Best penetration testing tools: 2022 buyer’s guide


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Image: Bits and Splits/Adobe Stock

Knowing the state of the entire software system is of the utmost importance if business organizations are to operate with zero tolerance for security vulnerabilities. Although it may be challenging to maintain 100% secure software architecture, an insight into the security posture of your computer systems is possible when you conduct penetration testing with the best tools.

Due to the high number of penetration testing tools available to security professionals, it has become a challenge to pick the best penetration testing software tools that can help organizations meet compliance standards. So what are the best penetration testing tools for security professionals in 2022? How can penetration testers ensure that they adopt the best practices for penetration testing to meet recognized testing standards? Let’s find out.

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Nmap

Nmap is an open-source pen-testing tool that relies on IP packets to determine the hosts in your networks. It helps penetration testing professionals to audit network security, monitor network inventory and perform host service management duties.

Regardless of the organizational network size, Nmap can help audit network security issues, providing information on the server, packet filters, ping sweeps, firewalls and so on. In addition, the tool supports both the command and graphical user interface and contains a comprehensive document to help new users to get started with the tool.

SEE: Password breach: Why pop culture and passwords don’t mix (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Nmap is multi-platform capable, meaning testers can adopt the tool across different system environments.

Kali Linux

Kali Linux is one of the most advanced open-source penetration testing tools that runs on the Debian-based Linux distribution. The tool has advanced multi-platform features that can support security professions when conducting tests on mobile, desktop, ARM, docker, subsystems, virtual machine and bare metals.

As an open-source penetration testing software, Kali Linus allows security professionals to customize the tool’s ISO to match their testing situations. There is detailed documentation on using Kali’s Metapackages to generate software versions for specific testing purposes.

Kali also saves you the time needed to set up tools manually by adding an automated configuration system that optimizes the tool according to your use case.

Core Impact

Core Impact ranks as one of the oldest penetration testing tools that have evolved alongside the current demands of a testing environment. Core Impact offers sophisticated penetration testing features like Rapid Penetration Tests which assists security professionals in testing, reporting and exploiting vulnerabilities.

The tool reduces the need for manual configuration during installation and testing. All you need to do is define your test scope, set your testing parameter and Core Impact does the rest. In addition to the above, this tool can generate an attack map, giving you a real-time report of attack activities during testing.

Although Core Impact offers a free trial to their tool, there are basic, pro and enterprise plans for users who may wish to adopt the advanced versions.

Metasploit

Metasploit is another reliable penetration testing tool for security professionals to consider. The tool can serve users in two major versions — the open-source framework and the commercial support framework. Regardless of the version you adopt, this tool supports both the graphical and command line user interface. Although the framework version comes with a lot of features and community support from developers, the commercial version remains more robust in offering web app testing, social engineering checks and more.

In other words, there are customization features that help you to optimize the tool according to your needs. In addition, you can always leverage the tool’s cyberattack mitigation capability and threat simulation environment to help you gain deep visibility into your system.

Intruder

Intruder is another handy tool that can help testers discover vulnerabilities in the digital architecture. Packed with valuable features, your journey with Intruder does not start and stop with threat detection but provides a remediation plan for weaknesses found in your architecture.

There are thousands of security check options available on the software testers can utilize to achieve multi-dimensional tests on the system. It comes preloaded with optimization features that automate the checking of missing patches, misconfiguration issues, cross-site scripting and SQL injection.

The tool allows integration into team management software like Slack and Jira. You can get started with their 30-day free trial, after which you have the option of picking any of their payment plans.

Wireshark

The Wireshark tool can analyze and test an organization’s network protocol for threats. The tool is a multi-platform penetration testing utility packed with useful features such as live capture, offline and VoIP analysis.

As an open-source penetration testing utility, Wireshark provides a lot of support for its users through documentation, webinars and video tutorials. The tool also provides decryption features for arrays of protocols such as Kerberos, SSL/TLS and WEP.

Astra

Astra is a penetration testing tool solution with several automated testing features that combines manual with automated penetration testing features for your applications, networks, API and blockchains. With over 3,000 tests supported, this tool can help any security professional investigate vulnerabilities within a system.

As a comprehensive penetration testing solution, Astra covers many tests that can help organizations meet compliance standards. Some of the compliance standards which Astra can help you meet include SOC2, GDPR and ISO 27001.

The Astra tool also integrates with GitLab, Jira and Slack and infuses security into your CI/CD pipeline. There are three price options which range from the scanner plan, expert plan and pentest plan for users.

Acunetix

If you need a fully automated tool for web security scanning, you can count on Acunetix. This penetration testing solution is heavily packed with scanning utilities that can help penetration test teams quickly get an insight into over 7,000 web application vulnerabilities and provide a detailed report covering the scope of vulnerability.

Some of the notable vulnerabilities which Acunetix can help you detect during testing include XSS, SQL injections, exposed databases, out-of-band vulnerabilities and misconfigurations.

Acunetix comes with a dashboard that can help you to sort vulnerabilities into classes such as critical, high, medium and low. This helps to provide a clue about the severity and otherwise of every default in your web applications, thereby making it easy to determine which course of action to take first. To get started with the tool, you may have to request a quote to know their price offering.

W3af

W3af is an open-source, python-driven testing solution that audits your frameworks and web applications for vulnerabilities. The tool may be a perfect fit in the hands of penetration testers with a python background who need a simple testing solution to get their testing going. The tool provides detailed documentation and developer contributions which drives the community of users.

Furthermore, expert users can also use the tool to create custom HTTP requests and responses. Another gain from the tool is that testers can easily exploit SQL injections to understand the scope of security risks. The tool is free to download and use.

Burp Suite

PortSwigger’s Burp Suite is another penetration testing tool that can enhance manual penetration testing and automate scalable scanning of your organization’s web applications. One of the strengths of the Burp Suite solution is that it can allow penetration testers to add multiple extensions and plugins to facilitate penetration testing activities. These extensions include Logger ++, Autorize, J2EEScan and Backslash Powered Scanner.

Aside from the extensions above, Burp Suite also offers reconnaissance tools, automated scanning tools and Proxy tools, which are essential for ethical hacking.

You can start using Burp Suite from their free community edition but will have to pay if you wish to scale up to the professional and enterprise edition.

Hashcat

Penetration testing also requires ethical hacking into systems. Hashcat is a tool that can assist ethical hackers and other security professionals in advanced password recovery. It is an open-source, MIT licensed and advanced password recovery kit that can crack through over 100 algorithms such as SHA1, DCC and UNIX.

As a tool designed to support brute force attacks, some of the attack modes supported by the HashCat include brute force, Hybrid dict + mask and Hybrid mask + dict.

What’s more, developers update Hashcat frequently. It’s recommended that penetration testers and ethical hackers check their GitHub repository to get the latest development version.

SQLMap

For open-source lovers, SQLMap is an excellent penetration testing tool for detecting and exploiting SQL injections in applications. Penetration testers utilize the tool to hack databases and understand the depth of vulnerabilities.

In other words, SQLMap is a powerful testing engine that can support the running of several SQL injection attacks simultaneously, limiting the time spent on running the test. Some notable servers supported on the platform are Microsoft Access, IBM DB2, SQLite and MySQL.

It is also a cross-platform tool, supporting macOS, Linux and Windows operating systems. As an open-source tool, it is free to use.

BeEF

The Browser Exploitation Framework, commonly known as BeEF, is a handy tool for penetration testing, especially when running web browser-focused tests. This tool comes with features that allow testers to use client-side vectors to determine the security state of a web browser.

BeEF is an open-source tool designed to help testers understand how hacking can occur through an open-web browser and how to fix the vulnerabilities that could be pounced on by malicious hackers.

Classifications of penetration testing tools

Penetration testing involves testing different categories of your system environment, each requiring some set of tools for quality results. For example, some steps in penetration testing involve vulnerability scan, website crawling and hacking of vulnerabilities. Penetration testing tools are mostly classified to fit into these testing scenarios. Below are some common penetration testing tools categories.

Port scanners

These are penetration test tools used to sort various traffic sources from a network. They function by sending packets which help to reveal vulnerable ports.

Vulnerability scanners

These tools provide information on applications or networks’ weaknesses and generate reports that could be relied on during penetration testing.

Network sniffers

During penetration testing, network sniffers help to monitor network traffic and point out vulnerabilities where they exist.

Intercept proxy

This tool category helps penetration testers to figure out how network proxy intercepts. It can also help to modify browser requests and responses.

What are the types of penetration tests?

Security professionals adopt several types of penetration testing to assess the overall posture of an organization’s system. Some of the common forms of penetration testing include:

  • Web application tests: This involves testing software for development defects in coding and deployment.
  • External network tests: This penetration testing exposes vulnerabilities in devices, servers, ip addresses and network protocols.
  • Wireless network tests: This type exploits the loopholes in an organization’s wireless networks.
  • Internal network tests: This type assesses how an organization’s internal network configurations could cause weakness in the entire system.
  • Social engineering tests: This type of test assesses employees’ vulnerabilities to phishing attacks.

Best practices for penetration testing

Definition of scope and budget

Sometimes you think it’s ideal to test your entire system environment; however, defining the cost of testing your entire software ecosystem may convince you otherwise. Every organization has high and low vulnerability points. High-risk points are the areas that malicious actors can easily exploit. They can include application code base, config files and operating systems. Knowing the scope of the test beforehand is an excellent way to help the organization plan a penetration testing budget.

Financial and customer data should be included

Many organizations handle high volumes of financial and customer records in their database. This set of data is crucial to any organization and must be protected at all costs against breaches. There should be comprehensive penetration testing on these data resources and the software tools that often connect to them.

Consider testing remotely accessible resources

Your organization’s penetration testing plans should not exclude your remote resources and employees. Organizations that support remote roles sometimes provide remote access to valuable resources, which can be an entry point for hackers due to poor security monitoring. Remote resources with limited security monitoring systems should be covered in the penetration testing.

Be guided by penetration testing methodology

As a security professional, there are some notable penetration testing methodologies and standards that your organization can adopt for proper penetration testing. Knowing these standards and what each covers is crucial for professional testers and organizations who rely on penetration testing for quality compliance. It is recommended that you choose the one that suits your testing requirements and standards. Below are some penetration testing standards to follow.

Get ready for the test

After you have picked the testing scope and a suitable testing standard to follow, the next thing in line is to prepare for the test. This may involve determining your team members who will help in the testing, reporting and fixing of any issues found. It also entails knowing the type of tests permitted by your third-party partners, such as your cloud hosting providers. Finally, it’s also vital to plan and schedule patching on your software if the need arises.

Establish a communication plan

Set up a fluid communication protocol between the testing team and other IT teams within the organization. During the testing period, everyone in the team should be able to identify who to talk to about certain issues that may arise during the testing period. There should also be an avenue for everyone to ask questions and make inputs when the test is on. In addition, try to communicate the timeframe that would be needed to complete the test. This keeps everyone on the team working hard to meet the time frame.

Conduct the test using your chosen standard

As stated above, certain standard methodologies can be adopted during penetration testing. Ensure that your team follows the provisions of these standards to have a report that adheres to quality compliance. penetration testing is such a costly venture that must be done thoroughly to avoid repeating the test.



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