You may be feeling confident about your data protection after installing the best security software for your network and applications. But, how can you be sure everything works as expected? The answer lies with penetration testing – a form of simulated ‘hacking’ against your own IT systems to identify weak points that may be exploited in an actual cyber-attack.
You can choose from several existing security testing tools to automate different types of system attacks and find any vulnerabilities or loopholes that you might have missed. In this article, we explore penetration testing and review existing pen test tools to find the best ones on the market!
What is penetration testing?
Penetration testing, or pen testing, is a process of simulating a hacking attempt in a controlled environment. Pen tests can be conducted on IP address ranges, an organization’s applications and websites, or simply based on an organization’s name. The primary purpose of pen testing is to test the defenses of the targeted system against different types of attacks. Companies obtain information about the various ways by which malicious actors can gain unauthorized access to sensitive data. It can also be used to improve your security team’s knowledge of malware and the mechanisms required to defend the system from them.
Why is penetration testing important?
Penetration testing helps to reduce security risk by strengthening existing security measures. Some benefits of penetration testing include:
- Examine the effectiveness of an organization’s security policies
- Gain insight into which channels or applications in your organization are most at risk and identify new security testing tools and protocols to reduce that risk
- Make infrastructure changes with confidence by keeping security in mind
How to choose the best penetration testing tool?
First of all, pen test tools need to be easy to deploy, configure, and use. You should not require additional software to get them to work. Some other criteria to consider are given below.
Your penetration testing software should scan your system easily with speed and accuracy. The program needs to categorize vulnerabilities based on severity, allowing you to investigate the problems as soon as possible. Automation is crucial to reducing the workload of your security team.
Accurate and detailed reporting is something every pen testing software should provide. These reports should be easy to read and contain relevant, precise data in the form of downloadable and storable logs that can be accessed at any given time.
Once you have actioned the initial reports, the pen test tools should recheck the system with a step-wise reverification process. The re-verification of exploits is important to ensure that uncovered vulnerabilities are properly and fully addressed.
Top 5 penetration testing tools we recommend
Here are 5 pen test tools we recommend for efficient penetration testing
Originally developed as BackTrank Linux, the Kali Linux is a free penetration testing software suite that features hundreds of tools that were designed to target a variety of security-based processes, from basic pen testing, over security research to reverse engineering.
The Kali Undercover feature allows users to switch the appearance of their Linux system to a Windows 10 desktop; its USB booting capability makes it a ’portable’ program, while the host of dedicated pen testing tools makes it suitable for more advanced security tasks.
- Kali Undercover for stealth testing
- USB booting allows simple relocation of software to other devices
- Customizable Kali ISO
- Windows subsystem compatibility
Acunetix is an advanced security testing tool that can seamlessly scan web apps and pages in record time for over 7,000 types of vulnerabilities. It is one of the most intuitive pen testing software, offering a simple setup and a streamlined UI.
With customizable scheduling and extensive integrations with numerous tracking systems, it can be argued that Acunetix is among the best-rounded pen test tools available in the market.
- Can detect thousands of types of vulnerabilities with a self-updating database
- Highly intuitive UI and simplified setup
- Easy-to-read charts and stats
- Automated scheduling
Burp Suite is a comprehensive compilation of pen testing software, which are fairly easy to use by people with minimal technical knowledge and skills. What separates this software suite from other contemporary pen test tools is the ease of use and programs designed for different security processes.
The Suite features a myriad of unique programs, with some of the most prominent being Spider, the web crawler; the intercepting Proxy; Intruder for brute-force pen testing; Repeater for repeated checks with different parameters; the premium Scanner, and more.
- Clean user interface
- Each program serves a different purpose
- Automated scanning via AST technology
- Manual pen testing through Interceptor, Repeater, and similar programs
OpenVAS is among the most versatile vulnerability scanners, offering users a range of pen testing options. Whether it’s authenticated or unauthenticated pen testing, vulnerability scans, or performance tuning you are after, OpenVAS offers a solution.
This fully automated software offers detailed reporting and vulnerability reports. It also provides a range of customizable features, including custom scanning settings. Although the program sports many drop-down menus and selectable functions, it is remarkably easy to use.
- Exemplary detection rate
- Fully automated scans
- Black box and compliance testing
- Custom scanning settings and options
Nessus by Tenable is a professional pen testing vulnerability scanner that offers flexible deployment, a streamlined outlook, compliance & configuration auditing, and comprehensive scanning for viruses and web services that link to potentially malicious content, malware, and spyware.
Its reporting system is one of the finest on the market, featuring fast email notifications for scheduled scans, while its scanning accuracy and selectable parameters are just as efficient.
- Offline and online pen testing
- Can scan IPV4, IPV6, and hybrid networks
- Can be deployed as software, hardware, or via the provider’s Cloud
- Self-updating system
Penetration testing software tools are a good starting point for improving your cybersecurity measures. Each tool addresses its security category, searches for predefined, standard vulnerabilities, and helps the security team speed up the security testing process. However, it is important to remember that there are no tools on the market that test all aspects of security, especially your business logic. Reports generated by any pen test tools require further deep analysis and re-validation to improve your security systems more accurately. It does not matter which tool you use; without a proper team and knowledge, your system will not be completely safe!