones.
It can also be used for detecting password strength on Windows, DOS and Openvms systems.
This password cracking tool is able to detect the type of encryption used in any type of password.
After detecting the encryption type, it’s able to switch its password testing algorithm automatically which makes it a very intelligent password cracker.
By using brute force technology, it can decipher passwords for different algorithms like MD4, MD5, Kerberos AFS, Hash LM among others.
Apart from providing various password crackers in one package, it also provides a customizable cracker that makes it very user friendly to penetration testers.
Lastly, John The Ripper is multi-platform and is available for Windows, Linux, Mac and Android.
Angry IP Scanner
Angry IP Scanner is a lightweight penetration testing tool for scanning IP addresses and ports.
While being able to scan an IP address in any range, it is also cross-platform and can run on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.
It achieves its high scanning speed by using a multithreading approach where it creates a separate scanning thread for each IP address scanned.
By scanning an IP address, it first pings it to see if it’s alive before proceeding to resolve its hostname, MAC address and ports.
Even though Angry IP Scanner is a command line interface tool, you can export the scan results into various formats including TXT, XML, CSV or IP-Port list files.
You can also extend it with many data fetcher plugins to gather additional information about the scanned IPs.
It will definitely form a great addition to your penetration testing tools arsenal if you are serious about a career in pentesting.
Ettercap actually stands for Ethernet Capture.
It is a cross platform network interceptor used for packet sniffing in LAN networks.
It features a man-in-the-middle attack by sniffing live connections and filtering the content even with a proxy connection or HTTPS secured data.
Ettercap has inbuilt features for network and host analysis that support both passive and active scans of various protocols.
Because it is cross-platform, you can run Ettercap on any of the popular operating systems like Windows, Mac OS & Linux.
Some of its outstanding features are DNS hijacking and protocol support including Telnet, FTP, Imap, Smb, MySQL, LDAP, NFS, SNMP, HTTP, etc.
It also enables you to develop custom plugins to extend its functionality.
Netsparker is one of the best penetration testing tools for web application security auditing.
It is an easy to use web app scanner that detects SQL injections, XSS and other vulnerabilities in your web applications and web services.
Netsparker is able to accurately identify vulnerabilities using the unique proof-based technology, so you don’t have to waste hours trying to manually verify the identified vulnerabilities.
Using Netsparker is quite easy because it requires very minimal configuration and is capable of scanning up to 1000+ web applications within 24 hours.
However, it is only available as a Windows software or as a SAAS solution online.
Let’s finish this list of the popular pentesting tools in 2021 by looking at another great security tool for web applications.
Acunetix is a great penetration testing tool for testing web applications.
It is able to detect and report on over 4500 web application vulnerabilities including all types of SQL injections and XSS.
After the scans, this pentesting tool issues compliance and management reports on various web and network vulnerabilities.
It offers a unique solution for auditing off-the-shelf custom applications including those running AJAX and Web 2.0 applications.
Ethical Hacking Advantages
In the olden days, penetration was quite complicated and was only left for the pros.
Today, however, there exists a whole suite of automated penetration testing tools that can enable you to test multiple systems at the same time.
There has also been a huge increase in cyber attacks in institution systems and applications than ever before.
So the only way for a organization to protect itself is through penetration testing.
In this article I listed the best penetration testing tools to get you started launching attacks and tamper-proofing your system.
Is there a penetration testing tools that you think is great that I missed out?
Have you used any of these penetration testing tools before?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Lerma is our expert in online education with over a decade of experience. Specializing in e-learning and e-courses. She has reviewed several online training courses and enjoys reviewing e-learning platforms for individuals and organizations.