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In the current digital era, businesses depend more on networked systems to run their operations and hold sensitive data. As a result, protecting these networks against cyberattacks is critical. By proactively detecting flaws and configuration errors that hostile actors could exploit, network security testing, an important part of security testing service, is essential to accomplishing this objective. 

This blog article explores the topic of network security testing, outlining its fundamentals, outlining the benefits of using specialized tools, and revealing the top 11 tools that are currently on the market.

 

What is Network Security Testing? 

Network security testing, sometimes referred to as ethical hacking or penetration testing, is the methodical process of modeling cyberattacks on a network in order to find vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Security experts, often known as ethical hackers, carefully plan and carry out these mock attacks, imitating the strategies used by enemies in the real world. 

The primary objectives of network security testing services are as follows: 

  • It helps identify vulnerabilities in your systems, applications, configurations, and protocols. 

  • You can verify the efficiency of security mechanisms such as firewalls and others. 

  • It assists in quantifying risks related to vulnerabilities found, fostering well-informed decision-making. 

  • It enables businesses to comply with industry-specific security regulations, including GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS. 

 

Types of Network Security Testing Tools 

Network security testing tools are specialized software applications that automate the tasks involved in finding and exploiting potential network security flaws.  

Here's a breakdown of their types and purposes: 

  • Vulnerability Scanners: Tools like Nessus and SSLScan analyze systems, applications, and devices to detect known security weaknesses, misconfigurations, and missing patches. 

  • Penetration Testing Tools: Ethical hackers and security professionals use tools like Metasploit to conduct deeper, targeted assessments, mimicking the methods of real-world attackers. 

  • Network Monitoring Tools: Solutions like Wireshark and others monitor network traffic in real-time, detecting anomalies, suspicious activity, and potential intrusions. 

 

Benefits of Using Network Security Testing Tools 

Network security testing tools empower security professionals with a comprehensive arsenal of functionalities, streamlining the testing process and augmenting its effectiveness. Here's a glimpse into the key advantages of utilizing these tools: 

  • Preventing vulnerabilities from being exploited by attackers lessens the probability and severity of assaults. 

  • Organizations may sustain a robust security posture by regularly testing and refining their defenses. 

  • Dealing with the fallout from a successful assault is significantly more expensive than preventing a data breach or hack. 

  • By showing compliance with regulatory standards, testing tools help companies prevent penalties and reputational harm. 

  • The test findings offer useful information for allocating resources and setting expenditure priorities for security. 

 

Top 11 Network Security Testing Tools 

Much like Website Security Testing tools, the landscape of network security testing tools is also brimming with many options, each catering to specific requirements and budgets. Here's a curated list of the top 11 tools that are widely recognized for their effectiveness and user-friendliness: 

 

1.  Nmap (Network Mapper) 

 

 

Nmap is a versatile and powerful network scanning tool used for discovering hosts, services, and vulnerabilities on computer networks. 

Features: 

  • Identifies active hosts on a network 

  • Probes hosts for open TCP and UDP ports 

  • Determines the operating system and its version 

  • Advanced techniques to sneak probes past firewalls & Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) 

  • Powerful framework for extending Nmap functionality 

Pros: 

  • The tool's source code can be customized and audited at no additional cost. 

  • It supports numerous advanced scanning techniques through command-line arguments & NSE scripts. 

  • This tool runs on major operating systems like Linux, Windows, and macOS. 

  • It has a large community of users and developers who contribute to resources, support, & script development. 

Cons: 

  • The tool's command-line interface can be a steep learning curve for beginners. 

  • It can be used for malicious activities by attackers to identify vulnerable systems. 

  • This tool's advanced scans might be detected and blocked by security systems. 

 

2.  Metasploit Framework 

 

Metasploit Framework is a leading penetration testing platform that provides a comprehensive suite of tools and modules for exploiting security vulnerabilities in networked systems. 

Features

  • Support for scripting and automation of tasks 

  • Regular updates with new exploits and features 

  • A vast collection of pre-written exploits targeting known vulnerabilities 

  • Built with modules for specific tasks 

  • Custom payload generation 

  • Shell-like interface for interacting with a compromised system 

Pros: 

  • It offers an extensive range of exploits, payloads, and tools for diverse tasks. 

  • This tool supports various stages of penetration testing, from vulnerability discovery to post-exploitation. 

  • It has active development, updating itself with new exploits and features. 

  • It is widely adopted among security professionals, promoting resource availability and knowledge sharing. 

Cons: 

  • It primarily focuses on publicly known vulnerabilities, not zero-day discoveries. 

  • This tool's success relies on the presence of exploitable flaws. 

  • It can be resource-intensive as certain modules or tasks may impact system performance. 

 

3.  Wireshark 

Wireshark is a popular network protocol analyzer that allows security professionals to capture and analyze network traffic in real-time.  

Features: 

  • Ability to intercept network packets in real-time 

  • Inspects hundreds of protocols at various layers 

  • Powerful display filters to narrow packet analysis to specific criteria 

  • Export captured data in various formats for use in other tools 

Pros: 

  • The tool is open-source, free to use, and available on Windows, macOS, Linux, and more. 

  • It understands a vast array of network protocols, making it incredibly versatile. 

  • It provides in-depth analysis by giving granular insights into network communications. 

  • This tool is highly customizable, and its custom configurations offer a tailored experience. 

Cons: 

  • It can be overwhelming for beginners due to the wealth of information it provides. 

  • It doesn't provide high-level summaries or actionable insights off the shelf. 

  • This tool is unable to directly block or modify traffic for preventative purposes. 

 

4. Hydra

 

 

Hydra is a powerful password-cracking tool used for performing brute-force attacks against network services such as SSH, FTP, Telnet, and HTTP. 

Features: 

  • Multiple Protocol Support, including FTP and HTTP/HTTPS 

  • Utilizes wordlists for dictionary attacks 

  • Increases speed by trying multiple login attempts simultaneously 

  • Highly customizable & flexible 

Pros: 

  • This tool is optimized for speed with its parallel execution model. 

  • It targets a wide array of services commonly used in networks. 

  • With flexible configuration, it allows for tailoring attacks to specific scenarios. 

  • The tool is freely available and customizable. 

Cons: 

  • It exposes weak passwords but doesn't discover unknown security flaws itself. 

  • It can be used with malicious intent for unauthorized access. 

  • Brute-force attacks can trigger alerts on intrusion detection systems. 

 

5.  Nessus - Vulnerability Scanner 

 

 

Nessus is a powerful vulnerability scanner that identifies security weaknesses in networks, web applications, and virtual environments. 

Features: 

  • Scans networks, operating systems, databases, and more 

  • Extensive Plugin Library 

  • Compliance auditing templates for different standards 

  • Flexible & customizable reporting options 

  • Integrates with other security solutions 

Pros: 

  • Nessus is highly respected for its precise vulnerability detection with a low false-positive rate. 

  • It provides a wide array of plugins, allowing you to scan a multitude of systems and applications. 

  • This tool's scans, reports, and policies can be tailored to precisely match your requirements. 

  • Nessus's web-based interface is considered straightforward compared to other vulnerability scanners. 

Cons: 

  • The Nessus Professional can be expensive, particularly for larger organizations. 

  • Despite its relative ease of use, Nessus requires a dedicated security analyst. 

  • The tool's scans can, at times, be resource-heavy on systems. 

  • While the rate is low, false positives can still occur, requiring manual verification in some cases. 

 

6.  SSLScan - SSL/TLS Vulnerability Scanner 

 

 

SSLScan is a versatile command-line tool designed to identify SSL/TLS vulnerabilities on network services.  

Features: 

  • Scans for SSLv2, SSLv3, TLS 1.0, TLS 1.1, and TLS 1.2 

  • Cipher suite testing to identify supported cipher suites 

  • Detects common SSL/TLS vulnerabilities 

  • Provides SSL/TLS certificate analysis 

  • Generates reports in text and XML formats 

Pros: 

  • It is designed for speed and can scan servers rapidly. 

  • The tool is lightweight with low resource usage. 

  • It can be compiled on various systems, including Linux, macOS, and Windows. 

Cons: 

  • It might be less intuitive for those unfamiliar with the command line. 

  • It requires some expertise to understand and act upon the results effectively. 

  • It can fall behind the latest cipher suites and vulnerabilities if not actively maintained. 

 

7.  SPARTA - Network Penetration Testing Tool 

 

 

SPARTA is a Python-based network penetration testing tool designed to simplify and streamline the security assessment process of a software’s security testing service. 

Features: 

  • Provides a user-friendly graphical interface 

  • Collects detailed information about discovered hosts and services 

  • Automates brute-force attacks against common services 

  • Vulnerability assessment to help pinpoint known security flaws 

  • Capture screenshots of web services for visual analysis 

Pros: 

  • It presents scanning and enumeration results in a human-readable format. 

  • It encourages learning and experimentation with security concepts. 

  • The GUI makes it more approachable for beginners or those who prefer a visual interface. 

  • It automates many routine tasks, allowing for faster scanning and enumeration. 

Cons: 

  • It can reduce the fine-grained control that command-line tools offer experienced pen testers. 

  • It may encounter compatibility problems if underlying tools are updated. 

  • It could lead to neglection of the underlying principles of network penetration testing. 

 

8.  CrackMapExec - Post-Exploitation Framework 

 

 

CrackMapExec (CME) is a post-exploitation framework that allows security professionals to remotely execute commands on compromised hosts, perform lateral movement, and escalate privileges in Windows Active Directory environments. 

Features: 

  • Executes commands on remote systems 

  • Collects sensitive credentials (hashes, passwords) 

  • Higher-level permissions in the Active Directory environment 

  • Variety of modules for specific tasks 

  • Designed with evasion in mind 

Pros: 

  • It provides extensive features for post-exploitation activities in Active Directory environments. 

  • Regular updates & new modules maintain relevance in evolving threat landscapes. 

  • It automates the often tedious process of expanding control within a compromised network. 

  • This tool provides good documentation and a user community for support. 

Cons: 

  • While stealthy, advanced endpoint protection and monitoring can detect and flag CME's activity. 

  • It becomes highly effective after an initial system is compromised. 

  • Some modules and advanced techniques in this have a steep learning curve for newer users. 

 

9.  Responder - LLMNR/NBT-NS/MDNS Poisoner 

 

 

Responder is a powerful tool used to intercept and poison network traffic to gain unauthorized access to credentials. 

Features: 

  • Built-in rogue servers for common services 

  • Collects authentication hashes (NTLMv1, NTLMv2, etc.) 

  • Relay captured hashes to other services 

  • Configurable for targeted attacks & specific protocol exploitation 

Pros: 

  • It successfully exploits common network misconfigurations and system defaults. 

  • It helps administrators understand the risks of LLMNR, NBT-NS, and MDNS by demonstrating exploitation scenarios. 

  • It provides detailed logging of captured hashes for further analysis.  

Cons: 

  • In the wrong hands, Responder can be a potent tool for credential theft and network compromise. 

  • Due to its popularity, many network monitoring solutions flag this tool's activity. 

  • It needs to be positioned within the target network segment for successful attacks. 

 

10.  Tcpdump - Network Packet Analyzer 

 

 

Tcpdump is a widely used command-line network packet analyzer that allows users to capture and analyze network traffic in real-time. 

Features: 

  • Targets specific traffic types using complex filter expressions 

  • Parses and displays the contents of captured packets in a human-readable format 

  • Intercepts network traffic in real-time for immediate analysis 

  • Writes captured packets to files for use with other network analysis tools 

  • Displays output in various formats 

Pros: 

  • It is readily available for many operating systems, including Linux, macOS, and Windows. 

  • This tool has granular control over what traffic is captured. 

  • It provides a detailed breakdown of network packet headers and their contents. 

  • The tool offers in-depth analysis to solve network problems efficiently. 

Cons: 

  • The output can become lengthy and complex to parse manually for large captures without careful filtering. 

  • This tool can be resource-intensive on systems with heavy network traffic. 

  • It often requires elevated privileges (root or administrator) for full functionality. 

 

11. Nikto 

 

 

Nikto is an open-source (GPL) web server vulnerability scanner that thoroughly examines web servers for potential security threats. 

Features: 

  • Scans for over 6700 potentially dangerous files/programs 

  • Detects server configuration flaws 

  • Attempts to guess and find subdomains 

  • Generates reports in various formats, including plain text, HTML, XML, & CSV 

  • Handles scans on websites that use SSL (HTTPS) 

  • Full support for HTTP proxies 

Pros: 

  • With no licensing costs involved, this tool is quite cost-effective. 

  • It performs an extensive array of security checks. 

  • The tool provides regular updates to stay current with the evolving threats. 

  • It offers flexible & customizable options for targeted scans. 

Cons: 

  • It has a command-line interface, which may be less intuitive for those unfamiliar with command-line tools. 

  • This tool can generate false positives, as it reports issues that aren't actually risks in your specific environment. 

  • The tool lacks a built-in graphical user interface for visual results representation. 

 

Conclusion  

The ever-evolving landscape of cyber security threats underscores the importance of proactive network security testing. Businesses cannot afford to be exposed to attacks due to undetected vulnerabilities; maintaining a robust security posture requires constant vigilance and proactive measures.  

The powerful tools outlined in this article (such as Nmap, Wireshark, Nessus, and others) are vital to safeguarding your critical systems and data. However, choosing and mastering these tools requires dedicated expertise. That's where BugRaptors excels. 

As a leading software testing company, we provide various security testing services, including comprehensive network assessments. Our team of certified professionals leverages the best industry practices and cutting-edge tools to systematically identify weaknesses, prioritize risks based on your business context, and design proactive mitigation strategies. 

With BugRaptors as your security testing solution partner, you'll gain the peace of mind that comes from proactive network protection. We help you stay ahead of cybercriminals, securing your organization's reputation and bottom line. 

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Tushar Kashyap

Tushar Kashyap, Security Testing Manager at BugRaptors, brings over 14 years of extensive experience in Security testing. Holding Multiple security certifications, Tushar has a diverse testing background, having contributed to projects across various domains. His experience spans both outsourced and insourced projects, showcasing his versatility in adapting testing methodologies to different environments. His leadership ensures the seamless implementation of robust security measures, contributing significantly to the success and integrity of projects across different domains and project structures.

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BugRaptors is one of the best software testing companies headquartered in India and the US, which is committed to catering to the diverse QA needs of any business. We are one of the fastest-growing QA companies; striving to deliver technology-oriented QA services, worldwide. BugRaptors is a team of 200+ ISTQB-certified testers, along with ISO 9001:2018 and ISO 27001 certifications.

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