We list and describe the top cybersecurity tools that every cybersecurity professional needs to understand. Many companies consider cybersecurity as one of the top priorities. Increased dependence on technology to drive critical business operations has led to a proliferation of cybercrime. Successful attacks result in devastating consequences to the victim, including damaged reputation, financial loss, and compromised business and customer data, among others. Besides, cyber-attacks lead to expensive litigations where regulations such as GDPR may impose hefty fines amounting to millions of dollars. As such, every organization requires to implement the best controls to achieve optimum security.
However, realizing systems that are 100% secure is next to impossible due to the broad scope of cybersecurity. Cybersecurity entails securing networks from unauthorized access and attacks, protecting systems from attacks executed through endpoints, encrypting network communications, etc. Therefore, monitoring the IT environment to uncover vulnerabilities and address them before cyber actors exploit them is one of the best ways to achieve optimum security. To this end, organizations should be conversant with the different cybersecurity tools and their respective categories. Described below is our list of cybersecurity tools.
Penetration testing tools
Kali Linux is one of the most common cybersecurity tools. It is an operating system containing at least 300 different tools for security auditing. Kali Linux provides various tools that organizations use to scan their networks and IT systems for vulnerabilities. The main benefit of Kali Linux is that it can be used by users with different levels of cybersecurity knowledge. As such, it does not require an advanced cybersecurity specialist to be competent. Most of the tools available in the operating system are executable, meaning that users can monitor and manage the security of their network systems with a single click. Kali Linux is readily available for use.
Metasploit consists of an excellent collection containing different tools for carrying out penetration testing exercises. IT experts and cybersecurity professionals use Metasploit to accomplish varying security objectives. These include identifying vulnerabilities in networks or systems, formulating strategies for strengthening cybersecurity defense, and managing the completed security evaluations.
Metasploit can test the security of different systems, including online-based or web-based applications, networks, and servers, among others. Metasploit identifies all new security vulnerabilities as they emerge, thus ensuring round-the-clock security. Also, security professionals often use the tool to evaluate IT infrastructure security against vulnerabilities reported earlier.
Password auditing and packet sniffers cybersecurity tools
Cain and Abel
Cain and Abel is one of the earliest cybersecurity tools used to uncover vulnerabilities in Windows Operating systems. Cain and Abel enable security professionals to discover weaknesses in the password security of systems running on the Windows operating system. It is a free cybersecurity tool used for password recovery. It has many functionalities, which include the ability to record VoIP communications. Also, Cain and Abel can analyze routing protocols to determine whether routed data packets can be compromised.
Additionally, Cain and Abel reveal cached passwords, password boxes and uses brute force attacks to crack encrypted passwords. Moreover, the tool decodes scrambled passwords and is highly effective in cryptoanalysis. Companies should consider using Cain and Abel as a starting point for all packet sniffing processes.
Wireshark, formerly known as Ethereal, is a console-based cybersecurity tool. Wireshark is an excellent tool for analyzing network protocols and is hence used for analyzing network security in real time. Wireshark analyzes network protocols and sniffs the network in real-time to assess the presence of vulnerabilities. Wireshark is a useful tool for scrutinizing all details related to network traffic at different levels, ranging from the connection level to all pieces of data packets. Security professionals use Wireshark to capture data packets and investigate the characteristics which individual data packets exhibit. The obtained information permits easy identification of weaknesses in the network’s security.
John the Ripper
John the Ripper is a vital cybersecurity tool used for testing password strength. The tool is designed to quickly identify weak passwords which might pose security threats to a protected system. John the Ripper was initially intended for use in Unix environments. However, it currently works with other types of systems, including Windows, DOS, and OpenVMS systems. The tool looks for encrypted logins, complex ciphers, and hash-type passwords. Due to the evolution of password technologies, the Open ware community develops and releases continuous updates to ensure the tool provides accurate pen-testing results. It is, therefore, an appropriate cybersecurity tool for enhancing password security.
Tcpdump is a handy tool for sniffing data packets in a network. Cybersecurity professionals use it to monitor and log TCP and IP traffic communicated through a network. Tcpdump is a command-based software utility that analyzes network traffic between the computer it is executed in and the network the traffic passes through. More specifically, Tcpdump tests the security of a network by capturing or filtering TCP/IP data traffic transferred through or received over the network on a particular interface. Depending on the command used, Tcpdump describes the packet contents of network traffic using different formats.
Cybersecurity tools for network defense
Netstumbler is a free cybersecurity tool designed for systems running on Windows operating systems. The tool allows security experts to identify open ports on a network. It is also used for wardriving purposes. Netstumbler was developed for Windows systems only; hence there is no provision of source codes. The tool utilizes a WAP-seeking approach when searching for open ports, causing it to be among the most popular tools for network defense. It is also popular because of its ability to identify network vulnerabilities that may not be present in other types of security tools.
Aircrack-ng contains a comprehensive set of utilities used to analyze the weaknesses of Wi-Fi network security. Cybersecurity professionals use it to capture data packets communicated through a network for continuous monitoring. Also, Aircrack-ng provides functionalities for exporting captured data packets to text files to be subjected to more security assessments. Besides, it permits capture and injection, which is essential in assessing the performance of network cards. More importantly, Aircrack-ng tests the reliability of WPA-PSK and WEP keys by cracking them to establish whether they possess the necessary strength. It is an all-rounded cybersecurity tool suitable for enhancing and improving network security.
KisMAC cybersecurity tool is designed for wireless network security in the MAC OS X operating system. It contains a wide array of features geared toward experienced cybersecurity professionals. Hence, it might not be friendly for newbies compared to other tools used for similar purposes. KisMAC passively scans wireless networks on supported Wi-Fi cards, including Apple’s AirPort Extreme, AirPort, including other third-party cards. KisMAC uses different techniques, such as brute force attacks and exploiting flaws like the wrong generation of security keys and weak scheduling, to crack the security of WPA and WEP keys. Successful cracking means the keys are not secure, and the network is thus vulnerable to attacks.
Tools for scanning web vulnerabilities
Nmap, commonly known as network mapper, is an open-source and free cybersecurity tool that scans networks and IT systems to identify existing security vulnerabilities. It is also used to conduct other vital activities, such as mapping out potential attack surfaces on a network and monitoring service or host uptime. Nmap provides many benefits as it runs on most of the widely used operating systems and can scan for web vulnerabilities in large or small networks. The Nmap utility provides security professionals with an overview of all network characteristics. The characteristics include the hosts connected to the networks, the types of firewalls or packet filters deployed to secure a network, and the running operating system.
Nikto is one of the best cybersecurity tools for conducting web vulnerabilities. It is an open-source tool that cybersecurity experts use to scan web vulnerabilities and manage them. Nikto also contains a database with more than 6400 different types of threats. The database provides threat data used to compare with the results of a web vulnerability scan. The scans usually cover web servers as well as networks. Developers frequently update the database with new threat data such that new vulnerabilities can easily be identified. Also, numerous plugins are developed and released continuously to ensure the tool is compatible with different types of systems.
Nexpose is a convenient cybersecurity tool that provides security professionals with real-time functionalities for scanning and managing vulnerabilities in on-premise infrastructure. Security teams use it to detect vulnerabilities and identify and minimize potential weak points in a system. Also, Nexus presents security teams with live views of all activities happening in a network.
Besides, to ensure the tool contains the most recent threat data, Nexus continually refreshes its database such that it adapts to different types of threat environments in data or software. The tool further allows security professionals to assign a risk score to the identified vulnerabilities such that they are prioritized according to levels of severity. It is a useful feature that helps a coordinated response to multiple vulnerabilities.
Paros Proxy is a security tool based on Java. The tool consists of a collection of handy tools to conduct security tests to uncover web vulnerabilities. Some of the tools contained in the Paros Proxy utility include vulnerability scanners, a web spider, and a traffic recorder for retaining network activities in real time. Paros Proxy is helpful in identifying intrusion openings in a network. Also, the tool detects common cybersecurity threats such as cross-site scripting and SQL injection attacks. Paros Proxy is advantageous as it is easy to edit using HTTP/HTTPS or rudimentary Java. It is an excellent tool for identifying vulnerabilities in a network before cyber adversaries can exploit them, causing security breaches.
Burp Suite is a robust cybersecurity tool used to enhance the security of a network. Security teams use the tool to conduct real-time scans on systems focused on detecting critical weaknesses. Also, Burp Suite simulates attacks to determine the different methods cybersecurity threats can compromise network security. There are three versions of Burp Suite; Enterprise, Community, and Professional. Enterprise and Professional are commercial versions meaning they are not free. The community version is a free edition, but most of the features are restricted. It only provides the manual tools deemed to be essential. Burp Suite is an appropriate security tool for businesses but can be a bit costly for small businesses.
Nessus Professional is useful cybersecurity software for improving the integrity of a network. It is also used in rectifying mistakes such as the incorrect configuration of the security settings and applying wrong security patches, among others. The tool further detects vulnerabilities and manages them appropriately. These may include software bugs, incomplete or missing patches, and general security misconfigurations in operating systems, software applications, and IT devices.
The pro version of Nessus Professional allows admins and security staff to use a free open-source vulnerability scanner to identify potential exploits. The main benefit of the tool is its database is updated daily with new threat data. As a result, it contains updated information on current vulnerabilities. Besides, users using the tool can access a wide range of security plugins or develop unique plugins for scanning individual networks and computers.
Encryption cybersecurity tools
Despite TrueCrypt going for several years without being updated, it is still considered one of the most popular encryption tools. It is designed for on-the-fly encryption. The tool can encrypt an entire storage device, a partition of the storage medium, or create virtual encrypted disks in a file. Also, being a system for encrypting disks, TrueCrypt permits security professionals to encrypt layered content using two different access control types. This is one reason why TrueCrypt remains a popular tool for encryption even after its developers ceased providing it with the necessary updates.
Cybersecurity experts mostly use KeePass for identity management purposes. It is highly applicable to different types of office settings. It enables system users to use a single password to access all the accounts they use for work reasons. KeyPass has the edge over other types of identity management tools since it combines security with convenience. For example, the tool allows system users to create unique passwords which they can use to secure different accounts.
When accessing an account, KeyPass auto-fills the password for that account once the master password has been provided. Since most system or network breaches are caused by erroneous password management, KeePass eliminates this possibility. Security professionals use KeePass to manage security risks caused by human elements.
Tor is a highly efficient tool for providing users with privacy when connected to the internet. This is by routing the requests users make to different proxy servers such that it is hard to trace their presence on the internet. Although there exist malicious exit nodes that can be used to sniff internet traffic, carefully using Tor ensures that a user is undetectable. Tor is, however, more applied in ensuring information security compared to preventing cybersecurity incidents.
Tools for monitoring network security
Splunk is a versatile and quick tool for monitoring the security of a network. It is used for historical searches for threat data and for conducting network analysis in real time. Splunk is a user-friendly cybersecurity tool equipped with a strong function for conducting searches and also contains a unified user interface. Also, security professionals use Splunk to capture, index, and collate data in searchable repositories and generate reports, alerts, graphs, visualizations, and dashboards in real-time.
This is a cybersecurity tool widely used to monitor networks irrespective of the developers having not released updates for a long time. The tool is efficient and streamlined and does not generate additional data traffic during network monitoring. Cybersecurity experts use POf to detect the operating systems of hosts connected to a network. Besides, POf is used to create name lookups, probes, and assorted queries, among other functionalities. It is fast and lightweight, making it to be among the most widely used network monitoring tools. It is useful for advanced security experts, whereas rookies can experience difficulties learning and using it.
Argus is an open-source cybersecurity tool and among the most widely used for analyzing network traffics. Argus is an acronym for Audit Record Generation and Utilization System. It is designed for conducting an in-depth analysis of the data communicated over a network. It has powerful capabilities for sifting through massive amounts of traffic and provides comprehensive and quick reporting.
Nagios provides security experts with the ability to monitor networks and connected hosts and systems in real time. The tool outputs an alert to users once it identifies security problems in a network. However, users can opt for the notification alerts they want to receive. Nagios can monitor network services such as SMTP, NNTP, ICMP, POP3, HTTP, and many others.
OSSEC is an open-source cybersecurity tool for detecting intrusions in a network. It is capable of providing real-time analytics to users regarding the security events of a system. Users can configure it to continually monitor all possible points that might be a source of unauthorized access or entry. These include files, processes, logs, rootkits, and registries. OSSEC is highly beneficial since it can be used on multiple platforms. Examples of such platforms are Windows, Linux, Mac, VMWare ESX, BSD, among others.
Cybersecurity tools for detecting network intrusions
The application is an open-source network intrusion detection and prevention system tool. It is used to analyze network traffic to identify instances of attempted intrusions. The embedded intrusion and detection tools capture network traffic and analyze it by comparing it to a database containing previously recorded attack profiles. The intrusion detection tools provide security professionals with alerts regarding potential instances of intrusions; the intrusion prevention tools prevent intrusions by blocking identified malicious traffic.
Snort is highly beneficial as it is compatible with all types of operating systems and hardware. Additional functionalities of snort include performing protocol analysis, searching and matching data captured from network traffic, and identifying frequent attacks unique to networks. These include CGI attacks, buffer overflow attacks, stealth port scanner attacks, fingerprinting attacks, and many others.
More often than not, organizations fear that cybercriminals may directly execute attacks through social engineering attacks, internal threats, or through the implemented firewalls. However, organizations may not consider focusing on security operations on web-based apps such as login pages, online forms, and shopping carts. As such, Acunetix is designed to enable businesses to define defenses for securing against thousands of security threats unique to the sites and applications. Acunetix frequently crawls throughout a system architecture performing convectional attacks to test the effectiveness of the responses of applied security defenses.
Network and security admins use Forcepoint to customize SD-Wan so users are restricted from accessing specific resource contents. The customizations are also used to block attempted exploits or intrusions. By using Forcepoint, network admins can quickly detect suspicious activities in a network, allowing them to implement appropriate actions. This is advantageous compared to other tools, which first track down a problem for the correct measure to be applied. Forcepoint is primarily designed for cloud users, and it includes practical functionalities such as blocking or warning about cloud servers with potential security risks. In other applications, Forcepoint provides extra security and higher levels of access to areas containing critical information or data.
GFI LanGuard is a cybersecurity tool used to monitor networks continuously, scan for vulnerabilities, and apply patches where possible. The tool is among the few cybersecurity networks that demonstrate an organization’s commitment to security compliance when applied in network security. Also, the tool provides network and software auditing to identify vulnerabilities in mobile devices and desktop computers connected to a network. The tool is popular among users using Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems since it creates patches automatically.