Cybercrime is a serious threat to our IT world, and there are many different tactics employed to fight it. Ethical hackers, also referred to as "white hackers," use various network security tools to test networks and data systems for possible vulnerabilities that a hacker could exploit.

Today, we are looking at a sampling of the better penetration test Kali Linux tools available to ethical hackers and penetration testers. Before we jump into the list, let's pause for a refresher on a few essential terms.

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What Is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing, also called pen testing, security pen testing, or security testing, is ethical, or white hat, hacking. Pen testing breaks through an organization's cyber defenses to check for exploitable vulnerabilities in networks, user security, and web applications.

To evaluate a computer system's effectiveness, pen testers launch simulated cyberattacks against targeted networks (and with the host's knowledge). In addition, these ethical hackers look for ways around the computer system's defenses, checking for ways to gain access.

These attacks help organizations locate the weak spots in their network infrastructure and help guide efforts to ramp up security.

What Is Kali Linux?

Kali Linux is an open-source distribution designed for cybersecurity professionals, ethical hackers, and penetration testers. It is Debian-derived and focused on providing over 600 tools for penetration testing and security auditing. Offensive Security actively developed Kali Linux and is one of the most popular security distributions used by ethical hackers and Infosec companies.

Kali Linux was designed to be used by professionals, web admins, and anyone who knows how to run Kali Linux; it was not designed for general use.

Kali Linux has numerous security-hacker applications pre-installed for exploitation tools, forensic tools, hardware hacking, information gathering, password cracking, reverse engineering, wireless attacks, web applications, stress testing, sniffing and spoofing, vulnerability analysis, and many more. You can even install additional tools.

Since hundreds of tools are available, we've decided to offer you this shortlist of the better tools to use this year. This way, you don't have to spend hours wading through the vast collection, trying to find the best Kali Linux tools. We've done the heavy lifting for you. You're welcome!

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The Top Eight Kali Linux Tools

Here are the best eight penetration tools to get you through 2024. Notice that they cover a diverse range of techniques and attacks.

1. Fluxion

Wi-Fi is growing more popular each year, making it a more attractive target of opportunity for hackers. That's why pen testers must have the capacity to test Wi-Fi networks for security leaks.

Fluxion is a Wi-Fi analyzer specializing in MITM WPA attacks and lets you scan wireless networks. Pen testers use Fluxion to search for security flaws in corporate and personal networks. However, unlike similar Wi-Fi cracking tools, Fluxion does not launch time-consuming brute force cracking attempts.

Instead, Fluxion creates an MDK3 process that forces all users on the targeted network to lose authentication or deauthenticate. Once this is accomplished, the user is prompted to connect to a false access point, requiring entering the Wi-Fi password. Then, the program reports the password to the pen tester to gain access.

2. John the Ripper

John the Ripper gets points for a creative name. This hacker’s resource is a multi-platform cryptography testing tool that works equally well on Linux, Windows, macOS, and Unix. It enables system administrators and security penetration testers to test the strength of any system password by launching brute force attacks. Additionally, John the Ripper can be used to test encryptions like DES, SHA-1, and many others.

Its ability to change password decryption methods is set automatically and contingent on the detected algorithms.

John the Ripper is a free tool, licensed and distributed under the GPL license, and ideal for anyone who wants to test their organization’s password security.

John the Ripper’s chief advantages include:

  • Brute force testing and dictionary attacks
  • Compatibility with most operating systems and CPU architectures
  • Running automatically by using crons
  • Allowing Pause and Resume options for any scan
  • It lets hackers define custom letters while building dictionary attack lists
  • It allows brute force customization rules

3. Lynis

Lynis is most likely one of the most comprehensive tools available for cybersecurity compliance (e.g., PCI, HIPAA, SOx), system auditing, system hardening, and testing. In addition, thanks to its numerous capabilities, Lynis also functions as an effective platform for vulnerability scanning and penetration testing.

This Kali Linux tool’s main features include:

  • Open source and free, with commercial support available.
  • Simple installation from the Github repository.
  • It runs on multiple platforms (BSD, macOS, Linux, BSD, AIX, and more).
  • It can run up to 300 security tests on the remote host.
  • Its output report is shared on-screen and features suggestions, warnings, and any critical security issues found on the machine.

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4. Metasploit Framework

Remote computing is on the rise thanks to more people working from home. Metasploit Framework, or MSF for short, is a Ruby-based platform used by ethical hackers to develop, test, and execute exploits against remote hosts. Metasploit includes a complete collection of security tools intended for penetration testing, plus a powerful terminal-based console known as msfconsole, which lets you find targets, exploit security flaws, launch scans, and collect all relevant available data.

Available for Windows and Linux, MSF is most likely one of the most potent security auditing Kali Linux tools freely available for cybersecurity professionals.

Metasploit Framework’s features include:

  • Network enumeration and discovery
  • Evading detection on remote hosts
  • Exploiting development and execution
  • Scanning remote targets
  • Exploiting vulnerabilities and collecting valuable data 

5. Nikto

Nikto enables ethical hackers and pen testers to conduct a complete web server scan to discover security vulnerabilities and related flaws. This scan collects results by detecting default file names, insecure file and app patterns, outdated server software, and server and software misconfigurations.

Written in Perl, Nikto complements OpenVAS and other vulnerability scanners. In addition, it features support for host-based authentication, proxies, SSL encryption, and more.

Nikto’s primary features include:

  • Scanning multiple ports on a server.
  • Providing IDS evasion techniques.
  • Outputting results into TXT, XML, HTML, NBE or CSV.
  • Apache and cgiwrap username enumeration.
  • Identifying installed software via headers, files, and favicons.
  • Scanning specified CGI directories.
  • Using custom configuration files.

6. Nmap

Nmap is the most well-known network mapper tool in IT circles. It lets you discover active hosts within any network and gain additional information related to penetration testing, such as existing open ports.

Nmap main features include:

  • Host discovery, which identifies hosts in any network
  • Port scanning lets you enumerate open ports on either a local or remote host
  • OS detection helps gather operating system and hardware info about any connected device
  • App version detection lets you determine the application name and version numbers
  • Scriptable interaction extends the Nmap default capabilities by using the Nmap Scripting Engine (or NSE)

7. Skipfish

Skipfish is a Kali Linux tool like WPScan, but instead of only focusing on WordPress, Skipfish scans many web applications. Skipfish acts as an effective auditing tool for crawling web-based data, giving pen testers a quick insight into how insecure any app is.

Skipfish performs recursive crawl and dictionary-based tests over all URLs, using its recon capabilities. The crawl creates a digital map of security checks and their results.

Noteworthy Skipfish features include:

  • Automated learning capabilities.
  • Differential security checks.
  • Easy to use.
  • A low false positive ratio.
  • The ability to run high-speed security checks, with over 200 requests per second.

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8. Social Engineering Toolkit

If you are ever interested in hacking social network accounts, we have just the tool for you! The Social Engineering Toolkit, also known as SET, is an open-source Python-based penetration testing framework that helps you quickly and easily launch social-engineering attacks. It runs on Linux and Mac OS X.

SET is an indispensable Kali Linux tool for hackers and pen testers interested in working with social engineering.

Here are the kinds of attacks you can launch with the Social Engineering Toolkit:

  • Wi-Fi AP-based attacks, which redirect or intercept packets from Wi-Fi network users
  • SMS and email attacks, here, which attempt to trick and generate fake emails to harvest social credentials
  • Web-based attacks, which lets hackers clone a web page to drive real users by DNS spoofing and phishing attacks
  • Creation of payloads (.exe), which creates a malicious .exe file that, once executed, compromises the system of any user who clicks on it
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Do You Want to Become a Cybersecurity Expert?

Cybercrime is everywhere, and the world needs more trained cybersecurity experts. If you want a career that provides the opportunity to make a positive difference, be well compensated, and be assured that your new vocation will have sustained demand for years to come, consider a career in cybersecurity.

Naturally, cybersecurity professionals need training, and Simplilearn has the necessary resources to make you a skilled cybersecurity expert. The Post Graduate Program in Cyber Security will help you understand and master comprehensive approaches to protecting your infrastructure and securing data, including risk analysis and mitigation, cloud-based security, and compliance. In addition, you will receive skills ranging from foundational to advanced courtesy of industry-leading cyber security certification courses that make up the program.

Glassdoor reports that cybersecurity experts in the United States may earn an annual average of $76,774. Payscale shows that cybersecurity professionals in India can make a yearly average of ₹753,000.

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About the Author

John TerraJohn Terra

John Terra lives in Nashua, New Hampshire and has been writing freelance since 1986. Besides his volume of work in the gaming industry, he has written articles for Inc.Magazine and Computer Shopper, as well as software reviews for ZDNet. More recently, he has done extensive work as a professional blogger. His hobbies include running, gaming, and consuming craft beers. His refrigerator is Wi-Fi compliant.

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