What is penetration testing

A penetration test, also known as a pen test, is a simulated cyber attack against your computer system to check for exploitable vulnerabilities. In the context of web application security, penetration testing is commonly used to augment a Web application firewall (WAF)

Pen testing can involve the attempted breaching of any number of application systems, (e.g., application protocol interfaces (APIs), frontend/backend servers) to uncover vulnerabilities, such as unsanitized inputs that are susceptible to code injection attacks.

Insights provided by the penetration test can be used to fine-tune your WAF security policies and patch detected vulnerabilities.

The Following Are Penetrattion Testing Tools

1. Powershell-Suite

The PowerShell-suite is a collection of PowerShell scripts that extract information about the handles, processes, DLLs, and many other aspects of Windows machines. By scripting together specific tasks, you can quickly navigate and check which systems on a network are vulnerable to exploit. 

  • Best Used For: Easily automated tasks to discover weak exploitable assets on a network. 
  • Supported Platforms: Windows

2. Zmap

Zmap is a lightweight network scanner that is capable of scanning everything from a home network to the entire Internet. This free network scanner is best used to gather baseline details about a network. If you only have an IP range to go off of, use to get a lay of the land quickly. 

  • Best Used For Information gathering and initial triage of the attack landscape.
  • Supported Platforms: Zmap is supported on various Linux platforms and macOS

3. Xray

Xray is an excellent network mapping tool that uses the OSINI framework to help guide its tactics. Xray uses wordlists, DNS requests and any API keys to help identify open ports on a network from the outside looking in.  

  • Best Used For: Pentesters tasked with gaining access to a network with no help
  • Supported Platforms: Linux and Windows

4. SimplyEmail

SimplyEmail is an email recon tool used to help gather associated information found on the internet based on someone’s email address. SimplyEmail is based on the harvester solution and works to search the internet for any data that can help provide intelligence around any given email address. 

  • Best Used For Pentesters looking to create account lists for enterprise testing engagements. 
  • Supported Platforms: Docker, Kali, Debian, Ubuntu, macOS
Penetration testing Tools for credentials and wireless: Wireshark, Hashcat, John the Ripper, Hydra, Aircrack-ng

5. Wireshark

Wireshark is likely the most widely used network protocol analyzer across the world. Network traffic captured via wireshark can show what protocols and systems are live, what accounts are most active, and allow attackers to intercept sensitive data. 

  • Best Used For Deep level network visibility into communications.
  • Supported Platforms: Windows, Linux, macOS, Solaris

6. Hashcat

Hashcat is one of the fastest password recovery tools to date. By downloading the Suite version, you have access to the password recovery tool, a word generator, and a password cracking element. Dictionary, combination, brute-force, rule-based, toggle-case, and Hybrid password attacks are all fully supported. Best of all is hashcat has a great online community to help support the tool with patching, a WiKi page, and walkthroughs. 

  • Best Used For Up and coming pentesters or system recovery specialists looking for the best password recovery tool to stake a claim in their business. 
  • Supported Platforms: Linux, Windows, and macOS

7. John the Ripper

John the Ripper is the original password cracking tool. Its sole purpose is to find weak passwords on a given system and expose them. John the reaper is a pentesting tool that can be used for both a security and a compliance perspective. John is famous for its ability to expose weal passwords within a short timeframe quickly. 

  • Best Used For: Password cracking for novices
  • Supported Platforms: Windows, Unix, macOS, Windows

8. Hydra

Hydra is another password cracking tool but with a twist. Hydra is the only password pentesting tool that supports multiple protocols and parallel connections at once. This feature allows a penetration tester to attempt to crack numerous passwords on different systems at the same time without losing connection if unbeaten.  

  • Best Used For: Password cracking for professionals
  • Supported Platforms: Linux, Windows, Solaris, macOS

9. Aircrack-ng

Aircrack-ng is a wireless network security tool that is an all in one package for penetration testing. Aircrack-ng has four primary functions that make it the ultimate standout in its class; It does monitoring of network packets, attacking via packet injection, testing of wifi capabilities, and finally, password cracking. 

  • Best Used For Command-line heavy users that prefer to script out attacks or defense measures. 
  • Supported Platforms: Windows, OS X Solaris, Linux
Pentesting Tools for web apps and shells: Burp Suite, Metasploit, Nikto, Fuzzdb

10. Burp Suite

For pentesting web applications, Burp Suite is your go-to tool. Incorporating not only vulnerability scanning but Fully Proxy capturing and command injection services as well. Burps UI is fully optimized for the working professional with built-in profiles to allow you to save your configurations on a per-job basis. 

  • Best Used For Enterprise professionals in charge of application security
  • Supported Platforms: Windows, macOS, and Linux

11. Metasploit

Comparable to Burp Suite, Metasploit started as an open-source solution and has gained some traction over the years. Some of the tasks that can be accomplished in Metasploit from a pentesting perspective include vulnerability scanning, listening, exploiting known vulnerabilities, evidence collection, and project reporting. 

  • Best Used For Pentesters managing several different companies at once or have multiple applications to be tested. 
  • Supported Platforms: Windows, macOS, and Linux

12. Nikto

Nikto is a loud and proud web application scanning solution. It is open-source and contains features like a web server scanner, a pre-packaged list of potentially dangerous files, and a misconfiguration checker as well. Nikto is not stealthy, nor does it try to be; it doesn’t try to hide its presence, but it will get the job done. 

  • Best Used For Enterprise Pentesters or SOCs that have the full permission to scan systems in a purple team type exercise. Best used to help build out monitoring around scanning activity within a SOC environment.
  • Supported Platforms: Windows and Linux

13. Fuzzdb

Fuzzdb is a special kind of penetration testing tool as it contains pre-built attack payloads to run against web applications to discover if vulnerabilities are genuinely exploitable. On top of being able to simulate attack patterns, Fuzzdb can run discovery scans and perform analysis on the responses received from these scans to narrow better the focus of where vulnerabilities exist.

  • Best Used For Pentesting professionals that are hired to attempt to exploit vulnerabilities. 
  • Supported Platforms: Windows, Linux, and macOS 
Penetration testing Tools for vulnerabilities: NMAP, sqlmap, MobSF, Linux-Exploit-Suggester

14. NMAP/ZenMap

NMAP is a pentesters best friend. This network security mapping tool gives you a quick look at the open ports on any given network. NMAP Commands  allow you to dig into the feasibility of specific network-level vulnerabilities. NMAP also has a friendly GUI interface called ZenMap that is easy to use for any skill level. NMAP also comes with a debugging tool, a comparison tool for comparing scan results, and a packet generation tool as well. 

  • Best Used For: All skill level pentesters or security professionals to validate and test vulnerability management. 
  • Supported Platforms: Linux, Microsoft Windows, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris, IRIX, Mac OS X, HP-UX, NetBSD, Sun OS, and Amiga

15. sqlmap

Sqlmap is an open-source penetration tool that helps bring validity to possible SQL injection flaws that may affect your database servers. This automated testing tool comes with a slew of detailed features, including DB fingerprinting, remote commands and its detection engine. 

  • Best Used For Expert Pentesters strictly focusing on exploiting databases. 
  • Supported Platforms: MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Access, IBM DB2, SQLite, Firebird, Sybase and SAP MaxDB

16. MobSF

For mobile platform vulnerability discovery, MobSF is your tool. This hacking tool is an all in one platform for pen-testing and vulnerability discovery via static and dynamic application analysis. MobSF also has built-in REST APIs to provide an integrated experience into your development pipeline. ModSF is ultimately a vulnerability scanner for mobile applications.   

  • Best Used For Enterprise or individual mobile application vulnerability pentesting. 
  • Supported Platforms: Android, iOS, and Windows

17. Linux-Exploit-Suggester

Linux-Exploit-Suggester is an excellent tool for on the fly security testing of Linux systems without dealing with the overhead of a beefy vulnerability scanner. LES was created for system admins to get a quick sense of the. Based on its lightweight compatibility, LES is a great vulnerability catalog for pentesters looking to get a quick overview of a systems configuration, without creating too much noise via resource consumption.  

  • Best Used For: Pentesters to quickly find a potential host that is vulnerable to start crafting an exploit without drawing too much attention to themselves.  
  • Supported Platforms: Linux
Pentesting Tools for reverse engineering: Apktool, Resource Hacker, IDA, Radare

18. Apktool

Apktool is for those Pentesters or security researchers that are attempting to reverse engineer malware to determine a way to better protect against it. Apktool only supports 3rd party, android applications. Apktool’s feature set includes being able to disassemble and reassemble to original form, debugging and help to automate repetitive tasks.  

  • Best Used For Pentesters looking to craft a custom payload specific to a company’s android application or security researchers looking to find a fix for a known android vulnerability. 
  • Supported Platforms: Android

19. Resource Hacker

Resource Hacker is a windows specific file editor that allows anyone to decompile a windows file and recompile it at a later time. The great thing about this reverse engineering tool is that it comes with a GUI interface that makes it easy for novice pentesters to learn and use. 

  • Best Used For Novice file editor for windows files.
  • Supported Platforms: Windows

20. IDA

IDA is the Kleenex of disassembler tools as it is widely supported and used in commercial validation testing. IDA is interactive as a disassembler as well as a debugger, thus providing you with a whole solution as a professional. Best of all, it supports all major OS system types. 

  • Best Used For Professional level malware disassembly. 
  • Supported Platforms: Windows, Linux, macOS

21. Radare

Lastly, we have Radare, which is one of the most widely accepted and versatile disassembly tools available. Some of its features include multiple OS and mobile OS support, file system forensics, data carving capabilities, and visualizing data structures. 

  • Best Used For: experienced pentesters who have a vast knowledge of multiple platforms. 
  • Supported Platforms: Linux, *BSD, Windows, OSX, Android, iOS, Solaris and Haiku

22. Email or Chat Software

If it is available to you, the best way to send out compromised data is through the account you compromised in the first place. Most of the time you will have the ability to use the user’s account to send ether emails out or you could try to use the installed enterprise chat solution in place to accomplish the same outcome. For pentesters trying to remain anonymous, this is a great technique as long as you limit the size of the emails so that it isn’t detected as an anomaly by any DLP Solution that might be watching.  

  • Best Used For: Pentesters trying to remain anonymous and test the detection capabilities of any DLP solutions in place. 
  • Supported Platforms: Supported on most OS

23. Srm

Srm stands for Secure remove, and it takes the hassle out, ensuring a file is entirely removed from a system. As a pentester, Srm is great for removing temporary files created while accessing a system, If your intent is to cover up your tracks, Srm is the tool required to remove any rootkit files  that may have been used during the exploit process. Srm removes and rewrites over the data location to ensure all traces of the data are thoroughly wiped from the system. Best of all, it is a command-line program that is quick to set up and use. 

  • Best Used For: permanent file deletion, not even forensics software can recover. 
  • Supported Platforms: Unix and Windows

24. Catfish

Catfish is a pentesting tool that is used by many to quickly search for specific files that tend to contain sensitive data or can provide them with additional access (like a password file). Catfish allows the end-user to explore a system for any files containing a particular string within its name. It is simple but highly effective at what it does. 

  • Best Used For Quick file name searching on a machine.
  • Supported Platforms: Linux based OS

Performing penetration tests is an essential part of verifying that systems are secure. Using the right penetration testing tools saves time and helps to improve your overall security posture.

Types Of Penetration Testing

The different types of penetration testing include:

  • Network Services
  • Web Application
  • Client Side
  • Wireless
  • Social Engineering
  • Physical Penetration Testing

Network Service Penetration Testing

This is one of the most common types of penetration testing performed.

What Is A Network Vulnerability?

The main purpose is to identify the most exposed vulnerabilities and security weaknesses in the network infrastructure (servers, firewalls, switches, routers, printers, workstations, and more) of an organization before they can be exploited.

Why Should You Perform A Network Service Penetration Test?

Network penetration tests should be performed to protect your business from common network based attacks including:

  • Firewall Misconfiguration And firewall bypass
  • IPS/IDS Evasion Attacks
  • Router Attacks
  • DNS Level Attacks:
    • Zone Transfer Attacks
    • Switching Or Routing Based Attacks
  • SSH Attacks
  • Proxy Server Attacks
  • Unnecessary Open Ports Attacks
  • Database Attacks
  • Man In The Middle (MITM) Attacks
  • FTP/SMTP Based Attacks

Given that a network provides mission-critical services to a business, it is recommended that both internal and external network penetration tests be performed at least annually. This will provide your business with adequate coverage to protect against these attack vectors.

Web Application Penetration Testing

Web application penetration testing is used to discover vulnerabilities or security weaknesses in web-based applications. It uses different penetration techniques and attacks with aims to break into the web application itself.

Web Application Penetration Testing - Types Of Penetration Testing

The typical scope for a web application penetration test includes web based applications, browsers, and their components such as ActiveX, Plugins, Silverlight, Scriptlets, and Applets.

These types of tests are far more detailed and targeted and therefore are considered to be a more complex test. In order to complete a successful test, the endpoints of every web-based application that interacts with the user on a regular basis must be identified.

This requires a fair amount of effort and time from planning to executing the test, and finally compiling a useful report.

The techniques of web application penetration testing are continuously evolving with time due to the increase in threats coming from web applications day by day. This threat has expanded greatly since the outbreak of COVID-19, resulting a 600% increase in cyber crime.

Why Should You Perform A Web Application Penetration Test?

A key reason to perform a web application penetration test is to identify security weaknesses or vulnerabilities within the web based applications and its components like Database, Source Code, and the back-end network.

It also helps by prioritizing the determined weaknesses or vulnerabilities and provides possible solutions to mitigate them.

In software application development it’s considered best practice to continuously improve the codebase. Deploying a secure and agile code is the phrase often used to describe this practice.

Agile code deployment is the preferred method over large batch deployments, as the more variables introduced into the code in a single deployment, the more opportunities there are to create bugs or errors leading to security vulnerabilities.

As a result, technical debt forms, where developers gradually spend more time implementing fixes to problems then they do develop new features or updates.

In contrast, agile methodologies use a sandbox environment (a duplicate copy of the codebase) to test code functionality and usability prior to launching into production. If the deployment is unsuccessful, developers can easily single out the change and roll the code back to previous version history.

The trick is balancing daily code deployment with security in mind.

Client Side Penetration Testing

Client side penetration testing is used to discover vulnerabilities or security weaknesses in client side applications.

These could be a program or applications such as Putty, email clients, web browsers (i.e. Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.), Macromedia Flash, and others. Programs like Adobe Photoshop and the Microsoft Office Suite are also subject to testing.

Why Should You Perform A Client-Side Penetration Test?

Client-side tests are performed to identify specific cyber attacks including:

  • Cross-Site Scripting Attacks
  • Clickjacking Attacks
  • Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS)
  • Form Hijacking
  • HTML Injection
  • Open Redirection
  • Malware infection

Wireless Penetration Testing

Wireless penetration testing involves identifying and examining the connections between all devices connected to the business’s wifi. These devices include laptops, tablets, smartphones, and any other internet of things (IoT) devices.

Wireless Penetration Testing - Types Of Penetration Testing

Wireless penetration tests are typically performed onsite as the pen tester needs to be in range of the wireless signal to access it. Alternatively, a NUC and W-if-i Pineaple can be deployed onsite to remotely perform the test.

Why Should You Perform A Wireless Penetration Test?

Wireless communications are an invisibly running service that allows data to flow in and out of the network. Therefore, this wireless network must be secured from any weaknesses like unauthorized access or data leakage.

Before performing a wireless penetration test you should consider the following:

  • Have all access points been identified and how many use poor encryption methods?
  • Is the data flowing in and out of the network encrypted and if so, how?
  • Are there monitoring systems in place to identify unauthorized users?
  • Is there any possibility the IT team could have misconfigured or duplicated a wireless network?
  • What are the current measures in place to protect the wireless network?
  • Are all wireless access points using WPA protocol?

Social Engineering Penetration Testing

Social engineering penetration testing is where a malicious actor attempts to persuade or trick users into giving them sensitive information, such as a username and password.

social engineering services

Common types of social engineering attacks used by pen testers include:

  • Phishing attacks
  • Vishing
  • Smishing
  • Tailgating
  • Imposters (i.e. Fellow Employees, External Vendors, or Contractors)
  • Name Dropping
  • Pre-texting
  • Dumpster Diving
  • Eavesdropping
  • Gifts

WHAT ARE THE PENETRATION TESTING STEPS

If your organization or technology hasn’t gone through a penetration test or security testing before, you may not know what to expect. Even if you have, maybe you’re wondering what KirkpatrickPrice’s methodology and stages of penetration testing are. Once you know what to expect, you can probably reap the benefits of the process a bit more.

At KirkpatrickPrice, there are seven stages of penetration testing. Let’s discuss each one so your organization can be prepared for this type of security testing.

7 Steps and Phases of Penetration Testing

Our internal pentest checklist includes the following 7 phases of penetration testing:

  1. Information Gathering
  2. Reconnaissance
  3. Discovery and Scanning
  4. Vulnerability Assessment
  5. Exploitation
  6. Final Analysis and Review
  7. Utilize the Testing Results

1. Information Gathering

The first of the seven stages of penetration testing is information gathering. The organization being tested will provide the penetration tester with general information about in-scope targets.

2. Reconnaissance

KirkpatrickPrice uses the information gathered to collect additional details from publicly accessible sources.

The reconnaissance stage is crucial to thorough security testing because penetration testers can identify additional information that may have been overlooked, unknown, or not provided. This step is especially helpful in internal and external network penetration testing however, we don’t typically perform this reconnaissance in web application, mobile application, or API penetration testing

3. Discovery and Scanning

The information gathered is used to perform discovery activities to determine things like ports and services that were available for targeted hosts, or subdomains, available for web applications.

4. Vulnerability Assessment

A vulnerability assessment is conducted in order to gain initial knowledge and identify any potential security weaknesses that could allow an outside attacker to gain access to the environment or technology being tested. A vulnerability assessment is never a replacement for a penetration test, though.

5. Exploitation

This is where the action happens!

After interpreting the results from the vulnerability assessment, our expert penetration testers will use manual techniques, human intuition, and their backgrounds to validate, attack, and exploit those vulnerabilities.

6. Final Analysis and Review

When you work with KirkpatrickPrice on security testing, we deliver our findings in a report format.

This comprehensive report includes narratives of where we started the testing, how we found vulnerabilities, and how we exploited them. It also includes the scope of the security testing, testing methodologies, findings, and recommendations for corrections.

Where applicable, it will also state the penetration tester’s opinion of whether or not your penetration test adheres to applicable framework requirements.

7. Utilize the Testing Results

The last of the seven stages of penetration testing is so important. The organization being tested must actually use the findings from the security testing to risk rank vulnerabilities, analyze the potential impact of vulnerabilities found, determine remediation strategies, and inform decision-making moving forward.

KirkpatrickPrice security testing methodologies are unique and efficient because they do not rely on static techniques and assessment methods. Effective penetration testing requires a diligent effort to find enterprise weaknesses, just like a malicious individual would. We’ve developed these seven stages of penetration testing because we’ve proven that they prepare organizations for attacks and fix areas of vulnerability.

If you want to avoid the consequences of compromised technology while working with an expert ethical hacker,  Be vigilant today.

What are the advantages of penetration testing?

  1. Identify and resolve system vulnerabilities
  2. Gain valuable insights into your digital systems
  3. Establish trust with your clientele

What are the disadvantages of penetration testing?

  1. Mistakes can be costly
  2. Determining the test conditions
  3. Testing could be unethical

Is penetration testing worth the risks? Keep reading to learn about the role of penetration testing, the advantages and disadvantages of penetration testing, different types of penetration tests, and more to help evaluate this cybersecurity tactic.

The Role of Penetration Testing

Also called “ethical hacking,” “white-hat hacking,” or “pentesting,” penetration testing is a complex and diverse cybersecurity strategy.

Penetration testing entails frequent internal security audits by a team of trained employees or IT professionals. The experts who conduct penetration tests are called “pentesters.” Pentesters have the technology and hacking knowledge to create a mock hack on your system, network, or application.

There are both manual and automated methods to identify weak points in any IT infrastructure. These tactics can provide insight into where your vulnerabilities lie and what kinds of cyberattacks your organization may be susceptible to.

The scope of penetration testing can vary depending on the needs of your organization. A small business may only need a simple single web application penetration test, for example, while a larger corporation may require a full-scale penetration test of all its technology systems.

Penetration testing should never be an organization’s sole security measure,

While it can be expensive and complicated, pentesting is a valuable service and can fit easily into a company’s security protocol. Many businesses perform penetration testing regularly during scheduled security audits.

Penetration testing is a widely practiced method of cybersecurity. However, as with all security tactics, it is not perfect. Consider some of the most important advantages and disadvantages of penetration testing before implementing it at your organization.

Advantages of Penetration Testing

Learn about 3 advantages of penetration testing in this infographic or by reading the rest of our blog post.

1. Identify and Resolve System Vulnerabilities

A new cyber attack occurs always putting businesses constantly at risk. Hackers can find vulnerabilities in areas you may have never thought to look.

One of the major advantages of penetration testing is that pentesters put themselves in a hacker’s position. By staying on the pulse of the cybersecurity world and regularly approaching your IT systems from a cybercriminal’s perspective, pentesters can identify a wide range of vulnerabilities and weaknesses with your IT.

2. Gain Valuable Insights into Your Digital Systems

Reports from penetration testing can provide you with valuable details about your network, its weak points, and how to strengthen it. These tests are in depth and can be analyzed by pentesters and IT professionals alike for a variety of purposes.

Automatically generated reports from online vulnerability tests and assessments tend to be more generic than penetration test reports. By helping to rank your risks and make actionable plans aligned with company values, objectives, and resources, penetration tests can give you specific aspects of your IT to focus on based on personalized insights.

3. Establish Trust with Your Clientele

A cyberattack or data breach negatively affects the confidence and loyalty of your customers, most important advantages of penetration testing. You can also develop a reputation for maintaining a standard of excellence regarding cybersecurity to reassure current and prospective customers.

Disadvantages of Penetration Testing

Learn about 3 disadvantages of penetration testing in this infographic or by reading the rest of our blog post.




The process of penetration testing involves hacking your IT systems to expose areas of vulnerability. By its very nature, this method of “ethical hacking” includes several risks.

Disadvantages of penetration testing include potentially causing costly losses of sensitive information, encouraging hackers, or exposing your network to cybercriminals. Before implementing penetration testing, you’ll need to determine if it seems like an ethical and reliable enough tactic for your organization.

1. Mistakes Can Be Costly

Penetration testing involves hacking some, if not all, of your IT systems. It can expose sensitive security issues concerning company and customer information.

If penetration tests are not conducted properly, they can cause a lot of damage. Servers may crash, crucial data may be corrupted, or other consequences of a criminal hack can occur.

Losing your company’s private data would be disastrous, especially if it fell into the hands of an actual hacker or a rival company.

2. Determining the Test Conditions

Penetration testing can be very complex and expensive. You have to determine the test conditions and scope that are worth the risks and resources associated with this tactic.

Is it worth the risk to your company’s security just to analyze one specific area of your network? Given the significant potential disadvantages of penetration testing, it may be better to make the most of each test with a wider scope.

If you wish to conduct a penetration test on your entire network and infrastructure, however, you’ll need to make sure your pentesters are prepared to explore every aspect of your IT. This takes even more effort, detail, and resources.

At the same time, some businesses plan too heavily for a penetration test. Real cyberattacks occur with little to no warning. Make sure your network and systems face the most realistic test conditions possible for the most accurate results.

Opening up your organization to the risks and disadvantages of penetration testing won’t be worth it if you do not receive an accurate evaluation and appropriate scope of your IT’s strengths and weaknesses.

3. Testing Could Be Unethical

Is penetration testing ethical? Because it uses many of the same techniques that a criminal uses to search for vulnerabilities in an organization’s systems or applications, the ethics of penetration testing often come under question

Some argue that penetration testing incentives negative behavior and tactics, since the hacking that is performed in these tests does not differ from hacking performed by cybercriminals.

Every organization will need to decide for itself if it accepts the ethical implications of penetration testing. It is also important to consider how customers, vendors, and partners may view the ethics of penetration testing.

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