Active Reconnaissance Tools for Penetration Testing [Updated 2023]

Active Reconnaissance is a method of collecting information about the target environment by directly interacting with the target or by sending traffic to the target. This information is further used to exploit the target. This method may be identified by Intrusion Detection System (IDS) used by the target organization. Click Here if you are interested in knowing Passive Reconnaissance techniques used by Security Experts while engagements in penetration testing.

Disclaimer: Active Reconnaissance tools must use against the target IT system only after taking proper approval from the target organization. Please act judiciously and take proper approval if you are using active recon methods/tools against live targets.

This recon activity can be performed by using three major types of tools:

  1. Port Scanning Tools: Identify open ports
  2. Web Service Review Tools: Identify web-based vulnerabilities
  3. Network Vulnerability Scanning Tools: Identify infrastructure-related security issues

Here, we will discuss different tools used for active reconnaissance.

Port Scanning ToolsWeb Service Review ToolsNetwork Vulnerability Scanning Tools
HCL AppScanAmass

Port Scanning Tools

Port scanning is a method of identifying open ports by connecting each port of a target system. Assume the port scanner tool identifies open port 22, which is related to secure shell ssh. An attacker might try SSH-related attacks on the target system. This is like an open window in a host where a thief may try to enter by using that open window. Below are some tools that you may use for identifying open ports.

  • Nmap: Popular and free port scanner, limited vulnerability scanner by using existing Nmap scripts (/usr/share/nmap/scripts) available in the Nmap database. Refer to Nmap Cheatsheet to understand different commands.
  • udp-proto-scanner: Discovers UDP services such as DNS, TFTP, NTP, NBT, SunRPC, MS SQL, DB2, SNMPv3
  • Masscan: Fastest port scanner and claims to scan the internet within 6 minutes by transmitting 10 million packets per second, from a single machine.
  • Angry IP Scanner - Another port scanner tool. It is absolutely free to use and you need to just provide a range of IP addresses.

Web Service Review Tools

  • Nikto - Quick and terminal-based web vulnerability scanner which gives basic security issues. Click Here Nikto tutorial for usage of the tool.
  • Netsparker - Commercial web application security scanning tool used by security auditing agencies.
  • SQLMap - It is an open-source penetration tool that helps in detecting and exploit SQL injection issues.
  • Burpsuite - The most popular tool among the people in the security community.
  • HCL AppScan: Commercial application security scanning tool
  • wpscan: Opensource tool used to scan vulnerabilities of WordPress websites. Click Here for a brief tutorial on the Security Audit of WordPress Applications.
  • EyeWitness: This tool collects a snapshot of web pages automatically to RDP services, and opens VNC servers.
  • WebInspect: Expensive commercial web application vulnerability scanning tool.
  • Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP) - Open source web vulnerability scanner developed by OWASP. Click Here If you want to download OWASP ZAP and use it in your project.

Network Vulnerability Scanning Tools

  • OpenVAS - opensource tool, network vulnerability scanner. It supports both authenticated and unauthenticated vulnerability scanning.
  • Nessus - The most popular and widely used network vulnerability scanner. Click Here If you want to know the differences between OpenVAS and Nessus tools.
  • Nexpose - This commercial tool was developed by Rapid7 and used as Vulnerability management software in big enterprises.
  • Qualys - Deployed at data centers for vulnerability management, detection, and response.
  • Amass - Open Source tool by OWASP


All the tools discussed in this article are very effective and used by security professionals in security testing. Open-source tools are free to use but may give less information, and less coverage, and the report format is also not very good. Commercial tools are generally used for more coverage and systematic report format. But both types of tools complement each other and make the IT system more secure.

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Disclaimer: This tutorial is for educational purpose only. Individual is solely responsible for any illegal act.

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