37 Most Powerful Penetration Testing Tools (Security Testing Tools)

A list of all the best and most popular Pen Testing/Security Testing tools required for every penetration tester is addressed in this article.

Wouldn’t it be fun if a company hired you to hack its website/ network/ Server? Well, Yeah!

Penetration testing, commonly known as pen-testing is on a roll in the testing circle nowadays. The reason is not too hard to guess – with the change in the way computer systems are used and built, security takes the center stage.  Even though companies realize that they can’t make every system 100% secure, they are extremely interested to know exactly what kind of security issues they are dealing with. That’s where Pen-testing comes handy with its use of ethical hacking techniques.

Penetration Testing Tools

For more details about Penetration Testing, you can check these guides:
=> Penetration testing – the complete guide
=> Security testing of web & desktop applications

Let us now quickly see:

What is Penetration Testing?

It is a method of testing in which the areas of weakness in the software systems in terms of security are put to test to determine, if ‘weak-point’ is indeed one, that can be broken into or not.

Performed for: Websites/Servers/Networks

How is it Performed?

Step #1. It starts with a list of Vulnerabilities/potential problem areas that would cause a security breach for the system.
Step #2. If possible, this list of items is ranked in the order of priority/criticality
Step #3. Devise penetration tests that would work (attack your system) from both within the network and outside (externally) are done to determine if you can access data/network/server/website unauthorized.
Step #4. If unauthorized access is possible, then the system has to be corrected and the series of steps need to be re-run until the problem area is fixed.

Who Performs Pen-testing?

Testers/ Network specialists/ Security Consultants perform Pen-testing.

Note: It is important to note that pen-testing is not the same as vulnerability testing. The intention of vulnerability testing is just to identify the potential problems, whereas pen-testing is to attack those problems.

Good news is, you do not have to start the process by yourself – you have a number of tools already available in the market.  Wondering, why tools?

  • Even though you design the test on what to attack and how you can leverage, a lot of tools that are available in the market to hit the problem areas and collect data quickly that in turn would enable effective security analysis of the system.

Before we look into the details of the tools, what they do, where you can get them, etc. , I would like to point out that the tools you use for pen-testing can be classified into two kinds – In simple words, they are scanners and attackers. This is because; by definition, pen-testing is exploiting the weak spots. So there are some software/tools that will show you the weak spots, & some that show, and attack. Literally speaking, the ‘show-ers’ are not pen-testing tools but they are inevitable for its success.

Top 20 Penetration Testing Tools

1) Metasploit 

Metasploit pentesting tool

This is the most advanced and popular Framework that can be used to for pen-testing. It is based on the concept of ‘exploit’ which is a code that can surpass the security measures and enter a certain system. If entered, it runs a ‘payload’, a code that performs operations on a target machine, thus creating a perfect framework for penetration testing.

It can be used on web applications, networks, servers etc. It has a command-line and the GUI clickable interface works on Linux, Apple Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. Although there might be few free limited trials available, this is a commercial product.

Download link: Metasploit Download

2) Wireshark

Wireshark logo

This is basically a network protocol analyzer –popular for providing the minutest details about your network protocols, packet information, decryption etc. It can be used on Windows, Linux, OS X, Solaris, FreeBSD, NetBSD, and many other systems. The information that is retrieved via this tool can be viewed through a GUI or the TTY-mode TShark utility.  You can get your own free version of the tool from the link below.

Download link: Wireshark download

3) w3af

w3af4

W3af is a Web Application Attack and Audit Framework.

Some of its features include fast HTTP requests, integration of web and proxy servers into the code, injecting payloads into various kinds of HTTP requests etc.

It has a command-line interface and works on Linux, Apple Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows.

All versions are free of charge to download.

Download link: w3af download

4) Back Track

Back Track

Back Track works only on Linux Machines. The new version is called Kali Linux. This is one of the best tools available for Packet sniffing and injecting. An expertise in TCP/IP protocol and networking are the key to successfully using this tool. For more information and in order to download a free copy, visit the below page.

Download link: Back Track download

5) Netsparker

Netsparker logo

Netsparker comes with a robust web application scanner that will identify vulnerabilities, suggest remedial action etc. This tool can also help to exploit SQL injection and LFI (local file induction). It has a command-line and GUI interface, it works only on Microsoft Windows. Although there might be few free limited trials available, this is a commercial product.

Download link: Netsparker download

6) Nessus

Nessus logo

Nessus is also a scanner and it needs to be watched out for. It is one of the most robust vulnerability identifier tools available. It specializes in compliance checks, Sensitive data searches, IPs scan, website scanning etc. and aids in finding the ‘weak-spots’. It works best on most of the environments. For more information and in order to download, visit the below page.

Download link: Nessus download

7) Burpsuite

Burpsuite logo

Burp suite is also essentially a scanner (with a limited “intruder” tool for attacks), although many security testing specialists swear that pen-testing without this tool is unimaginable. The tool is not free, but very cost effective. Take a look at it on the below download page. It mainly works wonders with intercepting proxy, crawling content and functionality, web application scanning etc.  You can use this on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux environments.

Download link: Burp suite download

8) Cain & Abel

If cracking encrypted passwords or network keys is what you need, then Cain & Abel is the perfect tool for you. It uses network sniffing, Dictionary, Brute-Force & Cryptanalysis attacks, cache uncovering and routing protocol analysis methods to achieve this. Check out information about this free to use a tool at the below page. This is exclusively for Microsoft operating systems.

Download link: Cain & Abel download

9) Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP)

Zed Attack Proxy logo

ZAP is a completely free to use, scanner and security vulnerability finder for web applications. ZAP includes Proxy intercepting aspects, a variety of scanners, spiders etc. It works best on most platforms. For more information and in order to download visit the below page.

Download link: ZAP download

10) Acunetix

Acunetix logo

Acunetix is essentially a web vulnerability scanner targeted at web applications. It provides SQL injection, cross-site script testing, PCI compliance reports etc. along with identifying a multitude of vulnerabilities. While this is among the more ‘pricey’ tools, a limited time free trial version can be obtained at the below page.

Download link: Acunetix download

11) John The Ripper

John The Ripper logo

Another password cracker in line is John the Ripper. This tool works on most of the environments, although it’s primarily for UNIX systems. It is considered as one of the fastest tools in this genre. Password hash code and strength-checking code are also made available to be integrated into your own software/code which I think is very unique. This tool comes in a pro and free form. Check out its site to obtain the software on this page.

Download link: John the Ripper download


12) Retina

Retina logo

As opposed to a certain application or a server, Retina targets the entire environment at a particular company/firm. It comes as a package called Retina Community. It is a commercial product and is a sort of a vulnerability management tool more than a pen-testing tool. It works on having scheduled assessments and presenting results. Check out more about this package at the below page.

Download link: Retina download

13) Sqlmap

Sqlmap pen test logo

Sqlmap is again a good open source pe-testing tool. This tool is mainly used for detecting and exploiting SQL injection issues in an application and hacking over of database servers. It comes with the command-line interface. Platform: Linux, Apple Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows are its supported platforms. All versions of this tool are free for download. Check out the below page for details.

Download link: Sqlmap download

14) Canvas

Canvas pen test logo

Immunity’s CANVAS is a widely used tool that contains more than 400 exploits and multiple payload options. It renders useful for web applications, wireless systems, networks etc. It has a command-line and GUI interface, works best on Linux, Apple Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. It is not free of charge and more information can be found at the below page.

Download link: Canvas download

15) Social Engineer Toolkit

Social Engineer Toolkit logo

The Social-Engineer Toolkit (SET) is a unique tool in terms that the attacks are targeted at the human element than on the system element. It has features that let you send emails, java applets, etc containing the attack code. It goes without saying that this tool is to be used very carefully and only for ‘white-hat’ reasons.  It has a command-line interface, works on Linux, Apple Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. It is open source and can be found at below page.

Download link: SET download

17) Sqlninja

Sqlninja penetration testing

Sqlninja, as the name, indicates it is all about taking over the DB server using SQL injection in any environment. This product by itself claims not to be so stable. Its popularity indicates how robust it is already with the DB related vulnerability exploitation. It has a command-line interface, works best on Linux, Apple Mac OS X and not on Microsoft Windows. It is an open source and can be found at the below page.

Download link: Sqlninja download

18) Nmap

Nmap logo

“Network Mapper” though not necessarily a pen-testing tool, it is a must-have tool for the ethical hackers. This is a very popular tool that predominantly aids in understanding the characteristics of any target network. The characteristics include host, services, OS, packet filters/firewalls etc.  It works on most of the environments and is open sourced.

Download link: Nmap download

19) BeEF

BeEF pen testing tool

BeEF stands for The Browser Exploitation Framework. It is a penetration testing tool that focuses on the web browser which means, it takes advantage of the fact that an open web-browser is the window(or crack) into a target system and designs its attacks to go on from this point. It has a GUI interface, works on Linux, Apple Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. It is an open source and can be found at the below page.

Download link: BeEF download

20) Dradis

Dradis pen testing tool

Dradis is an open source framework (a web application) that helps with maintaining the information that can be shared among the participants of a pen-test. The information collected helps to understand what is done and what needs to be done. It achieves this purpose by the means of plugins to read and collect data from network scanning tools like Nmap, w3af, Nessus, Burp Suite, Nikto and much more.  It has a GUI interface, works on Linux, Apple Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. It is an open source and can be found at the below page.

Download link: Dradis download

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The above given is a huge list of penetration tools but that is not the end. There are few more Pentest tools that are gaining momentum in the recent times. They are:

21) Ettercap: A network and host analysis tool that provides sniffing and protocol dissection among other things. More info here.

22) Hydra: This is a password cracker – more details here.

23) Veracode: Works with the code development process to ensure security and minimize the vulnerabilities at the source level. Check here.

24) SATAN: It stands for: Security Administrator Tool for Analyzing Networks. This tool is used on network hosts for collecting and reporting security/vulnerability related statistics. Download here.

25) SHODAN: It is a search engine that lets you search for computers/devices on the internet,  based on various parameters like city, country hostname, OS etc. Using the Shodan Exploits, you can search for known vulnerabilities and exploits. Download here.

26) Aircrack-ng: Captures data packets and uses the same for recovery of 802.11 WEP and WPA-PSK keys. Download here.

27) Arachni: This is a Ruby framework that helps in analyzing web application security. It performs a meta-analysis on the HTTP responses it receives during an audit process and presents various insights into how secure the application is. Download here.

28) PunkSPIDER(scanner powered by PunkSCAN): Security scanners and what is unique is that this tool performs a range of multiple scans at once on web applications thus surpassing the existing tools in the market. You can download the source code directly from Bitbucket at this page.

29) IBM AppScan:  As the name itself indicates, this is a scanner that identifies problem areas and suggests remedial actions. Download here.

30) Nagios:  This Software when used will monitor the entire environment including servers, applications, network – the entire infrastructure and alert when a potential problem is detected. Download here.

31) Nikto:  This is a scanner that caters to web servers especially to detect outdated software configurations, invalid data and/or CGIs etc. Download here.

32) WebScarabNG: This tool uses the HTTP/https requests between the browser and the server to understand, capture and sometimes modify the parameters that are part of the communication between the two parties. Download here.

33) Maltego: This is a unique tool that focuses on showing/highlighting the relationships between people, sites, infrastructure etc. in order to identify inconsistent/incorrect connections. Download here.

34) IronWASP: It is a customizable scanner creator for web applications using python/ruby scripting. Download here.

35) HconSTF: Using this tool you can create your own web exploits, decoys that you can use to exploit vulnerabilities in the areas of passwords, databases, network etc. Download here.

36) OpenVAS: Stands for Open Vulnerabilities Assessment System. Well, the name says it all. For more info, check here.

37) Secunia PSI: It is a personal software inspector that will keep your system secure when installed. Try it here.

We hope this piques your interest in the pen-testing field and provides you with the necessary information to get started. A word of caution: remember to wear your ‘White-hat’ because with great power comes great responsibility- and we don’t want to be the ones to misuse it. :-)

Over to you

Have you performed pen-testing before? If yes, please share your experiences. Which penetration testing tool do you use? If we missed any important tool in this list please let us know in the comments below.

Thanks to Swati for helping us to find and review this comprehensive list.




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54 comments ↓

#1 smita

pen testing is my favorite. thanks for sharing this huge list of useful tools. this is really very helpful for us.

#2 abhilash

it was quiet helpful

#3 Kiran Kadam

Thank you so much Vijay for sharing penetration testing tools.

#4 Yasir

Thanks for sharing!

#5 syed

wow really huge and useful list. thank you for posting such a useful content.

#6 preeya

thanks vijay… willing to learn about this in depth. thank you again.

#7 Semaj

backtrack doesn’t “only work on Linux” it IS a Linux distro. Almost all the tools listed here are available by default in backtrack or can be loaded quite easily.

#8 sravani

You are doing a very good job…..thank you

#9 Shanmuga Priya

Really good article, very interesting, a huge list… Thanks for sharing Vijay…

#10 Tester Orville

Which is an open source tool? anyone you can recommend?

thanks.

#11 Sandhya

Hi vijay,
This is use full to every tester,Thanks

#12 Mugil K

Its very great to sharing valuable information for Pen-Testing. Really its very useful.

Mugil.k

#13 Maqsood Syed

Excellent information.
Great Job !!!

#14 pradnya

what is first step to enroll for ISTQB certification exam?

#15 Rajesh Sampath

I’m interested in this pen-testing though I have not tested before. But will do it going forward and let you know. Currently trying ZAP which seems to be good.

#16 Akshay

hii frnds….
please tell me which tool is best for pentration testing that we test web application easily and identify security issues like login ,request,session…

#17 Akshay

hiii vijay….thanks for intraction but u don’t tell me which tool will be best for pentration testing…so tell me soon..

#18 Muhammad

Can you recommend any good online course for penetration testing?

#19 sahmada

Hi there.

I think Secunia was not a suitable selection for this title. Also some of mentioned tools are a part of special distros like Backtrack which includes Metasploit, BeEF, …etc.

Anyway, I appreciate this useful list.

Best of luck bros

#20 Alex

There are no reporting tools in the list. If the report you deliver to your clients is poor, then it will make your testing look poor. Dont forget about reporting it is the most important part since without a report your clients do not get anything.

#21 binod

Sir i feel so glad that the indians are doing a good job in pentesting including u…….i have also.have some dreams please in my some researches plzzz this is my humble request to u….

#22 zero

Use kali, bugtraq or backbox linux … windows is shit linux rocks It contains tons of tools for penetration testing live happy

#23 Pentester

Also check out Smart Pentester, Which is a FREE SSH based Penetration Testing Framework. It provides a GUI for well known tools like nmap,hping,tcpdump,volatility,hydra and etc.

#24 random reader

Havij

#25 Sumeeth

Hi Swati,

I’ve over 5 years of experience in functional and automation testing. I’m very much interested to learn Security testing (At least web applications penetration testing) but didn’t get any right helpful resource. Can you please help me out in this. Any process or planning kind of document you can suggest that i can follow to master in security testing. Please send me helpful reference links or any tutorials or best tool to start with or any suggestion on learning security testing (penetration tester) , Please send it to jain.sumith@gmail.com

Thanks,
Sumith

#26 vasim khan

thanks for information………..

#27 Kevin Patel

Awesome Job

#28 raider corpse

i ‘m very happy to be in contact with you but i would love to get this software called: voipppack

#29 mallesh

i think not in order.right!

#30 MRbraceface

not good i sat down and typed in powerful penatration and i was upset to see not one image, gif or short video on it please add some or change the name.
#swag#yolo#dota#smite#callofleugeoflegendssmitedota2

#31 Shanthamurthy

I am bit familiar with wire-shark protocol analyzer tool and QualysGurard Vulnerability management tool, interested in knowing and learning other technologies being a security tester. This website has a huge collection of penetration testing tool and i am glad to be joining the team.

#32 Joao Neto

Hi,

I would like to know what is the best online penetration testing course, and advises have you got for beginners in pen testing.

Thanks

#33 Randy

Interesting that this list shows Nessus, NMAP and even the 1990’s SATAN open source tool, but does not show SAINT. SAINT’s current product offers vulnerability scanning; content scanning; web application scanning; exploit tools; vulnerability-specific exploits; pentest scan policies; configuration auditing; and even new research on vulnerabilities in router firmware. I would highly recommend it for inclusion on this list.

#34 Steve Meredith

Another useful Pen testing tool worth checking out is Traffic IQ. It can be used in a live network and has access to a library of over 9000 exploits and Snort rules

#35 Hackerz

i use metasploit, wireshark, nmap, hydra and aircrack-ng…

all in windows 7 -> in my pendrives (portable)

i find it intresting to use it all in portable becouse you don’t need your computer to make penetration tester

just pedrives is enaugh…

#36 Ankur

What a fool you are….backtrack/kalilinux itself a linux operating system, its not a tool you fool…..kali linux is one of and famous linux distribution for penetration.

#37 xdude

This was good info. but I could see Alpha the script kiddy on this planet. Beware of it. LoL.

#38 Malaya

Kali better that BackTrack ^^

#39 S satheeskumar

Hi All,

I am satheeskumar. Working in BPS domain as a system admin. I have completed MCA in 2011.
I have completed CEH V8 recently. Have knowledge in Networking as well.

I would like to continue my career in Ethical hacking based projects.
Please anybody assist me to move on ahead.

Contact Details:

Cell:+91 96988 72933
Email: satindh@gmail.com

#40 iqbal Shaikh

Hi Swati,

I’ve over 2 years of experience in functional and automation testing. I’m very much interested to learn Security testing (At least web applications penetration testing) but didn’t get any right helpful resource. Can you please help me out in this. Any process or planning kind of document you can suggest that i can follow to master in security testing. Please send me helpful reference links or any tutorials or best tool to start with or any suggestion on learning security testing (penetration tester) , Please send it to iqbal.is786@gmail.com

Thanks,

#41 Gary Adams

Very nice article but you have forgotten the very first and most important step. Get authorization to penetrate the target in writing to include the scope of your efforts.
Also while these tools are great, don’t forget that true pen testing should include that use of social methods. Phishing, physical access, dumpster driving …

#42 santhosh

Good article, Please provide me best free tool from above list

#43 Jonny Poo Poo

Great Stuff

#44 Jack Rendor

cewl for making custom dictionary

weevely for making php Backdoor

#45 Talha Riaz

Great Work ..!!!

#46 V1Ru5 Pr0gR4mm3R X

Hmm…not bad …
But some tools are missing buddy…..
in the post …..and it looks little non interesting ….
because of HTML/CSS has not been used …..properly to make website …
well all over …it was a nice post
Keep it Up..

#47 aqeel cyber

Thanks for kind Info.

#48 Senthil

I have tried quixxi vulnerability tester for mobile apps.
this can help someone vulnerabilitytest.quixxi.com.
What do you think guys?

#49 Yo

on a roll??? um maybe you mean honor role…

#50 Sharad Misra

Thank you for providing a comprehensive list of pen test tools and making the beginners work easier.

#51 Parth Parmar

Seriously.. Some people are trying XSS on this site, which is sharing some educational.. Please don’t show off over here..

#52 srikanth

Hi all
I have 1+ Year experience in web application security, I want to learn Functional Testing and Automation testing of web application.Please let me help any one improve my skills.

#53 Jeyem

Cain and abel. no more.
Hi,
just looked on the softonic site. they say …

Cain & Abel 4.9.41

Security & Privacy This download is no longer available. This could be due to the program being discontinued, having a security issue or for some other reason.

#54 Billal BEGUERADJ

I do not get it why you listed BackTrack here.

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