Believe it or not, there was a time when hacking wasn’t so commonplace. However, in today’s digital world, where data is one of our most valuable commodities, cybercriminals have become increasingly cunning and sophisticated.
As a result, businesses and IT professionals have been forced to come up with new ways to protect our systems and the data stored within. This is where testing tools come in, and in particular penetration testing. If you’re considering running a penetration test in your business, this article is for you.
Below, we will share what a penetration test involves and how you can choose the right tools to do it like a pro.
What is penetration testing?
Penetration testing, also known as pen testing, is the action of simulating a cyberattack against your own systems, or potentially hiring an ethical hacker to break into your network for you.
The idea behind this is to highlight any weaknesses that real hackers might try to exploit and fix these before they do.
This type of test requires the pen tester or ethical hacker to use tools and techniques that would be available to real attackers.
Essentially, your business needs these tests to highlight where and how a malicious attacker might exploit your network.
This allows you to mitigate the risks.
The top penetration testing tools
As promised, we’re now going to take you through a list of some of the supersonic testing tools that the pros use.
These will help to make any pen tester’s job much faster, better and smarter. These tools are:
1. Kali Linux
Formerly known as BackTrack Linux, Kali is optimized in every way for offensive use as a penetration tester or ethical hacker.
The software is maintained by the team at Offensive Security (OffSec) and though you can run it on its own hardware, it’s far more common to see Kali used via virtual machines.
It really is one of the best tools in the business, which is why it’s a firm favourite with professionals.
Just be aware that Kali is optimized for offense, not defense. This does have one downside as it means it can be easily exploited in turn.
2. John the Ripper
If you’re able to get past the name, John the Ripper is one of the best password crackers on the market. It’ll happily crack encryption as fast as your graphics processing unit (GPU) will let it.
This is an open-source tool which means it’s meant for offline password cracking. Using a list of likely words or running with muscular hardware, John the Ripper is often successful at finding passwords and breaking encryptions.
Nmap is short for network mapper and this is a tried and tested tool that most pen testers can’t live without. This port scanner is usually the best tool for finding out what ports are open and what’s running on them. And best of all, it’s totally legal to use.
In fact, many large, legitimate organizations such as insurance companies and risk scorers use this tool regularly to keep tabs on their systems.
Pen testing often involves exfiltration of hashed passwords and exploiting these credentials, and Hashcat is certainly the tool for the job.
Claiming to be the ‘world’s fastest and most advanced password recovery utility’, the tool supports a whole variety of password-guessing brute force attacks, including both dictionary and mask attacks.
Because of its capabilities, this tool gives John the Ripper a run for its money.
Wireshark is a network protocol analyser and is a ubiquitous tool that allows you to understand the traffic passing across your network.
While this is most commonly used to drill down into connection issues, it also supports the analysis of lots of other protocols. These include real-time analysis and decryption support for many of those protocols.
If you’ve not used it, this is a must-try for any pen tester.
Hydra is John the Ripper’s companion in that it is there when you need to crack passwords online. For example, you might need to crack SSH or FTP login, IMAP, IRC, RDP and many more.
All you have to do is show Hydra to the service you want to crack, pass it a word list (if you like), and press go.
Tools like Hydra remind us why limiting password login attempts and disconnecting users after too many failed attempts can be such a successful way to keep out hackers and cybercriminals.
7. Burp Suite
Another strange name (you should be getting used to it by now), Burp Suite is a web vulnerability scanner. This name is commonly known amongst pen testers because it is so effective.
One of the key issues is that it is a lot more expensive than other tools on our list (around $3,999), though this is why it’s used by the professionals.
But as you can imagine, it’s an incredibly effective tool otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to get away with charging those kinds of prices.
Why exploit vulnerabilities when you can meta-sploit vulnerabilities, right?
This meta-software is like a crossbow; you point it at your target and fire. This has become an indispensable tool for most pen testers, as it automates a vast amount of the otherwise tedious efforts of the testing framework.
This is another open-source tool that is a must-have for defenders.
9. Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP)
The last tool on our list is Zed Attack Proxy. This is similar to Burp Suite but perfect for those who don’t want to splash the cash. Of course, it’s not 100% as effective and has a few less features, but it is still a fine tool for finding vulnerabilities in your web traffic.
This tool sits between your browser and the website you’re testing and can intercept the traffic to inspect and modify. Essentially it can look out for Man in the Middle (MITM) attacks.