What Are the Different Types of Ethical Hacking Software?

G. Wiesen

There are quite a few different types of ethical hacking software available, though many of them fall into one of several categories. Network scanning and mapping programs are often used to evaluate and map out a network, allowing the user to find weaknesses and areas in which an attack may be launched. There are also a number of programs that can then be used to launch an attack on a network or a system, which do not actually damage the system but simply give someone access through the attack. Password recovery or cracking tools are also a popular form of ethical hacking software, which allow someone to find passwords through various methods.

Ethical hacking software may be used to expose system weaknesses without doing any actual damage.
Ethical hacking software may be used to expose system weaknesses without doing any actual damage.

Ethical hacking software typically refers to programs used for hacking, but which do not cause malicious or adverse effects on their own. These programs are typically used by “white hat” hackers employed by a company to look for weaknesses in their systems. One of the most popular and important types of white hat hacking software is a program used to scan and map a network. This type of program can be used to map out a variety of network connections, allowing the hacker to then find weaknesses or points within the network that he or she can attack.

Password recovery software is a common type of ethical hacking software.
Password recovery software is a common type of ethical hacking software.

Once this type of weakness is found, then a white hat hacker can use ethical hacking software to launch an attack on the system. These programs are not designed to cause any real or long-term damage, but simply demonstrate how weaknesses could be exploited. A program could be used to flood a system with bulk email, though the email sent would not contain viruses or any malicious code. These types of software allow a hacker to fully simulate how an attack on a system might occur, without damaging data or compromising information on that system.

One of the most common and popular types of ethical hacking software is a program that can be used to recover or find passwords on a system. This can include a program that uses a database of words to launch an attack on a system, using different combinations to try to find a functional password. Other tools can be used to look for existing records of passwords on a system, in order to utilize them for future attacks. This allows someone to demonstrate to a system owner how passwords should be made more complex or better encrypted.

Some hacking software enables password recoveries.
Some hacking software enables password recoveries.

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Discussion Comments


Password recovery tools are not ethical hacking tools.

This article and title of article are misleading.


@hamje32: Yes, password recovery tools are certainly used for administrative purposes. When an ethical hacker uses them, however, he or she is not given full administrative access, but instead is using them to simulate a hacking attack. So rather than using those types of passwords from within the company as an administrator, the ethical hacker uses them the same way a malicious hacker would -- to try to find passwords that he or she should not have access to.


@hamje32 - I don't think that would make you a burglar. If you started picking the lock you would certainly look like a burglar however.

I don’t split hairs over the terms. If you perform a network probe to find vulnerable open ports, you can call it hacking or you can call it security administration, it doesn’t matter to me. I suppose it’s all about intentions.

I would note, however, that whatever you call it, it is a fact that many companies do employ ex-hackers to come work for them precisely because they possess these skills.

So in that sense, it’s like they’ve come over from the “dark side” to come and do some good for the business.


@David09 - I’m a little confused about what constitutes “hacking” and “ethical.”

The article mentions password recovery tools. To me, these are simply administrative tools; I don’t consider them hacking applications in any sense of the word.

It’s like if I lose the key to my house but have a spare key hidden under the doormat – that doesn’t make me a burglar, does it? It’s my own key, and my own house.


@David09 - As a fellow parent, I’m totally with you; in my book a keystroke logger would in fact be an ethical way of hacking your children’s online activities.

If we can monitor their activities with filtering software then I certainly think that we have a right to track down stuff that they’re actually doing like email, social networking and the like.

When they’re out on their own, they can do what they want. But when they live at home, using our resources, we have a right to know what they’re doing. That’s my two cents anyway.


I don’t know if you would classify it as hacking software, but I installed a keystroke logger on my computer.

This was mainly to track what my kids were doing online. You can debate whether or not you think it was ethical. As a parent, I think it is, and with it there is nothing I don’t have access to, including email accounts, passwords and so forth.

I don’t need to launch a brute force attack to get this information; it’s all in the log file that is created by the keystroke logging application.

Fortunately, nothing I have found gives me cause for alarm, but I still keep tabs on them anyway.

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