Top 100 Network Security Tools
After the tremendously successful 2000 and 2003
security tools surveys, Insecure.Org is delighted to
release this 2006 survey. I (Fyodor) asked users
from the nmap-hackers
mailing list to share their favorite tools, and 3,243 people
responded. This allowed me to expand the list to 100 tools, and even
subdivide them into categories. Anyone in the security field
would be well advised to go over the list and investigate tools they
are unfamiliar with. I discovered several powerful new tools this
way. I also point newbies to this site whenever they write
me saying “I don't know where to start”.
Respondents were allowed to list open source or commercial tools on
any platform. Commercial tools are noted as such in the list below.
No votes for the Nmap Security
Scanner were counted because the survey was taken on a Nmap
mailing list. This audience also biases the list slightly
toward “attack” hacking tools rather than defensive ones.
Each tool is described by one ore more attributes:
|Did not appear on the 2003 list|
|/||Popularity ranking rose / fell the given number since the 2003 survey|
|Generally costs money. A free limited/demo/trial version may be available.|
|Works natively on Linux|
|Works natively on OpenBSD, FreeBSD, Solaris, and/or other UNIX variants|
|Works natively on Apple Mac OS X|
|Works natively on Microsoft Windows|
|Features a command-line interface|
|Offers a GUI (point and click) interface|
|Source code available for inspection.|
Please send updates and suggestions (or better tool logos) to Fyodor. If your tool is featured or you think your site visitors might enjoy this list, you are welcome to use our link banners.
Here is the list, starting with the most popular:
Snort : Everyone's favorite open source IDS|
This lightweight network intrusion detection and prevention system excels at traffic analysis and packet logging on IP networks. Through protocol analysis, content searching, and various pre-processors, Snort detects thousands of worms, vulnerability exploit attempts, port scans, and other suspicious behavior. Snort uses a flexible rule-based language to describe traffic that it should collect or pass, and a modular detection engine. Also check out the free Basic Analysis and Security Engine (BASE), a web interface for analyzing Snort alerts.
Open source Snort works fine for many individuals, small businesses, and departments. Parent company SourceFire offers a complimentary product line with more enterprise-level features and real-time rule updates. They offer a free (with registration) 5-day-delayed rules feed, and you can also find many great free rules at Bleeding Edge Snort.
See all intrusion detection systems
Netcat : The network Swiss army knife|
This simple utility reads and writes data across TCP or UDP network connections. It is designed to be a reliable back-end tool that can be used directly or easily driven by other programs and scripts. At the same time, it is a feature-rich network debugging and exploration tool, since it can create almost any kind of connection you would need, including port binding to accept incoming connections. The original Netcat was released by Hobbit in 1995, but it hasn't been maintained despite its immense popularity. It can sometimes even be hard to find nc110.tgz. The flexibility and usefulness of this tool have prompted people to write numerous other Netcat implementations - often with modern features not found in the original. One of the most interesting is Socat, which extends Netcat to support many other socket types, SSL encryption, SOCKS proxies, and more. It even made this list on its own merits. There is also Chris Gibson's Ncat, which offers even more features while remaining portable and compact. Other takes on Netcat include OpenBSD's nc, Cryptcat, Netcat6, PNetcat, SBD, and so-called GNU Netcat.
See all Netcats
Metasploit Framework : Hack the Planet|
Metasploit took the security world by storm when it was released in 2004. No other new tool even broke into the top 15 of this list, yet Metasploit comes in at #5, ahead of many well-loved tools that have been developed for more than a decade. It is an advanced open-source platform for developing, testing, and using exploit code. The extensible model through which payloads, encoders, no-op generators, and exploits can be integrated has made it possible to use the Metasploit Framework as an outlet for cutting-edge exploitation research. It ships with hundreds of exploits, as you can see in their online exploit building demo. This makes writing your own exploits easier, and it certainly beats scouring the darkest corners of the Internet for illicit shellcode of dubious quality. Similar professional exploitation tools, such as Core Impact and Canvas already existed for wealthy users on all sides of the ethical spectrum. Metasploit simply brought this capability to the masses.
See all vulnerability exploitation tools
Kismet : A powerful wireless sniffer|
Kismet is an console (ncurses) based 802.11 layer2 wireless network detector, sniffer, and intrusion detection system. It identifies networks by passively sniffing (as opposed to more active tools such as NetStumbler), and can even decloak hidden (non-beaconing) networks if they are in use. It can automatically detect network IP blocks by sniffing TCP, UDP, ARP, and DHCP packets, log traffic in Wireshark/TCPDump compatible format, and even plot detected networks and estimated ranges on downloaded maps. As you might expect, this tool is commonly used for wardriving. Oh, and also warwalking, warflying, and warskating, ...
See all wireless tools, and packet sniffers
John the Ripper : A powerful, flexible, and fast multi-platform password hash cracker|
John the Ripper is a fast password cracker, currently available for many flavors of Unix (11 are officially supported, not counting different architectures), DOS, Win32, BeOS, and OpenVMS. Its primary purpose is to detect weak Unix passwords. It supports several crypt(3) password hash types which are most commonly found on various Unix flavors, as well as Kerberos AFS and Windows NT/2000/XP LM hashes. Several other hash types are added with contributed patches. You will want to start with some wordlists, which you can find here, here, or here.
See all password crackers
Ping/telnet/dig/traceroute/whois/netstat : The basics|
While there are many whiz-bang high-tech tools out there to assist in security auditing, don't forget about the basics! Everyone should be very familiar with these tools as they come with most operating systems (except that Windows omits whois and uses the name tracert). They can be very handy in a pinch, although for more advanced usage you may be better off with Hping2 and Netcat.
OpenSSH / PuTTY / SSH : A secure way to access remote computers|
SSH (Secure Shell) is the now ubiquitous program for logging into or executing commands on a remote machine. It provides secure encrypted communications between two untrusted hosts over an insecure network, replacing the hideously insecure telnet/rlogin/rsh alternatives. Most UNIX users run the open source OpenSSH server and client. Windows users often prefer the free PuTTY client, which is also available for many mobile devices. Other Windows users prefer the nice terminal-based port of OpenSSH that comes with Cygwin. Dozens of other free and proprietary clients exist. You can explore them here or here.
Dsniff : A suite of powerful network auditing and penetration-testing tools|
This popular and well-engineered suite by Dug Song includes many tools. dsniff, filesnarf, mailsnarf, msgsnarf, urlsnarf, and webspy passively monitor a network for interesting data (passwords, e-mail, files, etc.). arpspoof, dnsspoof, and macof facilitate the interception of network traffic normally unavailable to an attacker (e.g, due to layer-2 switching). sshmitm and webmitm implement active monkey-in-the-middle attacks against redirected ssh and https sessions by exploiting weak bindings in ad-hoc PKI. A separately maintained partial Windows port is available here. Overall, this is a great toolset. It handles pretty much all of your password sniffing needs.
See all packet sniffers
GFI LANguard : A commercial network security scanner for Windows|
GFI LANguard scans IP networks to detect what machines are running. Then it tries to discern the host OS and what applications are running. I also tries to collect Windows machine's service pack level, missing security patches, wireless access points, USB devices, open shares, open ports, services/applications active on the computer, key registry entries, weak passwords, users and groups, and more. Scan results are saved to an HTML report, which can be customized/queried. It also includes a patch manager which detects and installs missing patches. A free trial version is available, though it only works for up to 30 days.
See all vulnerability scanners
Netfilter : The current Linux kernel packet filter/firewall|
Netfilter is a powerful packet filter implemented in the standard Linux kernel. The userspace iptables tool is used for configuration. It now supports packet filtering (stateless or stateful), all kinds of network address and port translation (NAT/NAPT), and multiple API layers for 3rd party extensions. It includes many different modules for handling unruly protocols such as FTP. For other UNIX platforms, see Openbsd PF (OpenBSD specific), or IP Filter. Many personal firewalls are available for Windows (Tiny,Zone Alarm, Norton, Kerio, ...), though none made this list. Microsoft included a very basic firewall in Windows XP SP2, and will nag you incessantly until you install it.
See all firewalls