(**updated June 2022)
One of the more exciting aspects of an ethical hacker’s role is the cool software tools you get to use to search for system vulnerabilities. We’ve all seen the dramatic, on-screen portrayal of hackers in numerous TV shows breaking into networks with consummate ease using sophisticated (and highly fake) programs, so what do ethical hackers really use? Let’s break down four of the top ethical hacking software tools.
What does an Ethical Hacker Do?
If you’re wondering what an ethical hacker is and what they do, here’s a recap - Ethical hackers are recruited to identify digital and non-digital ways of breaking into and manipulating any given computer infrastructure. To complete this objective, ethical hackers use the same creative and technical skills malicious hackers use. Using these same techniques, ethical hackers can find an organization’s vulnerability, identifying sources of potential security breaches within their networks.
While ethical hackers gain most of their skills and confidence through on-the-job experience, many choose to certify their skills and knowledge. Certification helps individuals prove their level of skills and knowledge to potential employers, and most ethical hackers have the EC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) Certification. Passing CEH requires learning ethical hacking tools and techniques.
Top Four Ethical Hacking Tools and Techniques
So, if you’re excited by the idea of hacking, and breaking through firewalls, but don’t want to fall foul of the law, CEH certification may be for you. Passing the CEH requires that you have experience using a number of hacking tools and techniques, so here’s our top four - Network Mapper, Acunetix, Metaspoilt. Keep reading to learn more about these phenomenal tools and their benefits!
Network Mapper (NMAP):
According to ethical hackers, the Network Mapper (NMAP) is considered one of the best tools for scanning. Its primary use and purpose are to aid ethical hackers in testing the vulnerability of their system or network. It was created using the C++ computer language by Gordon Lyon.
One of its most significant advantages is that it is entirely free to everyone and performs well in any specialized or customizable environment. This open-source tool is also compatible with many platforms, including Mac OS, Linux, OpenBSD, Solaris, & Windows. With the ability to complete different kinds of scans and the freedom it gives ethical hackers to pinpoint specific targets, this tool should be part of every ethical hacker’s arsenal!
- Host Discovery Capabilities - allows ethical hackers to identify the types of devices that are actively using scanned ports & reveal unknown information about the systems’ networks
- Identifies how all devices, including servers, routers, switches, and more, are connected to their network
- Allows ethical hackers to control the depth of their scans (includes both light scans where little information can be uncovered and deep scans where more vulnerable or sensitive information is present)
- OS Fingerprinting Capabilities - this process returns information to the ethical hacker, including the name of the vendor of the device & its operating system
- The port scanning feature allows ethical hackers to check the secureness of their firewalls as well as to detect when a port has been open or closed via a firewall
Acunetix is known as being one of the best tools for end-to-end web security scanning. It was created at the beginning of the transition from static web pages to true web applications. Over the past couple of decades, Acunetix has consolidated its place in every ethical hacker’s toolkit by securing thousands of different web applications without fail. Its primary use is to audit your web applications and check for vulnerabilities within the system, including SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and other exploitable vulnerabilities.
- Detects & Reports on over 4500 web application vulnerabilities, including all variants of SQL Injection and XSS
- It prioritizes risks for security breaches within the system based upon the data, depicting high, medium, and low vulnerabilities
- Provides a consolidated view of the scan results for ethical hackers to review and look back upon
- Integrates the scanners results into the other platforms & tools within the system
Metaspoilt is well-known for its capabilities in building anti-forensic and evasion tools. Its primary use or purpose is to obtain information about a specified target through port scanning or OS fingerprinting and use this information to select an exploit and test for vulnerabilities. Its open-source framework makes it suitable for most operating systems and easily customizable to different organizations’ systems or networks.
Over time, Metaspoilt has become the go-to exploit development and mitigation technique. Before its creation, penetration testers had to manually perform each probe in the system themselves, leaving them to write and enter new code each time they wanted to test a spot for vulnerabilities. Although this tool is mainly utilized by penetration testers and ethical hackers who perform a simulated cyberattack on their system to find weak spots, it can be helpful for all in cybersecurity looking to keep their information as secure as possible!
- Cross-Platform Support - Compatible with multiple operating systems
- Provides ethical hackers with exploits, payloads, auxiliary functions, encoders, listeners, shellcode, post-exploitation code, and more
- Utilizes ready-made or custom code to probe for vulnerabilities within the system by introducing it and allowing hackers to identify them & aid them in the process of coming up with practical solutions
Nessus is a remote security scanning tool that can be beneficial for ethical hackers when completing vulnerability scans. The tool’s primary purpose or use is to scan computers and raise an alert to ethical hackers if it detects any vulnerabilities that malicious hackers could potentially exploit. This ensures that malicious hackers cannot gain access to any computer or device connected to that network, as it is constantly being monitored.
Nessus’s open-source scanner utilizes the common vulnerabilities and exposure architecture, making it easy for ethical hackers to cross-link between similar security tools. Available on almost all operating systems, including Unix, Linux, FreeBSD, Unix-based, and Windows-based, this tool should add to every ethical hacker’s game plan!
- Ability to scan for a variety of different vulnerabilities - including ones that could allow unauthorized access to sensitive data on a system, misconfiguration (e.g., open mail relay), denials of service (DoS) vulnerabilities, and default passwords
- Allows ethical hackers to schedule their security audits
- Detects security holes in local or remote hosts & missing security updates or patches
- Provides ethical hackers with the ability to perform simulated cyberattacks to pinpoint problems within the system
Why is Ethical Hacking Important?
Ethical hacking has become a mainstream role in the IT industry. As demand continues to grow, there are increasing opportunities for people with hacking skills throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC. The expansion of technology into every aspect of life has inevitably led to a sharp increase in cybercrimes and cyberattacks, not only on organizations’ but on individuals. Cybercriminals often exploit vulnerabilities within computer systems or networks to find and extract all the classified information.
Securing private information has become a huge priority, especially for the military and prominent United States government agencies. This has made ethical hacking jobs rise significantly in value, with higher salaries, increased promotions, and an added sense of job security for employees. With an average annual salary of around $82,966 per year in the Washington DC region, combined with the other benefits we’ve previously mentioned, ethical hacking might be the best option for you!
Ethical Hacking at TrainACE in Greenbelt, MD or Reston, VA
If you want to start your journey as an ethical hacker, learn with us here at TrainACE! We offer a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) course that will teach you all the skills you need to pass that exam and gain that certification! In addition to providing high quality training, we offer hands-on learning that ensures you not only pass the CEH exam but can confidently use your skills in real world situations. We also offer free class retakes for students who have full attendance in the first class, but feel they need more study before taking the exams. If this looks like the career path you wish to pursue, TrainACE is the place for you!