In the current age of heightened security threats, organizations must deploy penetration testing tools to identify vulnerabilities in their infrastructure. While penetration testing can be outsourced to third parties, this can be costly, so many organizations are seeking effective penetration testing tools to use independently.

So, what exactly is penetration testing?

What Is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing, commonly known as pen testing, uses an ethical hacking attack to test the security of an organization’s systems, applications, and networks. This allows organizations to identify and rectify any weaknesses within their infrastructure before they are subjected to a genuine cyberattack.

Technological advances mean that we now have a plethora of automated penetration testing tools at our fingertips. Modern pen-testing tools allow us to simulate fast and effective cyber-attacks at the touch of a button. It is important to remember that you are unlikely to find a single testing tool to meet all of your organization’s needs; instead, you may need to deploy several tools to fully test your network.

So, how do you choose the best penetration testing tools for your company with this in mind? Here, we have compiled a list of some of the most popular pen testing tools available in 2021.

Top 11 Penetration Testing Tools in 2024

1. Netsparker

Netsparker provides a web application security scanner, suitable for small to large businesses, and is built to be user-friendly, ensuring that you don’t need extensive security experience to use it. This highly effective and scalable automated scanner detects vulnerabilities, including Cross-site scripting and SQL injection in web applications and web services.  It also boasts dedicated compliance reporting for HIPAA, PCI DSS, and ISO 27001.

Netsparker has been successfully deployed within the government, healthcare, finance, education, and IT sectors, and users can opt for either a managed service or self-hosted solution.

2. Acunetix

Acunetix is a specialized web security testing tool designed to detect and report on over 7000 vulnerabilities including XSS, SQL injection, weak passwords, and exposed databases. With its high detection rate, ease of use, and fast scanning speed, Acunetix stands ahead of many of its competitors. It includes a built-in vulnerability management system and an API, allowing integration with other popular 3rd party applications.

3. Burp Suite

Over 14,000 organizations globally from all industries trust PortSwigger’s Burp Suite to detect web vulnerabilities. As one of the more cost-effective pen-testing tools available on the market, Burp Suite offers an excellent option for those less experienced in the ins and outs of cybersecurity.

Users can choose between the Enterprise or Professional Edition of the tool based on their individual needs. Burp Suite is supported across multiple platforms, including Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.

4. Metasploit

Metasploit is a popular open-source penetration testing framework backed by 200,000 users and contributors and used by security personnel and ethical hackers alike. Currently, Metasploit provides access to over 2074 disclosed exploits and over 592 payloads covering multiple operating systems and applications, but this number is forever changing. As the open-source community is the backbone of Metasploit, users can use code developed by other hackers to identify vulnerabilities.

5. Security Onion

Security Onion is a popular open-source Linux distribution based on Ubuntu and is available for free. Its name was coined to represent the analytical tools that it offers as defensive layers, offering an effective alternative to enterprise-level solutions. Security Onion provides users with network-based and host-based intrusion detection systems, full packet capture, and visualization and analysis tools through a user-friendly interface.


The Open Web Application Security Project® (OWASP) is a global non-profit foundation dedicated to enhancing software security. Several pen-testing tools are available under the umbrella of OWASP, including Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP), OWASP Dependency Check, and OWASP Web Testing Environment Project.

OWASP provides a comprehensive web security testing guide, highlighting best practices for the testing of web applications and web services.

7. Kali Linux

Kali Linux is a powerful open-source penetration testing and security auditing operating system, only available through Linux. This OS comprises many tools and is popular with professional pen testers, offering a multitude of in-built tools to identify vulnerabilities. Some notable features of Kali Linux include full customization of Kali ISOs, Live USB boot, full disk encryption, and Kali Everywhere, which increases the accessibility of Kali by allowing it to be run across other Unix systems.

8. Nessus

Nessus, developed by Tenable Network Security, is a comprehensive vulnerability assessment tool designed with security practitioners in mind. Boasting 2 million downloads worldwide and a user base of over 30,000 organizations, Nessus is one of the most widely deployed security tools. This is probably best suited for professionals with vast experience in the security sector, given that others may struggle to master the interface. Nessus offers users up-to-date vulnerability coverage, with new plugins added daily and the industry’s lowest false positive rate.

9. Fiddler

Fiddler provides a distinct package of tools designed to test the security of your web applications. Using this tool, pen testers can capture and decrypt HTTP(S) web traffic, providing the ability to quickly identify, diagnose, and correct any network issues. It is available for free and can be used across any platform, browser, or system. There is also a paid subscription model available that provides access to extended features.

10. W3af

Fully written in Python, W3af is an open-source Web Application and Audit Framework. As W3af is available for free, it is an ideal option for organizations with a lower budget, lacking the ability to access enterprise-class testing tools. This framework can be used to identify more than 200 vulnerabilities including cross-site scripting, SQL injection, guessable credentials, and PHP misconfigurations. W3af is very well documented and easy to use, providing both a graphical and console user interface.

11. Aircrack-ng

Aircrack-ng provides a comprehensive suite of tools for analyzing the security of wireless networks. This network toolkit includes a packet sniffer, an encryption key cracker, a detector, and a decryption tool for captured files. Although primarily designed for Linux, Aircrack-ng does work across multiple platforms, including Windows, OS X, and Solaris. As the tools within the suite use a command-line interface, this allows users the flexibility to manipulate commands and target-specific parameters.

Other Penetration-Related Tools

As well as pen testing, there are several effective security and analysis tools available, including:


WireShark is a free, open-source tool that is widely used by non-profit and commercial businesses, network experts, security professionals, and educational institutions and can be run across multiple platforms. A popular network protocol analyzer, WireShark allows users to examine the traffic running across their network in real-time, enabling quick identification of any vulnerabilities. Wireshark offers pen tester key features, including rich VoIP analysis, live-capture and offline analysis, industry-leading powerful display filters, and comprehensive analysis of hundreds of protocols.

John the Ripper

John the Ripper is a free, open-source password cracking and recovery tool, originally released in 1996 for UNIX-based operating systems. It can now be used across multiple operating systems, making it a valuable tool for those keen to check password vulnerability. As it is available for free, many organizations opt to use John the Ripper alongside other penetration testing tools to provide a more comprehensive assessment of vulnerability across entire infrastructures.

How Can Atlantic.Net Help?

An industry-leading cloud hosting services provider, Atlantic.Net brings over 30 years of experience, hosting the infrastructure of top organizations. We regularly conduct penetration testing across our estate and perform security and vulnerability lifecycle management frequently. All personnel is trained to high-security standards, and Atlantic.Net is audited, boasting PCI compliance, and holds HIPAA compliance accreditations. We can help you to achieve a fully secure and protected environment.

Contact our sales team today to find out more about how Atlantic.Net can benefit your organization.