I have been fortunate to have had time to pursue a couple of information technology certifications recently. I have added CompTIA’s Network+ and CASP (Certified Advanced Security Professional), and I am working on the brand new CompTIA Pentest+. The certification is so new there are no text books yet, and the exam was just released on July 31. I have been taking the classes online through the CompTIA Instructor Network.
One of the challenges of learning penetration testing has always been finding a safe and legal place to practice using the tools. Penetration testing without permission can get you into trouble with law enforcement. You do not want to practice on your production network. Penetration testing is an invasive and potentially destructive activity, and pentesting on a production network, even with permission, can cause problems. Your options are: creating a practice lab on your own, or purchasing time on a commercial practice lab. Our instructor, T. Lee McWhorter, created a portable practice lab that each of us was able to set up on our own computer, using VirtualBox and GNS3. GNS3 is a virtual network simulator that allows you to create networks of almost any size, and populate it with virtual devices such as routers and switches, and various virtual PCs and servers.
Of course a couple of the VMs are running Kali Linux, one at the command line and one with a GUI. The Kali distro contains hundreds of tools a pen-tester can use. Once your practice network is set up, you can attack your VMs with wild abandon. Break a VM? It is a trivial matter to replace it with a new copy.
The secret is to find the tools you like, and specialize and become expert on those programs. Here is a list of tools that were recommended by the instructor. These are tools that you would need to know in order to pass the PentTest+ certification, and are probably good for other certs such as the CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker) or OSCP (Offensive Security Certified Professional)
Virtual machine practice environment
- VirtualBox, VMWare, Hyper-V
- Kali Linux
- Maltego – OSINT
- Netcat (NC)
Web application and database analysis
- Burp Suite
- Hydra – password cracking
- John the Ripper
- mimikatz – pass the hash
- WinDbg – debugging, reverse engineering
- SET (Social Engineer Toolkit)
Sniffing and packet analysis
- Wireshark (network sniffer)
- tcpdump (network sniffer)
- Aircrack-ng (wireless sniffing)
- Drydis CE – reporting
- MagicTree – reporting
Most of these tools are found in the Kali Linux distro, but many are also available individually to download and install on Windows and Linux systems, too. These are not the only tools available, but they may be the best or most frequently used tools.
This is not the first time I have written on this subject. I have provided links to our earlier articles below.