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.

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!

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.

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.

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

9. Burp Suite

Burp Suite, created by PortSwigger, stands as a robust tool for testing the security of web applications. Security experts and penetration testers extensively employ it to identify vulnerabilities within web applications. Burp Suite provides comprehensive features, including a web proxy, scanner, intruder, repeater, sequencer, and more. The tool allows users to intercept and modify HTTP/S traffic, discover and exploit security issues such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection, and automate the testing process. With its user-friendly interface and robust capabilities, Burp Suite is essential for securing web applications.

The main features of the Burp Suite include:

  • Proxy: Burp Suite acts as a proxy between the user's browser and the target web application, allowing for the interception and manipulation of HTTP/S traffic.
  • Scanner: The tool includes an automated scanner that identifies and reports security vulnerabilities such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and other common web application flaws.
  • Intruder: Burp Suite's Intruder module facilitates automated attacks on web applications, making it easier to identify vulnerabilities through parameter manipulation and payload testing.
  • Repeater: Security professionals can manually repeat and modify HTTP requests through the Repeater module, aiding in the detailed analysis and exploitation of identified vulnerabilities.
  • Sequencer: Burp Suite's Sequencer assesses the randomness and quality of session tokens and other data, helping to identify weak cryptographic implementations and potential security risks.

10. Metasploit Framework

The Metasploit Framework is an open-source penetration testing tool that enables security professionals to discover, exploit, and validate system vulnerabilities. Developed by Rapid7, Metasploit has an extensive database of exploits, payloads, and auxiliary modules, making it a versatile offensive and defensive security tool. It supports various platforms and allows users to simulate real-world cyber attacks, helping organizations assess their security posture and remediate vulnerabilities effectively.

The primary features of Metasploit Framework include:

  • Exploit Database: Metasploit provides an extensive database of exploits, allowing security professionals to leverage known vulnerabilities to test and secure systems.
  • Payloads: The framework supports a variety of payloads, enabling users to deliver malicious code or take control of compromised systems during penetration tests.
  • Auxiliary Modules: Metasploit includes auxiliary modules for tasks such as scanning, information gathering, and brute-force attacks, enhancing its versatility.
  • Post-Exploitation Modules: Security professionals can perform various actions on compromised systems, such as privilege escalation, data exfiltration, and lateral movement, using post-exploitation modules.
  • Meterpreter: Metasploit's Meterpreter payload provides an interactive shell on compromised systems, facilitating post-exploitation activities with a wide range of features.

11. Wireshark

Wireshark is a widely used network protocol analyzer that allows users to capture and inspect the data flowing over a computer network in real-time. This open-source tool provides a detailed view of network traffic, helping security professionals troubleshoot network issues, analyze protocol behavior, and identify potential security threats. Wireshark supports various protocols and offers powerful filtering and analysis capabilities, making it an essential tool for network administrators, security analysts, and penetration testers.

The main features of Wireshark include:

  • Packet Capture: Wireshark allows users to capture and analyze packets in real-time or from saved capture files, providing a detailed view of network traffic.
  • Protocol Support: The tool supports many network protocols, enabling in-depth analysis and troubleshooting of diverse networking scenarios.
  • Display Filters: Wireshark offers powerful display filters to focus on specific packets or types of traffic, making it easier to identify and analyze relevant information.
  • Statistics and Graphs: Users can generate statistical summaries and graphical representations of network traffic patterns, aiding in identifying anomalies and potential security threats.
  • Extensibility: Wireshark supports the addition of custom dissectors and plugins, allowing users to extend its functionality for specific protocols or analysis needs.

12. Hydra

Hydra is a popular and versatile password-cracking tool supporting various protocols and services, including SSH, HTTP, and FTP. Developed to perform brute-force attacks, Hydra allows security professionals to test the strength of passwords and identify weak authentication mechanisms. Its flexibility and extensive protocol support make it an effective tool for penetration testing and ethical hacking.

The primary features of Hydra include:

  • Multi-Protocol Support: Hydra supports many network protocols, including SSH, HTTP, FTP, Telnet, and more, making it a versatile password-cracking tool.
  • Brute-Force and Dictionary Attacks: The tool can perform brute-force attacks, trying all possible combinations, and dictionary attacks, using predefined wordlists for password guessing.
  • Parallel Attacks: Hydra can conduct parallel attacks on multiple services, enhancing its efficiency in password-cracking scenarios.
  • Session Resumption: Users can pause and resume attacks without losing progress, providing flexibility in handling long-running or interrupted password-cracking tasks.
  • Logging and Reporting: Hydra logs detailed information about the performed attacks, allowing users to review results, identify successful login credentials, and assess overall security.

13. SqlMap

Sqlmap is an open-source penetration testing tool specifically designed for detecting and exploiting SQL injection vulnerabilities in web applications. This powerful tool automates the process of identifying and exploiting SQL injection flaws, providing security professionals with an efficient way to assess the security of databases. Sqlmap supports many database management systems and is known for its accuracy and reliability in discovering SQL injection issues.

The main features of Sqlmap include:

  • Automatic SQL Injection Detection: Sqlmap automates detecting SQL injection vulnerabilities in web applications by analyzing parameters and forms.
  • Exploitation and Takeover: Once a vulnerability is identified, Sqlmap can exploit it to retrieve database information, dump tables, or execute arbitrary SQL queries.
  • Wide Database Support: The tool supports various database management systems, including MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, and Microsoft SQL Server, making it versatile for different environments.
  • Detection of WAF Bypass Techniques: Sqlmap includes features to detect and attempt to bypass Web Application Firewalls (WAFs), enhancing its effectiveness in evading security mechanisms.
  • Post-Exploitation Actions: Sqlmap allows users to perform post-exploitation actions, such as creating a reverse shell or executing custom SQL queries on the compromised database.

14. WPScan

WPScan is a WordPress vulnerability scanner that helps security professionals identify and remediate security issues in WordPress websites. This open-source tool is designed to enumerate WordPress installations, plugins, and themes, checking for known vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. WPScan is widely used for penetration testing and security assessments of WordPress-based websites, providing valuable insights to enhance the overall security of these platforms.

The main features of WPScan include:

  • Vulnerability Scanning: WPScan specializes in scanning WordPress websites for vulnerabilities, including outdated plugins, themes, and misconfigurations.
  • Username Enumeration: The tool can enumerate WordPress usernames, aiding in potential brute-force attacks by identifying valid usernames.
  • Plugin and Theme Detection: WPScan identifies installed plugins and themes, providing insights into potential security risks associated with specific WordPress extensions.
  • Password brute-force: The tool can perform password brute-force attacks against WordPress login pages, testing the strength of user credentials.
  • REST API Enumeration: WPScan can enumerate and analyze the WordPress REST API, helping identify potential security issues and vulnerabilities.

15. Autopsy

Autopsy is a digital forensics platform that simplifies analyzing and investigating digital evidence. Basis Technology developed Autopsy, an open-source tool with a user-friendly interface for examining disk images, file systems, and other digital artifacts. It is widely used by law enforcement agencies, digital forensic examiners, and incident responders to uncover evidence in computer systems, aiding in investigating cybercrimes and other digital incidents.

The main features of an Autopsy include the:

  • User-Friendly Interface: Autopsy provides a user-friendly graphical interface for digital forensics investigations, making it accessible to novice and experienced investigators.
  • Artifact Analysis: The tool supports in-depth analysis of artifacts, including file system metadata, deleted files, and user activity logs, aiding in reconstructing digital incidents.
  • Keyword Search and Indexing: Autopsy allows investigators to perform keyword searches across forensic images, enhancing the ability to locate relevant evidence quickly.
  • Timeline Analysis: The timeline feature helps create a chronological representation of system activity, assisting investigators in understanding the sequence of events during an incident.
  • Support for Multiple File Systems: Autopsy can analyze various file systems, including NTFS, FAT, and EXT, making it versatile for investigations involving different operating systems.

16. BeEf (Browser Exploitation Framework)

BeEF is an open-source security tool designed for assessing the security of web browsers. Developed by a group of security researchers, BeEF allows penetration testers to demonstrate the impact of browser vulnerabilities by exploiting client-side attacks. The framework provides a user-friendly interface and a set of modules that enable security professionals to assess and improve the security posture of web applications and browsers.

The main features of BeEf include:

  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Exploitation: BeEF specializes in exploiting XSS vulnerabilities, allowing penetration testers to demonstrate the impact of client-side attacks.
  • Modular Framework: BeEF is designed with a modular architecture, enabling users to extend its functionality through custom modules for different types of browser exploitation.
  • Real-Time Interaction: The framework provides real-time interaction with compromised browsers, allowing testers to dynamically execute commands and gather information.
  • Client-Side Attacks: BeEF facilitates various client-side attacks, including keylogging, phishing, and browser-based surveys, providing a comprehensive toolkit for security professionals.
  • Integration with Metasploit: BeEF can be integrated with the Metasploit Framework, enhancing its capabilities by combining client-side and server-side exploitation techniques.

17. Maltego

Maltego is a powerful open-source intelligence (OSINT) tool that aids in the collection and visualization of information about entities and their relationships. Developed by Paterva, Maltego is widely used for surveillance and data mining during penetration testing and investigations. It allows users to create graphs representing the connections between various entities, helping security professionals analyze and understand complex relationships in cybersecurity and threat intelligence.

The primary features of Maltego include:

  • Graphical Link Analysis: Maltego offers a graphical interface for link analysis, allowing users to visually map relationships between entities and uncover patterns in complex datasets.
  • Extensive Transform Libraries: The tool supports a wide range of transforms—predefined queries or actions—enabling users to retrieve information from diverse data sources on the internet.
  • Customizable Entities: Maltego allows users to define and customize entities, adapting the tool to specific investigation or intelligence-gathering requirements.
  • Collaboration Capabilities: Maltego facilitates collaboration among users by enabling the sharing of graphs and investigation results, enhancing teamwork in intelligence and cybersecurity operations.
  • Integration with External APIs: The tool can integrate with external APIs, expanding its capabilities to gather information from online sources and enrich the analysis.

18. Apktool

Apktool is an open-source utility designed for reverse engineering Android applications. This tool allows security professionals and developers to decompile and analyze Android application packages (APKs), providing insights into the app's structure, resources, and potential vulnerabilities. Apktool is commonly used for penetration testing, security assessments, and debugging Android applications, contributing to the overall security of the Android ecosystem.

The main features of Apktool include:

  • Decompilation of APKs: Apktool allows users to decompile Android application packages (APKs) into their corresponding source code, aiding in-app behavior analysis.
  • Resource Extraction: The tool extracts and decodes resources, assets, and manifest files from APKs, providing insights into an application's structure and functionality.
  • Smali Code Viewing: Apktool allows users to view and analyze the Smali code, the assembly-like code that represents the Android application's bytecode.
  • Rebuilding APKs: Apktool supports rebuilding modified APKs, enabling users to make changes to the decompiled code and repackage the application for further testing or analysis.
  • Integration with Reverse Engineering Tools: Apktool can be integrated with other reverse engineering tools, enhancing its capabilities in analyzing Android applications and contributing to the overall understanding of their security posture.
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Cyber Security Certifications typically range from a few weeks to several months, with fees varying based on program and institution.

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