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.

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 You Will Learn:

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?

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 

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

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

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) Kali Linux

Kali Linux is a open source project that is maintained by Offensive Security.Few prime features of Kali Linux include Accessibility, Full Customisation of Kali ISOs,Live USB with Multiple Persistence Stores,Full Disk Encryption, Running on android, Disk Encryption on Raspberry Pi 2, etc.

Tools Listings, Metapackages and version Tracking are some of the Penetration Testing tools present in Kali Linux. For more information and in order to download, visit the below page.

Download link: Kali Linux download

5) Netsparker

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 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

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)

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 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

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

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 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

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

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, 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

“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 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 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


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.