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15 Best Network Pentesting Tools [Free + Paid] – Source: securityboulevard.com

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Source: securityboulevard.com – Author: Harman Singh

This guide provides an overview of the top 15 network penetration testing tools. Aimed at IT and security professionals, it offers detailed insights into each tool’s capabilities and strategic usage for robust cyber defence.

Best network penetration testing tool (Our choice)


It is Metasploit

The free version improved the network pen testing as a practice. Metasploit Pro, the paid version, includes advanced features such as web application scanning, enhancing its capabilities in vulnerability scanning and compliance reporting.

Why is Metasploit the best network penetration testing tool?

Our choice is Metasploit due to several reasons. Its impressive range of modules based on different phases of network pen testing makes it very efficient and fast in storing all the results in the same database and searching for relevant text. Metasploit has everything from port scanning to initial fingerprinting and sweeps to exploitation, post-exploitation, and web application scanning. Metasploit changed the way network pen tests were done earlier due to vast community support and the reliability of pen testers, which has made it better over the years. All credit goes to HD Moore’s (its founder) vision that Metasploit is still open-source for the community.

Its extensive exploit library, straightforward interface, and powerful automation capabilities make Metasploit the preferred choice for penetration testers.


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Key features

Metasploit’s standout features include a vast exploit database, customisable payloads, and post-exploitation tools, all within a user-friendly framework.

Free or Paid

Metasploit comes in two flavours: the open-source Metasploit Framework for primary use and the commercial Metasploit Pro with advanced features.

The best 15 network penetration testing tools

From open-source frameworks to specialised password-cracking utilities, the top 15 network security tools, pen testing tools, and security penetration testing tools offer a comprehensive suite of solutions to identify and address vulnerabilities in your networks.

In the following sections, we will delve into each tool. We will discuss key features, their importance in network security, whether they are available as paid or open-source options and our verdict on their overall utility. This information is designed to guide you in selecting the most suitable options to fortify your organisation’s security posture.

1. Metasploit

Metasploit is a comprehensive open-source framework used for penetration testing developed by Rapid7. This powerful tool enables security professionals to test network defences and perform advanced penetration testing. It is known for its versatility and the ability to automate various aspects of the testing process.

Critical features of Metasploit include:

  • Automated exploit execution
  • Custom payload creation
  • Vulnerability scanning and management
  • Post-exploitation tools for gathering further intelligence

Metasploit’s modular architecture and extensive library of ready-to-use modules contribute to its popularity among IT and security professionals. It is an essential tool for identifying vulnerabilities and improving network security.

Metasploit is an open-source tool, making it accessible for security professionals and researchers worldwide.

2. Arp-scan

Arp-scan is a fast and efficient command-line tool used for network discovery. It operates by sending ARP packets to specified IP addresses and listening for responses, thus mapping out active hosts on a network.

The main features of Arp-scan include:

  • Rapidly identifying active hosts on a network
  • Enumerating IP addresses in use

  • Detecting unauthorised devices with their speed and simplicity, Arp-scan is a popular choice for network administrators and security practitioners. It is beneficial for scanning large networks, where manual enumeration would be impractical.

Arp-scan is an open-source tool, allowing for widespread use and community-driven improvements.

3. Wireshark

Wireshark is a widely recognised network protocol analyser that allows users to capture and interactively browse network traffic. It is used for network troubleshooting, analysis, and software and protocol development. It is available with a graphical user interface and is a ubiquitous common tool used by internal network infrastructure teams.

Wireshark’s features include:

  • Detailed inspection of network traffic and various protocols
  • Network discovery (passive), live capture, and offline analysis
  • Powerful display filters
  • Rich VoIP analysis

Wireshark is an open-source tool with a strong reputation for its extensive protocol support and powerful analysis capabilities, making it an indispensable resource for network visibility and security. Wireshark’s effectiveness in handling various network protocols is crucial for security analysis and debugging, enhancing its role in dissecting network activities.

4. Hashcat

Hashcat is a high-performance password recovery tool known for its speed and support of many hashing algorithms. It is considered one of the most advanced password-cracking tools available.

Features of Hashcat include:

  • Utilisation of CPU for efficient password cracking
  • Support for numerous hash types, including NTLM, LM, MD5, SHA-1, WPA/WPA2 and many others
  • Flexible and scalable for different testing requirements

The tool is essential for security professionals assessing password strength and enforcing more robust security measures. Hashcat is open-source, which ensures that a dedicated community continuously improves it.

5. Kali Linux

Kali Linux is a customised Linux distro tailored for penetration testing and security auditing. Developed by Offensive Security, it comes with various pre-installed tools that cater to various information security tasks.

Notable features of Kali Linux include:

  • Tools for network and web application analysis, including web application security testing
  • Wireless security testing capabilities
  • Forensic tools and reverse engineering capabilities

The distribution is highly regarded in the security community for its comprehensive toolset. It is a free, open-source platform, making it accessible to many users.

6. Nessus

Nessus is a widely utilised vulnerability scanner developed by Tenable Network Security. It is designed to uncover various vulnerabilities in computer networks, such as misconfigurations, open ports, and susceptible passwords, making it a trusted tool for organisations.

Critical features of Nessus include:

  • A comprehensive vulnerability database for accurate detection
  • A high-speed scanning engine to quickly uncover security risks
  • Configuration and compliance checks
  • Malware detection
  • Customisable thorough analysis

Nessus is celebrated for its precision, speed, and user-friendliness. It empowers IT and security professionals to proactively shield their networks and maintain a robust security stance.

Nessus is available in both free and paid versions, offering flexibility around personal or organisational needs.

Nessus is among the leading vulnerability scanners used for security audits and penetration testing, highlighting its essential role in identifying security issues and performing security audits.

7. Nmap

Nmap, or Network Mapper, is a celebrated network exploration tool and security scanner. It is beneficial for discovering devices running on a network and identifying the services and configurations they offer.

Nmap’s features include:

  • Host discovery to identify active machines on a network
  • Port scanning to enumerate open ports and associated services
  • Version detection to determine software and service versions
  • OS detection to make educated guesses about the operating systems in use
  • Scriptable interaction with the target network via Nmap Scripting Engine (NSE)

Developed by Gordon Lyon, Nmap’s open-source nature and robust feature set have made it a fundamental tool for network security professionals.

Nmap is an open-source tool that enables widespread use and contributions from the security community.

8. BloodHound

BloodHound offers a novel approach to visualising and analysing (AD) environments. Developed by SpecterOps, it allows for identifying complex attack paths and potential security weaknesses within an organisation.

BloodHound’s capabilities include:

  • Advanced analytics using graph theory to expose AD vulnerabilities
  • An intuitive graphical interface for easy comprehension of complex relationships
  • A powerful query language to extract meaningful insights from AD data

As a result of these features, BloodHound has become an essential tool for organisations to review the security of their Active Directory setups.

BloodHound is an open-source tool, which contributes to its popularity and continuous improvement by the security community.

9. PowerShell Tools by Various Researchers

PowerShell tools, developed by various researchers, offer a range of advanced capabilities for network security testing and vulnerability management. These tools facilitate the automation of routine tasks, streamline administrative processes, and enhance the security profile of networks.

Popular PowerShell tools include:

  • Empire for post-exploitation activities
  • PowerSploit for a collection of Microsoft PowerShell modules that aid in penetration testing
  • Nishang for scripting attacks and managing payloads

These tools are highly regarded for their contribution to simplifying and optimising Poweroptimizinge for security purposes.

Many of these PowerShell tools are open-source, allowing for their continuous development by the security community.

10. Cloudfox

Cloudfox is a tool that specialises in assessing the security of cloud-based infrastructures. Developed by the Cloud Security Alliance, Cloudfox assists organisations in their cloud environments in detecting and manage potential security threats.

Features of Cloudfox include:

  • A robust scanning engine for vulnerability detection
  • Asset discovery features to identify and monitor cloud resources
  • A comprehensive vulnerability database for accurate threat assessment

This tool is pivotal for organisations’ technologies, providing a means to identify and remediate security issues in cloud deployments.

Cloudfox is a free tool, reflecting the Cloud Security Alliance’s commitment to improving cloud security awareness and practices.

11. Aircrack-ng

Aircrack-ng is a comprehensive suite of tools designed for monitoring, attacking, testing, and cracking wireless networks. Created by Thomas d’Otreppe, it is primarily used by IT and security professionals to assess the security of Wi-Fi networks. The suite includes utilities for packet capturing, monitoring, and analysing Wi-Fi, which is essential for detecting network vulnerabilities and ensuring the integrity of wireless communications.

Critical features of Aircrack-ng include:

  • Capability to capture and inject packets
  • Support for numerous wireless card drivers
  • Cracking of WEP and WPA/WPA2-PSK keys
  • Analysis tools for examining Wi-Fi protocols and network performance

Aircrack-ng is celebrated for its effectiveness and reliability in network security. Its ability to crack various encryption protocols makes it a vital tool for penetration testers and cybersecurity experts. The suite’s extensive documentation and supportive community further contribute to its popularity.

Aircrack-ng is an open-source tool, allowing for ongoing improvements and widespread use within the security community.

12. Responder

Responder is a powerful network security tool for carrying out LLMNR, NBT-NS, and MDNS poisoning attacks. It enables penetration testers to capture NTLM, NTLMv2, and other types of credentials over the network. This tool is particularly effective in environments where these protocols are enabled, allowing for the collection of valuable authentication details that can be used to compromise network security.

The tool’s key features include:

  • Automatic capturing of NetNTLMv1/v2 and LMv2 hashes
  • Ability to perform SMB, HTTP, HTTPS, and other types of attacks
  • Support for WPAD (Web Proxy Auto-Discovery) poisoning

Responder’s ease of use and effectiveness in capturing credentials have made it a go-to tool for network penetration testers. Its focused approach to credential gathering is a significant advantage in identifying and exploiting security weaknesses.

Responder is an open-source tool, which has encouraged its adoption and evolution through contributions from the security community.

13. John the Ripper

John the Ripper is an advanced password-cracking tool instrumental in network security testing. It is designed to uncover weak passwords using various methods, including dictionary, brute-force, and rainbow table attacks. Security professionals and network administrators use John the Ripper to evaluate password strength and promote enforcing stringent security policies.

Features of John the Ripper include:

  • Support for a wide array of password hash types
  • Availability of multiple modes for password cracking
  • Customisable with options for different attack strategies

The tool’s versatility and powerful cracking capabilities have earned it a reputation as an essential component of any security professional’s toolkit. It is particularly valued for its ability to simulate real-world attack scenarios, critical in strengthening network defences against unauthorised access. Ripper is open-source software, ensuring that it benefits from regular updates and community-driven enhancements.

14. CloudHunter

CloudHunter is a tool specifically designed for the security assessment of cloud storage services across multiple platforms, including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. It assists security professionals in identifying misconfigured or publicly accessible cloud storage buckets, which can pose significant security risks. CloudHunter systematically scans and analyses cloud user permissions, providing insights into potential vulnerabilities.

The main features of CloudHunter are:

  • Scanning of cloud storage buckets for misconfigurations
  • Analysis of permissions and public accessibility
  • Support for multiple cloud service providers

By using CloudHunter, organisations address security concerns in their cloud storage configurations, enhancing their overall cloud security posture. The tool is invaluable for ensuring that cloud data is protected against unauthorised access and is freely available, reflecting the commitment to improving cloud security practices and awareness.

15. Multiple Network pen testing tools for Windows (and utilities)

A plethora of Windows utilities play a crucial role in network penetration testing. These tools, ranging from frameworks and password recovery utilities to advanced system analysis suites, provide security professionals with diverse capabilities to assess and enhance network defences. Among these, Empire stands out as a post-exploitation framework, while LaZagne is known for its specialised focus on recovery.

The features of these Windows utilities make them indispensable for penetration testing:

  • Empire allows for powerful post-exploitation activities and control over compromised systems.
  • LaZagne excels in extracting stored passwords from a wide variety of applications.
  • PowerSploit provides a collection of Microsoft PowerShell modules to assist in penetration testing.
  • Sysinternals Suite offers advanced utilities for in-depth system analysis and troubleshooting.

Other essential tools include Inveigh for SMB/LMNR poisoning, DeathStar for exploiting Windows domains, and Fibratus for monitoring Windows Kernel activities. These utilities are instrumental in uncovering vulnerabilities, simulating attack scenarios, and understanding network behaviours under stress.

The significance of these Windows utilities in network penetration testing cannot be overstated. They are potent aids in simulating sophisticated cyberattacks, revealing hidden vulnerabilities, and comprehending the intricacies of Windows environments from an attacker’s viewpoint. By leveraging these tools, security professionals can pinpoint weaknesses in network defences and take proactive measures to strengthen security and prevent breaches.

Most of these Windows utilities are open-source software, allowing for broad usage and collaborative enhancement from the security community.

Selecting an effective Network Penetration Testing Tool

Choosing the most effective network penetration testing tool requires a systematic approach. Considering the network environment’s specific needs and the penetration test’s objectives is crucial. Tools vary in capabilities, such as vulnerability scanning, password cracking, wireless network testing, and exploitation frameworks. The inclusion of vulnerability scanners in this toolkit is paramount for identifying and assessing security vulnerabilities, as they are adept at scanning for vulnerabilities, performing penetration testing, and evaluating security audits, bridging the gap between automated network pen-testing tools and manual efforts.

  • Understanding the network’s architecture and the types of potential threats is essential for selecting a tool that provides comprehensive coverage of security vulnerabilities.
  • Budgetary constraints are also a significant factor in the decision-making process. A balance must be struck between the cost of the tools and the value they bring to the security assessment. While some powerful tools are available at no cost, others require investment. It is essential to evaluate a tool’s return on investment in terms of its ability to uncover critical vulnerabilities and aid in fortifying the network’s security.

How do we perform network pentest using these tools?

Performing a network penetration test involves a series of systematic steps to identify and exploit vulnerabilities within a network. Initially, the survey is conducted to gather information about the target network. Following this, security professionals employ various tools to scan and analyse the net for potential weaknesses. Once vulnerabilities are identified, they are exploited to understand the level of risk and potential impact on the network. Finally, detailed reports are generated, providing insights and recommendations for strengthening the network’s security posture. The process typically includes:

  • Reconnaissance: Gathering preliminary data or intelligence on the target network.
  • Scanning: Using tools like Nmap and Nessus to discover open ports, active hosts, and vulnerabilities, as well as analyse network protocols for a comprehensive understanding of the target network’s communication and data flow.
  • Gaining Access: Exploiting identified vulnerabilities using frameworks like Metasploit to gain unauthorised access.
  • Maintaining Access: Establishing a persistent presence within the network to understand long-term vulnerabilities.
  • Analysis: Review the data collected to identify security gaps and potential improvements.
  • Reporting: Document findings and provide actionable recommendations to address identified vulnerabilities.

Strategic Connect of Network Pentesting Tools with People and Process

The effectiveness of network penetration testing tools is intrinsically linked to the expertise of the individuals wielding them and the rigour of the processes within which they are employed. These tools are pivotal in identifying and mitigating network vulnerabilities, yet their full potential is only realised when skilled professionals operate within a structured framework. The synergy between sophisticated tools, knowledgeable personnel, and systematic processes ensures that defences are assessed and enhanced continuously.

In this context, the role of human insight and experience, such as security consultants or penetration testers, cannot be overstated. While automated tools can scan and probe networks for weaknesses, the discerning analysis by cybersecurity experts transforms data into actionable intelligence.

Moreover, adherence to stringent processes ensures that each step—from reconnaissance to reporting—is conducted within the business context, with customer insights and practicality in mind. Thus, the strategic integration of tools, people, and processes is paramount in advancing an organisation and fortifying its resilience against cyber threats.

How can Cyphere help?

Cyphere, with its CREST accreditation and sector-specific expertise, offers unparalleled consulting services to elevate your cyber security strategy. Our security consultants conduct in-depth reviews of your current security tooling and processes, identifying areas for capability enhancement. We don’t just assess; we transform your approach to network security with actionable insights and tips tailored to your unique needs.

By leveraging Cyphere’s comprehensive analysis, organisations can improve their security tooling and refine their processes for maximum efficiency. Schedule an introductory call to discuss your concerns or ask for reasonable security practices and tips from our team.


What is network penetration testing?

Network penetration testing tests a computer system, network, or web application to find vulnerabilities an attacker could exploit.

What are the benefits of using network pen test tools?

Network pen test tools help identify security weaknesses, ensuring that existing vulnerabilities can be addressed and mitigated.

How do you test network safety?

Simulating cyberattacks test network safety to identify and address security vulnerabilities.

Which tool does Cyphere use to perform network pen tests?

Cyphere has a mix of open-source and paid network pen testing tools to serve various assessment scopes.

Is Wireshark a penetration testing tool?

Wireshark is crucial in network penetration tests where traffic analysis is needed. Unauthenticated scenarios often rely on initial network layout and knowledge gathered from local analysis. It can also be used to capture sensitive data through various traffic protocols.

What is the importance of password-cracking tools in network security testing?

Password cracking tools are vital for network security testing, as passwords are often the weakest link in any system. They enable organisations to improve their overall security posture and identify weaknesses in their security infrastructure.

Original Post URL: https://securityboulevard.com/2024/05/15-best-network-pentesting-tools-free-paid/

Category & Tags: Network Security,Security Bloggers Network,Cyber Security,Everything Pentesting – Network Security,Security Bloggers Network,Cyber Security,Everything Pentesting

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