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Robert Johns | 11 Dec, 2023

Want To Become An Ethical Hacker? Use These Hacking Tools!

In this article, I'll explore the 19 best hacking tools in 2024.

If you're looking to land a job in cybersecurity or as an ethical hacker, then you need to be familiar with the best hacking tools.

Whether you’re intrigued by networking hacking, wireless hacking, password cracking, or vulnerability assessment, I’ve covered the best hacking tools to get the job done.

But wait a second, what are hacking tools anyway?

That’s a good question! Here's the TL-DR: hacking tools are specialized software for identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in computer systems and networks.

Put simply, hacking tools are awesome for helping cybersecurity professionals do their job effectively!

Plus, when you consider that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average salary of over $100K for information security analysts, learning to use hacking tools can be quite lucrative.

Now, if you're ready, let's dive in to explore the best hacking tools!

 

What Are Ethical Hacking Tools?

So, you've heard the term "hacking tools" and are wondering what exactly they entail?

If you're like me, you've probably seen all sorts of hacking movies and TV shows, and it always seems like the guys and girls in these know how to do just about everything at the command line, not to mention social engineering skills for things like sim swapping.

But where do these scripting ninjas get their deep knowledge of networks, security, and cybersecurity skills?

Well, this type of hacker may have been more common in the 90s, but in 2024, hacking tools have become indispensable to the modern hacking professional, and they're frequently used in ethical hacking courses.

First up, it's important to clarify what we mean by hacking tools in the realm of cybersecurity and IT.

At their core, hacking tools are computer programs designed for a specific purpose in the world of cybersecurity.

Think of these tools as a highly specialized toolkit. And just like a carpenter has a toolbox for different tasks, cybersecurity experts and ethical hackers have hacking tools for various challenges they face.

Hacking tools are not about causing chaos or breaking the law; they're about understanding and fortifying digital fortresses. They help identify weaknesses, test defenses, and ensure systems are robust against potential attacks.

The world of hacking tools is diverse and intricate. From simple password crackers to advanced frameworks for simulating complex cyber-attacks from an intruder, these tools are designed to navigate the intricate web of modern IT systems.

But why are hacking tools so crucial?

Consider this: In our modern digital world, where everything from your refrigerator to your car is connected to the internet, vulnerabilities are everywhere. Hacking tools allow the good guys - security professionals - to stay one step ahead of potential threats.

Each tool in a hacker's arsenal serves a unique purpose. Some may be used for scanning networks to find vulnerabilities, while others might be employed to test how resilient a system is against different forms of cyber attacks.

The ethical use of these tools is paramount. Like any powerful tool, they must be used responsibly, adhering to legal and ethical standards.

It also helps to have a firm grasp of this concept when setting your sights on something like a penetration testing certification to further your career.

That said, another fascinating aspect of hacking tools lies in their adaptability and evolution. As technology advances, so do these tools, constantly adapting to new challenges and threats in the digital world.

So, in essence, hacking tools enable security experts to protect, analyze, and enhance the security of systems in an ever-evolving cyber landscape.

And if you're intrigued by a cybersecurity career or considering taking a cybersecurity course, expect to use these tools heavily.

Now that we've demystified what hacking tools are, let's take a look at the different types of hacking tools available in 2024, shall we?

What Tools Do Most Ethical Hackers Use?

Great, so we know what hacking tools are in the general sense, but you're probably wondering what types of tools that ethical hackers use.

After all, if you want to become an ethical hacker, you need the tools of the trade, right?

In this article, I will focus on the four main types of tools that most ethical hackers rely on: network hacking, wireless hacking, password cracking, and vulnerability assessment.

Sounds good, but before we dive into the actual tools, let's refresh what these different types of hacking software actually are and do.

I should point out that most ethical hackers use a combination of these tools to mimic the strategies of potential attackers. That's right, even after you've chosen a laptop for hacking, you'll need a variety of tools.

This is ideal for uncovering and addressing security issues before they become actual threats.

Remember, these hacking tools are not just about finding weaknesses, they're about building a stronger, more secure digital infrastructure.

This might sound obvious, but it's important to grasp this nuance if you want to further your cybersecurity career with something like a cybersecurity certification.

Network Hacking Tools

Imagine you're a detective trying to find hidden doors in a maze of rooms – that's what network hacking tools are for in the digital world. They help ethical hackers explore and analyze networks and uncover potential vulnerabilities.

With these hacking tools, you can perform network mapping, network inventory, inspect the DNS, host analysis, sniff out data packets, and even simulate attacks to test network defenses.

Put simply, they're essential for understanding the complex web of connections and data flows within large networks and small networks alike.

Wireless Hacking Tools

Next, we have wireless hacking tools, which are kind of like a subset of network hacking tools.

I like to think of these hacking tools as a radar that detects invisible signals, as they allow ethical hackers to test the security of Wi-Fi networks, identifying weak spots like poor encryption or vulnerable access points.

From eavesdropping on network traffic to breaking weaker wireless security protocols, these hacking tools ensure that wireless networks are as secure as their wired counterparts.

Password Cracking Tools

Then come the password cracking tools, which are probably the most classic type of hacking tool.

You probably have a fair idea of what these do, but just in case, I like to think of them as the digital equivalent of lock-picking kits that I can use to test the strength of passwords or even use as a password recovery tool.

Ethical hackers use these tools to demonstrate how easily weak passwords can be cracked, which can help to emphasize the importance of strong, complex passwords. These hacking tools can use various techniques like brute-force attacks, dictionary attacks, and rainbow table attacks to crack passwords.

Vulnerability Assessment Tools

Finally, we have vulnerability assessment tools. Think of these as the health check-up tools for computer systems and web applications (including single-page applications).

They scan networks, software, and systems to identify potential vulnerabilities – like outdated software, misconfigurations, or security loopholes. These tools also provide a comprehensive report of the system's health, enabling organizations to fortify their defenses before an attacker exploits these weaknesses.

Awesome! Now that we understand the purpose of these different types of hacking tools let's explore some of the most widely used hacking tools in each category in 2024.

The Best Network Hacking Tools

1. LiveAction

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Main Feature: Network visibility, forensics, and application performance monitoring 

Free or Paid: Paid (free trial option)

Supported Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac.

Why we chose this hacking tool

LiveAction is a firm favorite of mine when it comes to network hacking tools. Its blend of simplicity and real-time analytics really sets it apart. The customizable dashboards and detailed reporting make monitoring network performance straightforward, almost like having a constant, vigilant guard over network activities.

What I appreciate most are the actionable casebooks and troubleshooting workflows. They simplify complex tasks, making them manageable even for someone new to network management. When I started, these features were incredibly helpful, almost like a guide through the labyrinth of network intricacies.

For beginners, pairing LiveAction with some top-notch ethical hacking books can be a real game-changer. It certainly was for me. This tool becomes even more powerful when you have a solid foundation in network hacking principles.

In my experience, LiveAction adds clarity and efficiency to network management tasks. It’s a tool that, once you start using, becomes an integral part of your cybersecurity toolkit. If you're diving into network performance and analytics, LiveAction is an invaluable asset, making complex tasks far more approachable.

Pros:

  • Real-time network monitoring
  • Network visualization and topology mapping
  • Traffic analysis, including patterns and bottlenecks
  • Security and threat detection features to mitigate threats

Cons:

  • It can be complex for beginners
  • Maintenance can be costly

2. Nmap

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Main Feature:  Network discovery, network mapper, and security auditing.

Free or Paid: Free

Supported Platforms:  Windows, Linux, Mac

Why we chose this hacking tool

Nmap has always been a go-to for me when it comes to free hacking tools, especially for network scanning and security checks.

It's incredibly efficient at mapping out all the devices connected to a network and providing detailed information about each one. Whether it's identifying the applications running or digging into the specifics of a system, Nmap offers a depth of insight that's hard to match.

What I really value about Nmap is its ability to give a comprehensive overview of a network's landscape. It's like having a digital map that reveals not just the terrain but also the hidden details of every connected entity.

This makes it an essential tool for anyone looking to secure or analyze a network.

In my experience, Nmap is a fundamental tool for network security, and its effectiveness in identifying what's on your network can be a real eye-opener.

It's not just about finding devices; it's about understanding your network's composition, which is crucial for any cybersecurity strategy. For those looking to get a clear picture of their network's architecture and vulnerabilities, Nmap is an invaluable resource.

Pros:

  • Comprehensive network discovery, including IP addresses, hosts, ports, OS, and more
  • Service version detection for port services
  • Flexible Nmap Scripting Engine (NSE) helps automate scanning tasks

Cons:

  • Only features a command-line interface
  • Limited support for Windows

3. Nessus

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Main Feature:  Network vulnerability scanning.

Free or Paid: Paid (free ‘Essentials’ version available with limited features)

Supported Platforms:  Windows, Linux, Mac.

Why we chose this hacking tool

Nessus has been a staple in my cybersecurity toolbox, particularly for its use of the Nessus Attack Scripting Language (NASL).

This feature of Nessus does an excellent job of not just identifying threats but also explaining them in simple, understandable terms. Plus, it goes a step further by suggesting actionable steps to mitigate those threats.

One aspect of Nessus that stands out to me is its compatibility with CVE architecture. This makes it incredibly easy to cross-link with other compliant security tools, which is a huge advantage in creating a cohesive security setup. In my work, this interoperability has been invaluable, allowing me to streamline various aspects of security management.

What I've found particularly helpful about Nessus is its ability to simplify complex security data. It’s like having a translator that not only deciphers security threats but also guides you on how to handle them effectively.

For anyone involved in network security, Nessus offers an insightful and practical approach to threat identification and management. Its blend of detailed threat analysis with user-friendly guidance is a major reason why it's a key component of my security protocol.

Pros:

  • Displays missing patches as well as older fixes
  • Prioritizes threats that should be addressed first
  • Simple, scalable, and user-friendly

Cons:

  • Limited to single scans
  • Reports are not presented graphically

4.SQLMap

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Main Feature: Automates detection and exploitation of SQL injection flaws and assists in taking over database servers.

Free or Paid: Free

Supported Platforms: Windows, Linux, and Mac.

Why we chose this hacking tool

SQLMap has been a reliable ally in my toolkit, especially for automating the process of detecting and exploiting SQL injection vulnerabilities.

It’s incredibly useful when dealing with a database or website that's susceptible to SQL injection techniques.

What stands out to me about SQLMap is its efficiency in pinpointing weaknesses. Once I identify a potential target, SQLMap makes it straightforward to test and exploit any vulnerabilities present. It's almost like having an expert assistant dedicated to SQL injections, streamlining the process of taking control of a database.

Using SQLMap has shown me just how critical it is to protect against SQL injection vulnerabilities. The ease with which it can test and exploit these weaknesses is a stark reminder of the importance of robust database security.

For anyone in the field of cybersecurity, SQLMap is an invaluable tool for both understanding and addressing SQL injection threats.

Pros:

  • Automates discovery of SQL injections on a web application
  • Supports a range of SQL injections
  • Performs advanced queries

Cons:

  • No graphical user interface
  • Requires manual confirmation of a vulnerability

The Best Password Cracking Tools

5. John the Ripper

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Main Feature:  Password security auditing, password recovery, brute force attacks.

Free or Paid: Free

Supported Platforms:  Windows, Linux, Mac

Why we chose this hacking tool

John The Ripper holds a firm place in my array of cybersecurity tools, particularly as a password-cracking powerhouse. It’s free, which is a huge plus, and its effectiveness in breaking various encryption technologies is impressive.

What I appreciate about John The Ripper is its versatility in cracking methods. Whether I'm using dictionary attacks for common password guesses or employing brute force for more complex cases, it consistently delivers. It's like having a master key that can adapt to different locks.

Using John The Ripper has been eye-opening in understanding password vulnerabilities. Its ability to uncover weak or forgotten passwords with such efficiency underscores the need for strong, secure password policies.

For anyone involved in security auditing or penetration testing, John The Ripper is a must-have tool for evaluating password security and resilience.

Pros:

  • Completely open-source
  • Password cracker can be modified based on user requirements
  • Effective at detecting password hashes

Cons:

  • It can be complicated for beginners with less technical knowledge

6. Hashcat

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Main Feature: Versatile password-cracking tool that utilizes the power of GPUs.

Free or Paid: Free under the MIT License

Supported Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac

Why we chose this hacking tool

Hashcat has been a key component in my hacking toolkit, especially when it comes to cracking password hashes. Its support for a wide array of hashing algorithms and the variety of attack modes it offers make it incredibly versatile.

The feature that really sets Hashcat apart for me is its GPU acceleration. This means it operates at impressive speeds, a crucial factor when you're dealing with complex password cracking. It's like having a high-performance engine that can swiftly navigate through various password complexities.

My experience with Hashcat has shown that it's exceptionally efficient in identifying and addressing password vulnerabilities. Whether it's a routine security check or a more intensive penetration test, Hashcat's ability to quickly and effectively crack passwords is invaluable.

For anyone in the field of cybersecurity, particularly in areas focused on password security, Hashcat is an indispensable tool for both testing and reinforcing password strength.

Pros:

  • Impressive speeds thanks to Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) support
  • Uses a wide array of hashing algorithms
  • Simple setup

Cons:

  • Issues with GPU drivers can affect performance

7. L0phtCrack

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Main feature: Password auditing to assess password strength and reveal vulnerabilities.

Free or Paid: Free

Supported Platforms: Windows

Why we chose this hacking tool

L0phtCrack has a notable history, originally developed by the well-known hacking group, L0pht Heavy Industries, which included members from the cDc. If you're new to hacking, I'd recommend looking them up, as they're some of the most notable figures of hacking from the 90s.

It has proven itself to be an exceptional tool for Windows environments, particularly for tasks like password auditing, recovery, and strength assessments.

What I find most impressive about L0phtCrack is its versatility in password-cracking methodologies. It allows for dictionary attacks, brute-force, hybrid attacks, and even the use of rainbow tables. This range of options makes it a highly effective tool for both testing the strength of Windows passwords and recovering them.

In my experience, L0phtCrack stands out as one of the best tools for Windows password-related tasks. Whether it's conducting routine security audits or engaging in more focused password recovery operations, L0phtCrack has consistently delivered reliable results.

Its historical significance in the hacking community adds an interesting dimension to its utility, making it not just a powerful tool but also a piece of hacking heritage. For anyone dealing with Windows password security, L0phtCrack is a tool that combines efficiency, versatility, and a rich legacy.

Pros:

  • Designed for regular password auditing
  • Mitigates password issues
  • Provides detailed reports

Cons:

  • No longer sold commercially, so there may be a lack of support
  • Only supports Windows

8. Rainbow Crack

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Main Feature: Uses precomputed rainbow tables to quickly reverse password hash values.

Free or Paid: Free

Supported Platforms: Windows and Linux

Why we chose this hacking tool

Rainbow Crack is particularly effective for recovering plaintext passwords from hash values. It shines in scenarios where you're dealing with hashes stored in databases or within password-protected files.

The real charm of Rainbow Crack lies in its use of Rainbow tables. These tables are like a treasure trove of precomputed hash chains, which dramatically speed up the password-cracking process. It's almost as if you're given a fast-forward button, bypassing the time-consuming steps usually involved in cracking passwords.

In my use of Rainbow Crack, I've found its efficiency in reversing hash values to be remarkable. It cuts down on the guesswork and brute-force methods traditionally associated with password cracking.

For anyone delving into password security, especially where time is of the essence, Rainbow Crack proves to be a powerful tool, leveraging the efficiency of Rainbow tables to deliver rapid results. This tool is not just about breaking passwords; it's about understanding and mitigating the vulnerabilities in password security systems.

Pros:

  • Cracks passwords in a relatively short space of time
  • Tables are precomputed to simplify the process
  • Can effectively avoid authentication obstacles

Cons:

  • Rainbow tables require a significant amount of storage space (sometimes terabytes)
  • The hash must be in the rainbow table for the tool to be of use

The Best Vulnerability Assessment Tools

9. Metasploit Framework

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Main Feature: Penetration testing and exploit development tool

Free or Paid: Free or paid with Metasploit Pro

Supported Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac

Why we chose this hacking tool

The Metasploit Framework has been a cornerstone in my penetration testing toolkit, widely recognized for its comprehensive features. It's the kind of tool that brings a broad spectrum of capabilities to the table, making it a favorite among security professionals.

In my experience, what sets Metasploit apart is its versatility in various aspects of hacking and cybersecurity. It's incredibly effective for developing and testing exploits, which is fundamental in understanding and mitigating vulnerabilities.

The framework also excels in vulnerability assessment, allowing me to comprehensively evaluate and strengthen security measures.

But Metasploit goes beyond just finding weaknesses. Its capabilities in post-exploitation activities like privilege escalation and data exfiltration have been invaluable in my work. The tool’s proficiency in handling payloads and shellcode adds another layer of depth to its functionality.

Using Metasploit has given me insights into the complexities of cyber threats and the necessary countermeasures. It's not just about exploiting vulnerabilities; it's about mastering the art and science of cybersecurity.

Pros:

  • Comprehensive platform for developing, testing, and executing exploits
  • Built-in exploit database with a vast collection of pre-built exploits, payloads, and shellcodes
  • Highly flexible and customizable
  • Active community of users, developers, and contributors for resources and support

Cons:

  • Primarily relies on the command-line interface (CLI), meaning it’s less beginner-friendly
  • Lack of real-time exploit updates
  • Lack of advanced reporting

10. OpenVAS

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Main Feature: Vulnerability scanner to perform comprehensive security assessments

Free or Paid: Free

Supported Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac

Why we chose this hacking tool

OpenVAS has been a fundamental part of my security toolkit, primarily due to its extensive range of vulnerability checks and scanning capabilities. It's an all-encompassing tool that allows for thorough assessments of system and network security, pinpointing vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and weaknesses with remarkable precision.

What I particularly appreciate about OpenVAS is the automation aspect. It streamlines the vulnerability assessment process, making it both efficient and comprehensive. The regular updates to its database mean I'm always equipped to detect the latest vulnerabilities.

Customizable scans are another highlight of OpenVAS. They allow me to tailor the assessment to specific needs or focus areas, which is invaluable in targeted security testing. Following the scans, OpenVAS doesn’t just leave you with a list of issues; it provides guidance for reporting and remediation, which is crucial for effectively addressing the vulnerabilities.

The integration capabilities of OpenVAS have significantly enhanced my workflow. Being able to seamlessly connect it with other tools creates a more cohesive and powerful security ecosystem.

In my journey through cybersecurity assessments, OpenVAS has proven itself to be more than just a scanning tool; it's a comprehensive solution that supports every step of the vulnerability management process.

Pros:

  • Comprehensive vulnerability scanning features
  • Open-source and free
  • Regularly updated security feeds
  • Customizable scans, including scan depth and scan parameters
  • Supports integration with other security tools and can be automated

Cons:

  • It can be complex to set up and configure for beginners without technical knowledge
  • Works best with Linux systems despite support for Windows and macOS
  • Lack of advanced reporting

11. Fortify WebInspect

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Main Feature: Scans and assesses web applications for vulnerabilities that need remediation

Free or Paid: Paid

Supported Platforms:  Windows

Why we chose this hacking tool

Fortify WebInspect has become a go-to tool for me whenever I need to perform web application security assessments. Its versatility in scanning and assessments makes it a tried and trusted part of my toolkit and my go-to web application security scanner.

What I particularly value in WebInspect is its adeptness at uncovering potential security risks and weaknesses. It's like having a digital detective that methodically combs through web applications, pinpointing areas that could be exploited. This level of detailed assessment is crucial, especially when sensitive data is at stake.

In my use of WebInspect, I've found it to be exceptionally effective in identifying vulnerabilities that might otherwise be overlooked. It’s not just about finding the obvious flaws; it's about delving deep into the application to uncover hidden risks.

For anyone tasked with securing web applications, Fortify WebInspect offers the depth and precision needed to ensure robust security and protect against data breaches. It’s a tool that brings peace of mind by thoroughly vetting web applications and safeguarding sensitive information.

Pros:

  • Stable and well-supported tool
  • Can be integrated with CI/CD pipelines
  • Customizable for various data privacy standards

Cons:

  • No static application security testing (SAST) functions to enable white-box testing

12. Invicti WebScan

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Main Feature: Web vulnerability scanner and automated security assessments of web apps

Free or Paid: Paid

Supported Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac

Why we chose this hacking tool

Invicti WebScan, previously under the Acunetix banner, is another staple in my web application security toolkit. Its capabilities as a web vulnerability scanner make it perfect for conducting automated security assessments.

What really stands out for me with Invicti WebScan is its effectiveness in not just identifying potential vulnerabilities but also in aiding their remediation. It's like having a vigilant guard, and a skilled advisor rolled into one, focusing on fortifying web application security.

In my experience, Invicti WebScan excels in exposing vulnerabilities that could potentially compromise web applications. Its thorough scanning process ensures no stone is left unturned, making it an invaluable asset in enhancing overall security.

For anyone serious about safeguarding their web applications, Invicti WebScan offers the comprehensive scanning capabilities necessary to identify, understand, and address security weaknesses effectively.

Pros:

  • In-depth, visual dashboard
  • Can scan all types of applications and services across a range of platforms
  • Good customer support

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • You cannot scan multiple URLs on the same license

13. Nikto

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Main Feature:  Web server vulnerability scanner to identify security issues and misconfigurations

Free or Paid: Free

Supported Platforms:  Windows, Linux, Mac

Why we chose this hacking tool

Nikto, an open-source gem in my security toolbox, has been incredibly helpful for comprehensive scanning and assessing web server vulnerabilities. Its ability to unearth a wide range of security issues and misconfigurations in web servers is what makes it so valuable.

I've particularly appreciated Nikto for its thoroughness in scanning servers for dangerous files and potential hacking programs. It's like having a meticulous inspector that ensures no aspect of web server security is overlooked.

The tool's proficiency in checking for outdated versions of web server software is another aspect I rely on. This feature is crucial, as outdated software often becomes a gateway for cyber threats.

In my practice, Nikto has proven to be an essential tool for ethical hackers. Whether it's ensuring server security or preemptively identifying potential risks, Nikto provides a level of depth and detail that bolsters overall cybersecurity.

For anyone involved in securing web servers, Nikto offers the necessary features to conduct effective and efficient security assessments.

Pros:

  • Open-source and free
  • Comprehensive scanning options
  • Extensive database of known vulnerabilities
  • Customizable scanning option
  • Reporting capabilities

Cons:

  • Not suitable for scanning large enterprises
  • Uses a command-line interface, making it less beginner-friendly for some

14. Acunetix

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Main Feature: Identifies web app vulnerabilities like SQL injection, XSS, and server configs

Free or Paid: Paid

Supported Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac

Why we chose this hacking tool

Acunetix, developed by Invicti Security, has been a key part of my toolkit for scanning and identifying vulnerabilities in web applications. Its ability to detect a range of issues, from SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS) to insecure server configurations, makes it incredibly versatile.

What stands out about Acunetix is its effectiveness as a black-box penetration testing tool. It's particularly useful for dynamic application security testing (DAST) in situations where I don't have user access or the source code.

This makes it an ideal choice for external testing scenarios, where understanding the security posture of an application from an outsider's perspective is critical.

In my experience, Acunetix excels in revealing vulnerabilities that could potentially be missed in a more surface-level examination. It delves deep into the application, probing for weaknesses just as a potential attacker might.

For anyone looking to conduct thorough and effective security testing of web applications, especially from an external viewpoint, Acunetix offers the depth and breadth of scanning capabilities necessary to uncover and understand complex vulnerabilities.

Pros:

  • Returns very few false positives
  • Provides a high level of automation and accuracy
  • Creates compliance reports
  • User-friendly interface and intuitive workflow

Cons:

  • Configuring the tool can be tricky for DevSecOps
  • User management is not straightforward

The Best Wireless Hacking Tools

15. Kismet

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Main Feature: Wireless network detector, sniffer, and intrusion detection system (IDS)

Free or Paid: Free

Supported Platforms: Windows, Linux, and Mac

Why we chose this hacking tool

Kismet is an indispensable open-source tool, especially as a wireless network detector. But for me, its capabilities in packet sniffing and functioning as a wireless intrusion detection system (WIDS) are what make it stand out.

I've found Kismet to be incredibly effective for identifying and analyzing wireless network traffic. It's like having a digital hawk that continuously scans the airwaves, pinpointing and dissecting each packet it encounters. This feature is invaluable in understanding the dynamics of wireless networks and spotting potential security threats.

In my use of Kismet, I've appreciated its depth in providing insights into the wireless environment around me. Whether it's for routine network monitoring or more targeted security investigations, Kismet offers a comprehensive view of wireless network traffic, making it easier to identify anomalies and potential vulnerabilities.

For anyone involved in wireless security, Kismet is a tool that offers a thorough and detailed perspective on wireless networks, making it easier to secure and manage them effectively.

Pros:

  • Channel hopping finds as many networks as possible
  • Logs geographical coordinates
  • Option to use as a wireless intrusion detection (WIDS)
  • Command-line and graphical interface options

Cons:

  • It can take a long time to search for networks
  • Can only identify networks within a small physical area

16. Aircrack-ng

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Main Feature: Wireless LAN detector, packet sniffer, WEP keys, and WPA/WPA2-PSK cracker

Free or Paid: Free

Supported Platforms:  Windows (limited), Linux (ideal), Mac.

Why we chose this hacking tool

If I need to work on a pen-testing project, Aircrack-ng has consistently been my hacking tool of choice. I particularly love its comprehensive features tailored to hacking WEP and WPA-based WLANs. Its functionality spans from packet capture to various forms of attack like brute-forcing, dictionary attacks, and even offline cracking.

I'm also a big fan of the fact that Aircrack-ng is open-source and backed by a robust community support system. This not only assures continuous improvements but also provides a wealth of knowledge and resources, which is vital for troubleshooting and advancing my skills.

In my experience, Aircrack-ng excels in the Linux environment (I may be biased as a Linux user, but hey?), where it seems to be most at home. If you're new to Linux, don't let this put you off, as there are lots of great Linux courses to gain basic skills.

However, it's also flexible enough to also function on Windows systems, albeit with some limitations.

Whether I’m testing the security of a WLAN or trying to uncover vulnerabilities within wireless networks, Aircrack-ng has proven to be an invaluable tool, offering the functionality I need for effective and thorough wireless security assessments.

Pros:

  • The full suite consists of more than 20 utilities & versatile attack methods
  • Popular among professionals, also open-source and community-driven
  • Active community support via documentation and forums
  • Pioneering tool for Wireless Encryption Key (WEP) cracking

Cons:

  • Mostly suited to ethical hackers with strong technical experience
  • Command-line based, so lack of GUI may deter some

17. Wifite

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Main Feature: Automates Wi-Fi password auditing and cracking with various attack methods

Free or Paid: Free

Supported Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac

Why we chose this hacking tool

Wifite is another favorite of mine for auditing and cracking Wi-Fi networks, thanks to its ability to employ multiple attack techniques. Whether it’s capturing handshakes, engaging in brute-force or dictionary attacks, or leveraging other tools like Aircrack-ng, Wifite covers a broad spectrum of Wi-Fi hacking tactics.

What really sets Wifite apart for me is its user-friendly interface, making it accessible to beginners while still offering the depth required by more experienced professionals. The automation it provides is a significant bonus, streamlining the Wi-Fi cracking process and saving valuable time.

In my work with Wi-Fi security, Wifite has proven to be an invaluable asset. Its ease of use, combined with its comprehensive approach, allows for efficient and effective Wi-Fi network audits.

Whether you're new to Wi-Fi hacking or a seasoned expert, Wifite offers a blend of convenience and capability that can enhance any Wi-Fi security assessment.

Pros:

  • A customizable and user-friendly interface includes numerous target filters
  • Provides detailed logs and reports and can be fully automated
  • Multiple attack techniques, plus cross-tool and cross-platform compatibility 
  • Intelligent target selection for networks based on signal strength

Cons:

  • Some may find the interface to be dated
  • More of a pro-tool, meaning it’s less beginner-friendly

18. Wifiphisher

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Main Feature:  Access framework for Wi-Fi networks & used for red team penetration testing

Free or Paid: Free

Supported Platforms: Linux (primarily Kali)

Why we chose this hacking tool

WifiPhisher is another powerful tool for assessing wireless network vulnerabilities, particularly for simulating red-team hacking scenarios and demonstrating the risks associated with phishing attacks through rogue access points.

What stands out about WifiPhisher is its ability to create rogue access points convincingly, which is pivotal in phishing exercises. This capability not only allows for realistic testing environments but also highlights how easily unsuspecting users can be lured into compromising their credentials.

In my use of WifiPhisher, I've seen firsthand how effective it can be in capturing credentials from users who believe they are connecting to a legitimate network. This tool has been instrumental in illustrating the often-overlooked risks of wireless networks and the ease with which phishing attacks can be conducted.

For anyone involved in wireless network security or educational campaigns about phishing risks, WifiPhisher provides a practical and impactful means to demonstrate these vulnerabilities and the importance of vigilant network use.

Pros:

  • Great for red-team hacking scenarios to provide realistic security evaluations
  • Perfect for man-in-the-middle attacks
  • Ideal for risk reduction by uncovering weaknesses and vulnerabilities
  • Helpful for validating investments into cyber security defenses

Cons:

  • Limited platform support as only supported with Linux
  • Limited scope as red-team hacking exercises typically focus on specific systems

19. Wireshark

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Main Feature: Powerful network protocol analyzer that captures and analyzes network traffic

Free or Paid: Free

Supported Platforms:  Windows, Linux, MacOS

Why we chose this hacking tool

As one of the OG tools for ethical hacking (remember when it was called Ethereal? No, just me?), Wireshark is synonymous with network analysis and hacking.

It also has a special place in my journey as an ethical hacker. It takes me back to my undergraduate days, where, after spending countless hours at the command line, I first ventured into the world of packet analysis with hacking tools.

What I've always admired about Wireshark is its comprehensive set of features. From packet capture to protocol analysis and from packet filtering and search to statistical analysis, it covers almost every aspect of network analysis you could think of. The visualization features are particularly useful, turning complex data into understandable and actionable insights.

In my early days with Wireshark, I was fascinated by how it made the invisible visible, revealing the intricate dance of packets across a network. It's also incredibly adept at LAN analysis, offering the capability to copy packets discreetly, which is crucial for maintaining a low profile during security assessments.

Wireshark has been more than just a tool; it's been a teacher, illuminating the complexities of network traffic and helping me develop a deeper understanding of the digital communications that underpin our connected world.

For anyone venturing into network analysis or ethical hacking, Wireshark is an indispensable resource, offering a depth of functionality and insight that few other tools can match.

Pros:

  • Comprehensive network protocol support and cross-platform
  • Real-time packet capture and powerful filtering capabilities
  • Advanced analysis via statistics, flow graphs, color-coded packet display, and more
  • Extensive community support owing to its long history

Cons:

  • Steep learning curve for beginners
  • Lack of real-time analysis
  • Lack of traffic generation

How To Choose The Best Hacking Tools in 2024

Choosing the best hacking tools in 2024 can sometimes feel like navigating through a labyrinth, especially with the wide array of sophisticated options and the constantly evolving landscape of cybersecurity technologies.

With a burgeoning array of hacking tools at your fingertips, identifying the ideal one for your cybersecurity quest can seem like a tall order, but I'm here to help you find your way!

So, if you're not sure where to start, I'd recommend the following criteria to help you make a well-informed selection:

  • Project Needs: Pinpoint the primary aim of your security task. This understanding is foundational. But don't just skim the surface; delve into the specific functionalities or challenges you're facing. For instance, if network penetration is your focus, you'll want tools that shine in network analysis and breach simulation.
  • Compatibility and System Requirements: In the fast-evolving tech landscape, ensuring that the hacking tool meshes well with your current tech stack is crucial. This harmony is key to a smooth and efficient operation.
  • Ease of Use and Learning Curve: If you're charting new territories in cybersecurity, select tools that won't leave you adrift in complexity. Opt for those with intuitive interfaces and comprehensive guides. A convoluted tool can turn an exciting challenge into a daunting task.
  • Community and Support: A robust community and ongoing development are hallmarks of a reliable tool. Seek out tools backed by active forums, tutorials, and ample resources for assistance and learning.
  • Cost and Licensing: While many hacking tools are open-source and freely accessible, some come with a cost, especially the more specialized ones. Weigh if the advantages of an enterprise edition justify the expense, particularly when free community edition alternatives might suffice.
  • Reputation and Reviews: Delve into the tool's standing in the cybersecurity sphere. Look for feedback, case studies, or user experiences to assess its effectiveness and dependability.
  • Scalability and Performance: Evaluate how the tool will perform under the expected scope of your project and its scalability. Performance is a critical factor, especially in scenarios where speed and efficiency are paramount.
  • Security and Legal Compliance: Ensure the tool doesn't compromise your systems' security. Also, be mindful of legal considerations. Ethical and lawful use of hacking tools is imperative.
  • Integration with Other Tools: Tools that seamlessly integrate with your existing cybersecurity framework add immense value. Search for tools that enhance and complement your security setup.
  • Feature Set and Capabilities: Scrutinize the range of features the tool offers. A broader feature set might offer more versatility, but assess what's essential for your needs. Look for tools that provide thorough reporting and analytical features.

Keeping these in mind should help you sift through the huge selection of hacking tools. Remember, the right hacking tool can significantly improve your capacity to identify and counteract security vulnerabilities.

Plus, if you're gearing up for a role in cybersecurity, being well-versed in these tools can give you a distinct edge in your professional journey.

What Are The Different Types of Hacking?

In this article, we've delved into various categories of hacking tools like network hacking, password cracking, web hacking, and wireless cracking.

Now, let's pivot slightly to explore the diverse landscape of hacking itself.

If you're looking for a job in cybersecurity and you're still new to the field, this is a great way to level up your basic understanding of hacking while ensuring you stay on the right side of the law!

  • Ethical Hacking: Also known as white-hat hacking or penetration testing, this is the good guy in the hacking world. Conducted with full authorization, ethical hackers aim to identify and rectify vulnerabilities in systems to fortify them against malicious attacks. They're the cybersecurity experts who use their skills for defense.
  • Black Hat Hacking: Often the type that springs to mind when someone mentions hacking. These are the bad actors of the cyber world, engaging in illegal activities with malicious intent. From data theft to system disruption, their actions are unauthorized and harmful. TV shows like Mr Robot might make this look cool, but this is not recommended!
  • Gray Hat Hacking: Hovering between the ethical and unethical, gray hat hackers operate without explicit permission but usually don't have harmful intentions. They might identify and report vulnerabilities, often walking a fine line between legal and illegal actions.
  • Hacktivism: A blend of hacking and activism, this type focuses on social or political agendas. Hacktivists often target organizations or governments to push for change, raise awareness, or make a statement, using hacking as their tool of expression.
  • Script Kiddie: Lacking in-depth technical knowledge, these individuals rely on existing tools and scripts to conduct hacking. While they might not possess advanced skills, their actions can still be harmful or disruptive.
  • Advanced Persistent Threat (APT): A sophisticated and covert type of hacking, APTs involve prolonged, targeted campaigns. These are often state-sponsored or orchestrated by organized groups, aiming for data theft, espionage, or system sabotage.
  • Insider Threat: A unique and often overlooked aspect of hacking, this involves individuals within an organization exploiting their access for unauthorized activities. From data theft to intentional sabotage, the insider threat is a serious security concern.
  • Social Engineering: More about psychological manipulation than technical prowess, this approach involves tricking individuals into divulging sensitive information or performing actions that compromise security. It's a testament to the fact that human factors are often the weakest link in cybersecurity.

Now, of course, you should only focus on ethical hacking, given the legal ambiguity of the other variants. But it does help to understand the various flavors.

Just check out any good cybersecurity degree, and you can expect to cover these topics, as you need to have a well-rounded understanding of the space.

Key Elements & Targets In Modern Hacking

One thing is for sure: cybersecurity is constantly evolving, so it helps to understand what hackers look for and the targets they commonly exploit.

This is also a common cybersecurity interview question, so let's take a look at some key elements and targets in modern hacking:

  • Data Formats and Transfer: Hackers often target data in common formats like CSV, XML, and even simple text files, as these are widely used for data storage and transfer. They look for vulnerabilities in how applications process these formats to extract or manipulate data.
  • Web Technologies: Technologies like JavaScript are fundamental to web applications. Hackers exploit vulnerabilities in these technologies to carry out attacks like cross-site scripting (XSS) and inject malicious scripts in various cybersecurity programming languages.
  • APIs: Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are critical in modern applications for data exchange. Hackers target APIs to intercept or manipulate the data flow between applications, often exploiting insecure API endpoints.
  • Network and Hosts: A single host or a network can be a goldmine for a hacker. They scan for open ports and vulnerabilities using tools like Wireshark and Metasploit, targeting various operating systems, including Unix variants like OpenBSD, Solaris, NetBSD, and Mac OS X.
  • Database Systems: Databases are prime targets due to the sensitive data they hold. Hackers use tools like SQLMap to exploit SQL injection vulnerabilities in popular database systems such as MySQL, Oracle, and PostgreSQL.
  • Common Hacking Techniques: Among the most common hacking techniques is the exploitation of weak or stolen credentials, often aided by tools that crack passwords. Phishing attacks to deceive users into divulging sensitive information are also prevalent.
  • Persistent Threats: Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are a sophisticated form of hacking where attackers gain unauthorized access and remain undetected for extended periods. They often target large organizations or governmental networks for espionage or data theft.

Understanding these various elements and targets can be super helpful for getting a better insight into the methods and motivations behind hacking activities.

I also think it underscores the importance of robust security measures across all aspects of digital infrastructure, from individual applications to expansive network systems.

By bringing this knowledge to your cybersecurity strategies, you can significantly enhance an organization's ability to defend against and respond to various hacking threats.

The question of whether hacking is legal or not is nuanced and depends greatly on the intent, method, and consent involved in the hacking activities.

While hacker tools in themselves are not inherently illegal, their application can cross into illegality if used without proper authorization.

This makes them a lot like a VPN, as these are not illegal in most countries, but the lines become blurred when you focus on intent.

Let's break down some scenarios where hacking activities can be either legal or illegal.

Legal Hacking Examples

  • Ethical Hacking or Penetration Testing: In these cases, hacking is carried out with full permission from the target organization. Ethical hackers, or white-hat hackers, are authorized to probe and identify system vulnerabilities, helping organizations strengthen their defenses.
  • Security Research: Here, hacking is executed within the confines of the law by security researchers. Their goal is to uncover security weaknesses, but they do so responsibly, often communicating their findings to the organizations that are affected, without exploiting the vulnerabilities for personal gain.
  • Bug Bounty Programs: These programs are an open invitation from organizations to external hackers to find and report vulnerabilities. Hackers who participate in these programs and adhere to their guidelines are rewarded for their discoveries. This form of hacking is not only legal but encouraged, as it aids in enhancing system security.

Illegal Hacking Examples

  • Unauthorized Access: This involves accessing computer systems, networks, or accounts without permission, which can include activities like password cracking or bypassing security protocols. Such actions are illegal as they infringe on privacy and property rights.
  • Data Theft: Illegally obtaining sensitive information from computer systems, networks, or databases without authorization constitutes data theft. This can include the unauthorized copying, downloading, or extraction of data.
  • Denial of Service (DoS) Attacks: These attacks disrupt or disable computer systems, networks, or websites by inundating them with traffic or exploiting system vulnerabilities. Such actions are illegal as they aim to harm or incapacitate systems.
  • Malware and Ransomware: Creating and disseminating malicious software like viruses, worms, or ransomware falls under illegal hacking. These actions typically aim to compromise system integrity, steal data, or extort money from victims.
  • Phishing and Social Engineering: Employing deceptive methods to manipulate individuals into divulging sensitive information or to perform actions that compromise security is illegal. These tactics prey on human vulnerabilities rather than system weaknesses.

The Importance of Hacking Tools for Security

Hacking tools are indispensable for the modern cybersecurity professional. Still, their importance can be understood through various lenses.

Let's take a closer look at the importance of using hacking tools to ensure the security of your systems is top-notch:

  • Vulnerability Identification: In a world where the zero-trust security model is increasingly important, hacking tools play a crucial role in uncovering weaknesses in systems, networks, and applications. By simulating real-world attacks, they reveal potential security gaps that might otherwise go unnoticed until exploited by malicious actors.
  • Penetration Testing: These tools enable security teams to conduct thorough assessments of an organization's infrastructure. They help identify possible entry points and weaknesses, providing a roadmap for fortifying defenses.
  • Security Validation: Beyond identifying vulnerabilities, hacking tools play a crucial role in validating the effectiveness of existing security measures. They help verify that the controls in place are functioning as intended and are robust enough to withstand various attack scenarios.
  • Security Awareness and Education: In an era where cyber threats are constantly evolving, hacking tools are invaluable for raising security awareness. They provide tangible examples of how breaches can occur, educating individuals and organizations about the importance of vigilance and proactive security measures.
  • Incident Response Preparation: Effective incident response is a critical component of cybersecurity. Hacking tools aid in developing and refining incident response strategies, ensuring organizations are well-prepared to address security breaches quickly and efficiently.
  • Continuous Monitoring and Detection: The cybersecurity landscape is not static; it requires constant vigilance. Hacking tools facilitate ongoing monitoring and detection of anomalies or breaches, ensuring that threats are identified and addressed promptly.
  • Advanced Threat Simulation: Hacking tools enable organizations to simulate sophisticated cyber-attacks, including Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs). This helps in understanding the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by advanced attackers and in preparing defenses against such high-level threats.
  • Compliance Assurance: With various regulations and standards governing data protection and cybersecurity, hacking tools assist in ensuring compliance. They help in auditing and assessing whether an organization’s security practices align with legal and regulatory requirements.
  • Risk Management: By revealing vulnerabilities and testing defenses, hacking tools contribute significantly to an organization’s risk management strategy. They provide critical insights that guide decision-making regarding security investments and risk mitigation measures.
  • Innovation in Security Strategies: As hacking tools evolve, they drive innovation in security strategies. They push organizations to adopt more advanced and effective methods to protect against the increasingly sophisticated threats in the cyber landscape.

Remember, the role of hacking tools in cybersecurity is multifaceted and evolving.

They are not just tools for identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities; they are vital components in a comprehensive strategy to safeguard digital environments, enhance security awareness, and prepare for an array of cyber threats.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it, the 19 best hacking tools in 2024.

Whether you’re looking to land a cybersecurity job or you want to boost your ethical hacking skills, hacking libraries are one of the best ways to stay ahead of the curve and level up.

Even if you're new to the world of hacking tools, I hope you now have a better idea of what they are and why they're so useful.

Which hacking tool is your favorite? And are there any others you'd like to see us include on our list of hacking tools? Let us know in the comments below.

Are you new to the world of ethical hacking and looking for ways to get started? Check out:

Udemy's Top-Rated Course To Learn Ethical Hacking From Scratch

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Are Hacking Tools?

Hacking tools are software apps designed to identify vulnerabilities, test security measures, and assess the overall security of computer systems and networks. These tools are used by security professionals, penetration testers, and ethical hackers to simulate potential attacks and identify weaknesses before malicious actors can exploit them.

The legality of hacking tools depends on their intended use and the jurisdiction in which they are used. In general, hacking tools can be classified as ethical or malicious. In general, it's important to understand and comply with the laws and regulations related to cybersecurity, hacking, and unauthorized access in your specific jurisdiction.

3. Are There Any Open-Source Hacking Tools?

Yes, there are several open-source hacking tools, including Metasploit, OpenVAS, Wireshark, Nmap, Aircrack-ng, and John The Ripper, to name a few. Check out the rest of the tools in our list if you’re interested in open-source tools. 

4. How Can I Learn How To Use Hacking Tools?

If you want to learn to use hacking tools, it’s often best approach to install the tool on your system and then look for the best ethical hacking tutorials that use that hacking tool. We’d also recommend reading documentation and joining any communities that use the tools, as these can be a vast resource of helpful information from fellow users.

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By Robert Johns

Technical Editor for Hackr.io | 15+ Years in Python, Java, SQL, C++, C#, JavaScript, Ruby, PHP, .NET, MATLAB, HTML & CSS, and more... 10+ Years in Networking, Cloud, APIs, Linux | 5+ Years in Data Science | 2x PhDs in Structural & Blast Engineering

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