Technology is evolving continuously, and the risks associated with them are also increasing. Hackers are becoming more sophisticated, and so are their methods. With the advancement in technology and the cybersecurity landscape, cybercriminals have developed modern strategies to attack. Data breaches have become more frequent and common now than a decade ago. When cybercriminals use modern tools and technologies to compromise your company’s reputation, then why don’t security professionals use sophisticated pen-testing platforms to sharpen their skills to prevent cyber attacks? In this article, we have shortlisted ten online pen-testing platforms which will let you practice your technical skills.
Before proceeding further, let’s discuss what penetration testing is.
Disclaimer: The list presented here is not based on any rank criteria. Listed as First could not be the best or listed as Last in the list is not the worst by any means. This is not a complete product review. Please don’t go with the order of the tools. We clarify that the order doesn’t carry any rank. We are not here to judge the rank of the tools. We created this post to share the best options available in the market. Let’s get started.-Author
Table of Contents
What Is Penetration Testing?
A pen-test is a simulated attack against a system to identify ways hackers can exploit the exposed weaknesses. It is also called ethical hacking because it involves pen testers performing the attacker’s act with permission.
This act helps to discover the blind spots that cybercriminals use to breach the cybersecurity framework. Penetration testing lets an organization improve its security posture by prioritizing the vulnerabilities based on the risks associated with them.
Why Should We Use Online Pen Testing Platforms?
For penetration testers and ethical hackers, it’s hard to test their skills legally. For this purpose, many online pentesting platforms are designed to be vulnerable and offer a secure environment to test their pentesting skills. It’s a great way for them to challenge themselves and learn from it.
Web applications or websites that offer a safe hacking space and are vulnerable by design are fertile ground for ethical hackers to practice their skills. With the help of these websites, new hackers can learn by finding vulnerabilities and expand their knowledge.
Apart from these, online pen-testing platforms have the following advantages:
- Online pen-testing platforms are easy to set up and ready to use
- It provides a better understanding of the attack surface
- Online platforms provide increased technical assurance.
- These platforms are fast, scalable, flexible, and more effective.
- More secure than on-premise, as these are on the cloud, there is less chance of infection.
Best Online Pen Testing Platforms
Here is a list of the top ten online pen-testing platforms that can tackle various penetration testing tasks. Let’s have a look at each of them.
#1. Hack The Box
Hack The BOX is a huge, online pen-testing platform that allows companies and individuals to level up their penetration testing skills. It’s basically a cybersecurity training platform that provides hands-on training to learn advanced skills. Their advanced training labs simulate real-world scenarios to give you a chance to penetrate and evaluate the enterprise IT infrastructure environment.
From basics to professional level, Hack The Box offers online courses for cybersecurity training. It provides over 300 persistently updated labs of diverse difficulty, OS, and attack paths. Hack The Box provides access to over 100+ challenges and 150+ machines. CIOs, CISOs, heads of penetration testing, and security managers from all over the world take their employees’ training to the next level through Hack The Box.
VulnHub or ‘Vulnerable by Design’ is a platform that gives user-created machines with exploitable vulnerabilities and loopholes present in them. This online pen-testing platform aims to provide material that offers hands-on experience in online security, network administration, and computer software. Virtualization is involved in this process, so you need to make sure it gets enabled on your system.
It is purely a lab-focused platform as there is no individual challenge that belongs to particular categories present on VulnHub. Recently, they got their discord server, where they post constant updates. VulnHub is a community-driven platform where all the virtual machines are created by peer users and authorized by the moderating staff. This online platform is a better place to practice security skills even with an unstable internet connection.
Root Me is an online pen-testing platform to test and improve your skills in cybersecurity and hacking. It is an easy, fast, and affordable way to learn and train your hacking skills. Root-me is a hybrid platform that provides both labs and challenges. The challenges available on this platform are more than on other platforms.
Hundreds of challenges are there to train you by teaching a lot of hacking techniques. There are almost 141 virtual environments that are accessible with a few clicks. It provides a realistic learning domain without any limitations. Each challenge is linked with several solutions. There are over 4000 solutions available on this platform.
Hack.me is a community-based free online pen-testing platform powered by eLearnSecurity. This platform can create, host, and share susceptible web applications for research and educational purposes. The aim of this website is to be the largest collection of runnable code samples, vulnerable web applications, and CMS’s online.
Hack.me is available to those who are interested in web application security, including
- Penetration testers
- Web developers
This online pen-testing platform is free and made for everyone without any restrictions. Every time hack.me initiates a new sandbox while running a new application. It provides isolated access to the application to ensure that it is safe to use.
#5. Over The Wire
OverTheWire provides a variety of wargames designed specially to help you learn security concepts. Wargames are like CTFs, but they are not competitive nor time-bound. The first wargame of OverTheWire named bandit is designed for beginners and teaches the basics using a Linux shell, secure shell (SSH), and remote connections.
The games on this platform are managed into levels, and you are supposed to complete a previous level before proceeding. This game is played individually, so there is no organizational overhead required to start. Each shell game has its secure shell port, and the OverTheWire wargames are a perfect way to learn network security concepts.
#6. Hack This Site
HackThisSite is a safe, free, and legal training platform for ethical hackers to test and enhance their hacking skills with CTFs, challenges, and more. This online pentesting platform is more than a hacker wargame site. It’s a living community dedicated to learning and sharing ethical hacking techniques. Join their Discord, IRC, and forums where you can learn network security, ethical hacking, and more.
It is a highly recommended platform for beginners to learn the basics that motivates them to solve harder problems. Basic challenges are isolated and mainly focused on a particular skill set. However, realistic challenges require knowledge from multiple domains.
#7. The Web Security Academy
It’s a free online security training platform for web application security. The Burp Site here is the leading source for website security testing. The Web Security Academy manages to help those who want to learn web security in a legal and safe manner.
Ethical hacking and web security are profitable careers to get started, but these are seen as mysterious and dark art. But this platform smashes that stereotype.
Each topic and concept is fully explained in the text, and many include video content to summarize the key points. The interactive labs and realistic puzzles are designed for practicing and testing ethical hacking skills.
#8. Defend The Web
Defend the Web is an interactive online security platform that provides opportunities to learn and challenge your pentesting skills. There are 60+ hacking levels that cover all security aspects. Explore a wide variety of security topics related to hacking, coding, network security, privacy, and other issues.
Take challenges to practice skills against real-world scenarios. They have a vibrant community of developers, security experts, and hackers that provide learning opportunities. This site has informational resources and discussion boards that provide hints and tips.
#9. Damn Vulnerable Web Application (DVWA)
DVWA is a great platform for security experts and web developers. It’s a MySQL/PHP application designed to be vulnerable to common attacks like SQL injections. In Damn Vulnerable Web Application, users can switch between low, medium, and high-security levels for different vulnerability types.
It provides a chance to practice exploiting and protecting against vulnerabilities that exist in the environment. The main goal of this platform is to provide help to security experts to learn and test their skills and provide tools in a legal environment. It helps developers and ethical hackers better understand the procedures of securing web applications and teach web app security in a safe environment.
CTFlearn is a famous ethical hacking platform used by thousands of people worldwide. The platform name is based on the ‘Capture the Flag contest. These are cybersecurity competitions designed particularly for IT pros and hackers. It provides users an opportunity to solve security issues either as a hacker or a defender.
A common CTF challenge requires breaking into a Linux web server and capturing a file stored on the server. It is an online platform that lets you wear your back hat or white hat. CTFlearn is a beginner-friendly way to learn ethical hacking and cybersecurity.
TryHackMe is an online platform designed to help individuals develop and improve their cybersecurity skills. It provides an immersive, gamified experience that makes learning about cybersecurity both fun and effective.
The platform hosts a wide variety of virtual rooms, each dedicated to a particular topic or skill. These rooms offer guided learning paths and contain a range of challenges and puzzles, from beginner-friendly tasks to advanced real-world scenarios. By participating in these rooms, users can gain hands-on experience in various cybersecurity domains such as ethical hacking, forensics, malware analysis, and network security.
One of the standout features of TryHackMe is its community-driven nature. Many of the rooms are created by members of the platform’s vibrant community, which fosters a spirit of collaboration and peer-to-peer learning. Users can also compete against each other in Capture The Flag (CTF) events and leaderboards, adding an element of competition to the learning process.
TryHackMe also offers a subscription-based premium service that provides access to additional resources and features. However, a significant portion of its content is accessible for free, making it an excellent resource for anyone interested in cybersecurity, regardless of their financial resources or prior experience.
Cybercrimes continue to grow rapidly, so penetration testing and cybersecurity are those skill sets that are in demand. Online businesses, organizations, and governments are hiring ethical hackers to exploit vulnerabilities in their systems and web applications and take measures to protect them against cyberattacks. Practicing your hacking skills with any of the online pen-testing platforms mentioned above will help you enhance your pen-testing skills.
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