What Is Penetration Testing? Top Penetration Testing Software and Tools

What Is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing, also known as pen testing, is a means computer securities proficient use to detect and take advantage of security weaknesses in a computer application. These specialists are also known as white-hat hackers or ethical hackers, simplify this by simulating real-world attacks by criminal hackers, who are known as black-hat hackers.
Penetration testing is similar to recruit a hacker to attempt a cybersecurity attack to check the network or application hardness. The results are used by organizations to make their applications or network more secure.

How do Penetration Tests work?

The first step of penetration Testing is Penetration testers to study about the computer systems which they are attempting to breach. Then, they characteristically use a set of computer software tools to find vulnerabilities. Penetration testing may also involve social engineering hacking threats. Penetration Testers try to gain access to a system by trapping an employee of an organization into providing access.
Penetration testers deliver the outputs of their tests to the organization so they can easily make changes either resolve or mitigate the vulnerabilities.


Types of Penetration Tests

Penetration testing can consist of one or more of the following types of tests:

• Blind Tests
A blind test is also known as a black box test in which organizations do not provide any security information about targeted systems. The objective is to reveal vulnerabilities that would not be noticed otherwise.

Double-Blind Tests
A double-blind test is also known as a covert test, in which the organizations not provide security information to testers and not inform their security teams regarding tests. Double-blind testing is referred to as the gold standard of testing. Such tests are typically highly controlled by those managing them.

External Tests
An external test is one in which penetration testers attempt to find vulnerabilities remotely, they have performed the test on public-facing applications such as websites.

Internal Tests
An internal test is one in which the penetration testing takes place within an organization’s sites. These tests focus on security vulnerabilities that someone working from within an organization could take advantage of.

White Box Tests
A white box testing is testing in which organizations provide the penetration testers authority and security information relating to their systems to penetrate so they can expose and find the existing vulnerabilities in the systems.

List of Top 15 Penetration Testing Software & Tools

  1. Acunetix Scanner
  2. Aircrack
  3. BeEF
  4. Burp Suite
  5. Cain & Abel
  6. John The Ripper
  7. Kali Linux
  8. Metasploit
  9. Nessus
  10. Netsparker
  11. SQLmap
  12. W3af
  13. Wapiti
  14. Wireshark
  15. Zed Attack Proxy

1. Acunetix Scanner

Acutenix is an automated testing tool that can use execute a penetration test. The tool is proficient in auditing complex administration reports and issues with compliance. Acunetix is even skilled in including out-of-band vulnerabilities.

Acunetix integrates with the highly enjoyed Issue Trackers and WAFs. With a high-detection rate, Acunetix is one of the industry’s advanced Cross-site scripting and SQLi testing, which includes sophisticated advanced detection of XSS.



  • Acunetix covers over 4500 weaknesses, including SQL injection as well as XSS.
  • The Login Sequence Recorder is easy-to-implemented and scans password-protected areas.
  • The AcuSensor Technology, Manual Penetration tools, and Built-in Vulnerability Management streamline black and white box testing to enhance and enable remediation.
  • Can crawl hundreds of thousands of web pages without delay.
  • Ability to run locally or through a cloud solution.

2. Aircrack

Aircrack NG is designed for cracking flaws within wireless connections by capturing data packets for an effective protocol in exporting through text files for analysis. While the software seemed abandoned in 2010, Aircrack was updated in 2019.

Aircrack supports various Operating Systems and platforms with support for WEP dictionary attacks and also offers an improved tracking speed. After capturing the WPA handshake, the tool is capable of using a password dictionary and statistical techniques to break into WEP.


It focuses on different areas of WiFi security:

  • Monitoring: Packet capture and export of data to text files for further processing by third-party tools
  • Attacking: Replay attacks, deauthentication, fake access points, and others via packet injection
  • Testing: Checking WiFi cards and driver capabilities (capture and injection)
  • Cracking: WEP and WPA PSK (WPA 1 and 2)

3. BeEF

BeEF is short for The Browser Exploitation Framework. It is a penetration testing tool that focuses on the web browser.

BeEF is designed to explore weaknesses beyond the client system and network perimeter. Instead, the framework will look at exploitability within the context of just one source, the web browser.


4. Burp Suite

BurpSuit framework uses Web Penetration Testing on the Java platform and is an industry-standard tool used by the majority of information security professionals. There are two different versions are available for burp suite. The free version provides the necessary and essential tools needed for scanning activities and second version if need advanced penetration testing.



  • It’s capable of automatically crawling web-based applications.
  • Works on Windows, OS X, Linux.

5. Cain & Abel

Cain and Abel (often abbreviated to Cain) is a password recovery tool for Microsoft Windows. It can recover many kinds of passwords using methods such as network packet sniffing, cracking various password hashes by using methods such as dictionary attacks, brute force, and cryptanalysis attacks. Cain and Abel is a Windows-only password recovery tool that leads the pack. Capable of recording VoIP conversations; it can decode scrambled passwords and analyze routing protocols. It uncovers cached passwords, reveals password boxes, cracks encryption with brute force style attacks and cryptanalysis, and on and on.



  • Excellent for recovery of lost passwords.
  • Windows-based software can recover passwords using network sniffers, cryptanalysis attacks, and brute force.
  • It is ideal for the procurement of network keys and passwords through penetration

6. John The Ripper

John the Ripper is an Open Source password security auditing and password recovery tool available for many operating systems. John the Ripper jumbo supports hundreds of hash and cipher types, including for user passwords of Unix flavors (Linux, *BSD, Solaris, AIX, QNX, etc.), macOS, Windows, “web apps” (e.g., WordPress), groupware (e.g., Notes/Domino), and database servers (SQL, LDAP, etc.); network traffic captures (Windows network authentication, WiFi WPA-PSK, etc.); encrypted private keys (SSH, GnuPG, cryptocurrency wallets, etc.), filesystems and disks (macOS .dmg files and “sparse bundles”, Windows BitLocker, etc.), archives (ZIP, RAR, 7z), and document files (PDF, Microsoft Office’s, etc.)

John can use is the dictionary attack. It takes text string samples (usually from a file, called a wordlist, containing words found in a dictionary or real passwords cracked before), encrypting it in the same format as the password being examined (including both the encryption algorithm and key), and comparing the output to the encrypted string



  • Automatically identifies different password hashes.
  • Discovers password faults within databases.
  • It have also Professional version which is available for Linux, Mac OS X, Hash Suite, Hash Suite Droid.

7.Kali Linux

Kali Linux is a Debian-based Linux distribution designed for digital forensics and penetration testing. It is maintained and funded by Offensive Security. Kali Linux is based on the Debian Testing branch. Most packages Kali uses are imported from the Debian repositories.



  • It can uses a live image loaded into the RAM to test and exploit the security skills of ethical hackers.
  • Kali has over 600 ethical hacking tools.
  • Various security tools for vulnerability analysis, web applications, information gathering, wireless attacks, reverse engineering, password cracking, forensic tools, web applications, spoofing, sniffing, exploitation tools, and hardware hacking are pre available in Kali linux.



The Metasploit Project is an Open-source computer security project that provides information about security vulnerabilities. It is owned by Boston, Massachusetts-based security company Rapid7. Metasploit helps professional developers to verify and manage security assessments, improves the awareness, and empowers defenders.  this tool will allow a network administrator to break in and identify fatal weak points. The main feature of MSF is manual brute-forcing, payloads to exploit vulnerabilities, spear phishing, etc.



  • Easy to use with GUI clickable interface and command line.
  • It Collects testing data for over 1,500 exploits.
  • It’s available on Mac Os X, Windows, and Linux.
  • Can be used on servers, networks, and applications.


The software is a GUI Web-based tool and one of the most powerful testing tools on the market with over 45,000 CEs and 100,000 plugins. Preferably suited for scanning IP addresses, websites and completing sensitive data searches. It will be able to locate ‘weak spots’ in systems. This application can scans for open ports, weak passwords, and misconfiguration errors.



  • It creates customized reports, including types of vulnerabilities by host.
  • The tool offers priority remediation to web application, mobile scanning, and cloud environment
  • It is Web-based and runs on every platform

10. Netsparker

Netsparker is a single platform for all web application security needs. IT helps businesses of any size and industry identify and perform automatic vulnerability assessment, which helps in fixing the issues. The system is powerful enough to scan more than 500 up to 1000 web applications at the same time.



  • Netsparker automatically crawls and scans all types of legacy & modern web applications including HTML5, Web 2.0 and Single Page Applications (SPA), as well as password-protected web assets.
  • Vulnerabilities are automatically assigned a severity level to highlight the potential damage and the urgency with which they must be fixed.
  • The Asset Discovery service continuously scans the Internet to discover your assets based on IP addresses, top-level & second-level domains, and SSL certificate information.


SQLmap is an open-source penetration testing tool that automates the process of finding and exploiting SQL injection vulnerabilities. SQLmap supports different database platforms which include MySQL, SQLite, Sybase, DB2, Access, MSSQL, PostgreSQL. SQLmap automates the process of exploiting database servers and SQL injection vulnerabilities.



  • Detects and maps vulnerabilities.
  • Provides support for all injection methods:  Time, Stack, Error, Union, Boolean.
  • Runs software at the command line and can be downloaded for Linux, Mac OS, and Windows systems


W3af is a Web Application Attack and Audit Framework. W3af is to create a framework to helps to secure web applications by finding and exploiting all web application vulnerabilities. Three types of plugins are provided for attack, audit, and discovery.



  • W3af is easy to use for amateurs and powerful enough for professionals.
  • It has the capability to be configured to run as a Man In The Middle proxy.
  • It can complete automated HTTP request generation and raw HTTP requests.

13. Wapiti

Wapiti is an application security tool that allows black-box testing. Wapiti allows auditing the security of websites or web applications. It performs “black-box” scans of the web application by crawling the webpages of the deployed web app, looking for scripts and forms where it can inject data.

Black box testing checks web applications for potential liabilities. During the testing process, web pages are scanned, and the testing data is injected to check for any gaps in security.



  • Generates vulnerability reports in various formats (HTML, XML, JSON, TXT…)
  • Can suspend and resume a scan or an attack (session mechanism using sqlite3 databases)
  • Colors in the terminal to highlight vulnerabilities
  • Different levels of verbosity
  • Fast and easy way to activate/deactivate attack modules
  • Adding a payload can be as easy as adding a line to a text file


Wireshark offers real-time network analysis. It allows users to view reconstructed TCP session streams. Many prefer Tcpdump for security and system-resource reasons, but Wireshark remains the most popular packet sniffer. The software receives regular updates to outfit its robust packet-sniffing capabilities. Wireshark is very similar to tcpdump, but has a graphical front-end, plus some integrated sorting and filtering options. Wireshark uses pcap to capture packets, so it can only capture packets on the types of networks that pcap supports. Data can be captured “from the wire” from a live network connection or read from a file of already-captured packets. Captured files can be programmatically edited or converted via command-line switches to the “editcap” program and data display can be filtered using a display filter.




  • Can upload both online and offline pcap data
  • Capturing data packets allows exploring various features, including source and destination protocol.
  • Ability to investigate the smallest details for activities all over a network.

15. Zed Attack Proxy

OWASP ZAP (Zed Attack Proxy) is part of the free OWASP community and started in 2010. It is perfect for developers and testers who are new to penetration testing. Zed Attack Proxy runs in a cross-platform environment generating a proxy between the client and website.




  • Completely free and Open Source
  • ZAP having 4 mode with customizable options.
  • Tutorials for Zap development available Source Code, OpenHub, Wiki, Crowdin, Developer Group,  and BountySource.

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