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Ten Essential Network Security Tools

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A cursory glance at Verizon’s 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report illustrates just how vulnerable we are as an interlinked, online society in which no industry or organisational body is untouchable.

Even with cutting edge technologies, methods and knowledge, the report demonstrates how the evolution of cyber security will never escape the long shadow of the hackers.

Breaches impact entire organisations, putting companies, governments and the public at risk, so it is essential that senior executives appreciate the threat, and with that, some of the best solutions available to combat that threat, which are listed below.

1) Wireshark

A well-known protocol analyser, Wireshark is a popular choice for good reason as it offers insight into the goings on in your network at forensic level.

This multi-platform wizard tracks network communications which can then be navigated easily thanks to a slick GUI with great display filters. This cyber-wizard goes to the bottom of your systems machinations to furnish your network protocol knowledge with extra insight so that you can maximise protection of the traffic flowing through your network.

2) Rapid7 Small Business

The adage ‘fight fire with fire’ applies neatly to a key tactic in shoring up online security. To anticipate cyber-criminals’ moves, we need to think as they do by understanding their motives and means.

Taking this method to its logical conclusion, the use of hackers’ tools, such as Metasploit, to action penetration testing has now become a popular defence mechanism. Although no longer free of charge, Rapid7 offers a small business solution which can mock up cyber-attacks to identify weaknesses in operating systems.

3) Rapid7 Nexpose Community Edition

A handy vulnerability scanner, Rapid7 Nexpose Community Edition is available free of charge. It provides individual users with further contextualised perspectives on simulated attacks to further galvanise understanding of system weak points.

4) Nmap

A hacker favourite, Nmap is a free network scanner which allows users to plot out whole network maps in order to see what the network is linking up to. This makes Nmap an incredibly useful tool to incorporate into the foundations of security systems. It searches for hosts and open ports, and can uncover software and hardware versions that are being employed.

5) Kali Linux

An attack strategy is often the best form of defence, a tenet embodied in the workings of Kali Linux – an arrow in the quiver of offensive approaches to cyber security.

Freely available, this open source platform offers a complete package in penetration testing, leveraging over 300 programmes designed to conduct security auditing with a Linux operating system. Its structure allows IT staff and computer-savvy to put risk avoidance plans against a real test.

6) Zenmap

Zenmap offers accurate and highly detailed discovery, bolstered with a fantastic GUI. Formulated and produced with beginners in mind, this official Nmap GUI is easy to use but still has enough muscle to satisfy more experienced users.

The technology can be used to save your scans as profiles, which simplifies the scanning routine process. A searchable database of scan results means comparison and cross-analysis can be executed easily and swiftly.

7) Aircrack-ng

Another product which truly earns its place on the list, Aircrack-ng offers a range of open-source kit that can locate, capture and decipher WiFi WEP and WPA-PSK keys. This is achieved by activating the same type of standard FMS attack, alongside some optimised attack simulations, which cyber criminals may well use against your network.

When enough information has been garnered, the keys will be ‘recovered’, should your wireless networking be fallible enough regarding configuration and authentication.

8) ThreatFinder

Also free to use, ThreatFinder by AlienVault’s Open Threat Exchange (OTX) conducts an audit of your network, searching for vulnerabilities and nefarious communications.

The technology aligns information gleaned from your network log files with threat data from OTX, and lets you know if it locks in on any mischievous host matches. Users are helped by an interactive threat map function, which offers deep-level insight into network activity.

9) Reputation Monitor Alert

Another little gem produced by AlienVault, Reputation Monitor Alert is a free tool that pipes up if your public IPs and domains show up in the Open Threat Exchange database. It also tracks DNS registration and SSL certificates, bringing a further awning of security.

10) Root the Box

Now, if cyber criminals have one trait in common, it’s their tenacity. Every angle and way in gets considered by would-be hackers, a truth reflected in the off-the-wall nature of Root the Box, which is a game.

An effective skills tutor, this Capture the Flag programme enables users to step into the mind of a hacker, to infiltrate password hashes and teaches how to shore up defences against them. Within gameplay, teams monitor and target systems on the attack network. Each time a box is successfully owned, its point value falls, and the objective is to accrue the most points by being the first team to get “root”.

Gamification has really taken off in the last few years, with this being one of the most effective and original exponents of learning through play in the world of online security.


It is essential to have the means to combat cyber-crime, but ticking boxes can cause complacency in a domain in which reaction time is everything. Nefarious parties anticipate capture, so it often boils down to how long organisations take to detect a threat. This is the critical window and it can never be fully sealed. Executives need to be fighting the battle on all fronts, at all times.




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