8 Common Tools and Techniques Used in Penetration Testing

The security of a business depends on penetration testing since it teaches employees how to deal with any kind of intrusion from a hostile party. 

They allow you to determine whether a company’s security procedures are working.

Let’s break down the 8 common tools and techniques used in penetration testing.

Port Scanning

Port scanning is a method to determine if internet services in penetration testing are vulnerable to exploitation.

It aims to determine which ports are open and actively transmitting or receiving data, as well as the organization of IP addresses, hosts, and ports within a network. Port scanning can also show if firewalls and other security measures are in place between a server and a user’s device.

Nmap is a network scanner that’s been continuously supported for many years. It can help determine if there is abnormal network behavior between the user and their target. 

Other tools like Nessus can identify network bottlenecks or dropped packets. The tool must track packets and notify software engineers if they are dropped before reaching their destination. In the comparison of data science vs. software engineering, this tool will be used in the realm of the latter.

Users can also develop their tools or scripts to improve their penetration testing engagement.

Vulnerability Scanning

An essential component of penetration testing, and a technique for locating and addressing security problems, is vulnerability scanning. It entails the use of automated tools to find flaws, weaknesses, and configuration problems in a target network or system. 

By averting possible security breaches, this proactive approach helps firms boost their cybersecurity. Setting the parameters for the assessment, including the systems, networks, and applications to be examined, is crucial before beginning a vulnerability scan. 

This aids in concentrating scanning efforts on regions with the greatest likelihood of risk. Vulnerability scans are frequently performed using tools like Nessus, OpenVAS, Qualys, and Rapid7 Nexpose. They can be tailored to match the particular needs of the penetration testing engagement.


Detecting vulnerabilities to illustrate the effects of these flaws in the real world is known as exploitation.

In this phase, penetration testers take advantage of the flaws and configuration errors that have already been found. They use these flaws to obtain access to restricted areas, increase their level of authority, or show the potential damage that attackers could cause. 

Instead of causing harm, the goal is to show organizations the system’s security flaws in detail and encourage them to remedy them. 

An emphasis is placed on responsible and non-destructive procedures by skilled penetration testers as they mimic attacks. 

Through exploitation, businesses can identify their security flaws and take proactive steps to strengthen their defenses, strengthening their entire cybersecurity posture.

Password Cracking

Password cracking is a crucial aspect of penetration testing, with tools like Kali Linux providing various tools for both online and offline methods. 

Two methods are dictionary attacks and brute force assaults. Dictionary attacks use every word in a dictionary or file as a password, while brute force attacks break every word combination until the password is broken. 

Rainbow table attacks use pre-computed hashes, while hybrid attacks combine dictionary and brute force attacks. 

Online password-cracking tools like Accheck, John The Ripper, Hydra, and Medusa are available through Kali Linux, which can be accessed on the cheapest laptops on the market.

Hydra uses brute force to break passwords for various authentication services, while Medusa displays results in a command-line program. The duration of the attack depends on the number of words in the dictionary or wordlist.

Social Engineering

A technique for determining a company’s susceptibility to social engineering fraud is social engineering penetration testing. 

It entails testing employees for compliance with security policies and procedures by using common scams. Companies can learn from the testing how quickly an intruder could persuade them to violate security protocols or give access to private data. 

Additionally, it aids businesses in determining the effectiveness of their security training and how they compare to their competitors in terms of security. 

Testing for social engineering techniques can be included in more thorough penetration tests that mimic the techniques employed by actual intruders. 

While phishing vulnerabilities are frequently used to evaluate employee vulnerability, physical testing entails attempting to access a secure building during busy hours. 

Employees may get emails from testers asking them to access secret information, open unexpected attachments, or go to prohibited websites. 

Additionally, they might call staff members while posing as IT specialists, giving them new passwords and telling them to update their current passwords. This can lead to various client-server errors such as a connection timeout.

Web Application Testing

To guarantee web applications are safe and current, testing must be done often. 

These tests’ goal is to identify security risks and reduce them before bad actors can take advantage of them. Thus strengthening the application’s overall security posture. 

Finding the security posture of the complete web application, including the database and back-end network, and offering measures to reinforce it are some of the advantages of web application penetration testing. 

Finding security flaws, confirming the efficacy of current security policies and controls, and assuring compliance with rules like PCI DSS and HIPAA are all common goals for penetration testing.

Wireless Network Testing

The practice of assessing the cybersecurity of a wireless network infrastructure is known as wireless network penetration testing. It’s sometimes known as wireless penetration testing or Wi-Fi penetration testing. 

A systematic and controlled attempt to exploit flaws in a wireless network’s setup, encryption methods, access rules, and device security is part of this approach. 

To find vulnerabilities in the network’s defenses, penetration testers employ a variety of tools and techniques. These mimic attacks like unauthorized access, eavesdropping, or denial of service. 

The objective is to identify any security vulnerabilities and offer suggestions for strengthening the network’s security posture. It ensures that it is robust against external attacks and unauthorized intrusions.


The post-exploitation phase of penetration testing is crucial for assessing the value of a compromised machine. 

This phase involves gaining situational awareness, maintaining trustworthiness, achieving privilege escalation, and gathering credentials for pivoting and lateral movement. 

Each new asset has the potential to present a fresh attack angle. Once control is gained, attackers must ensure system access remains possible when the primary attack vector is shut off. 

They can search for ways to escalate rights, elevated keys, certificates, and passwords, switch to a different network, or migrate laterally if the system offers a shorter path. 

However, not all engagements involve post-exploitation tactics due to engagement restrictions.