Is your server safe from attacks? And if one begins, what will it look like? Answer these questions with penetration testing. Use the Metasploit tool to make pentesting quick and easy.
Metasploit comes with customized code you can inject into your network to spot weaknesses. Document your tests, and you’ll know just what to do next to protect your valuable assets.
The Metasploit framework explained
Download the program, and you can use Metasploit to test your servers.
The program comes with three important components used to find and exploit network vulnerabilities. They include:
- Exploits. Code performs a specific action based on a known vulnerability. Think of this like a carrier.
- Payloads. Code deployed by the exploit. Think of this like a virus.
- Auxiliaries. Custom functions tackle other tasks that aren't attached to system exploits (like scanning and sniffing).
In the simplest terms, you will choose a target, exploit, and payload within the Metasploit framework. Then, you'll execute the program, sit back, and watch for results.
In reality, Metasploit is much more sophisticated. Running a test means deploying quite a bit of code.
Modules are an important part of Metasploit's functionality. These software bits perform specific tasks, and there are eight to choose from.
Metasploit was developed in 2003, and Rapid7 acquired the code in 2009. Before Metasploit, developers performed pentesting manually. They wrote the code, injected their systems, and tried to undo the work. Metasploit automates many of those processes.
What is Metasploit used for?
People who use Metasploit fall into one of two camps. Some have good intentions, and others do not.
On the positive side, system administrators use Metasploit to simulate attacks. As they watch the software deploy, they learn to spot signs of an attack. They also uncover weaknesses that need immediate patches.
Metasploit is powerful, and it's helped by a community that's gathered more than 2,300 exploits. System administrators don't need to research every threat available. They can lean on the community's knowledge.
On the negative side, hackers can also use Metasploit, and plenty of them do. The same tools you might use to protect your systems can be turned against you to steal data, take down your servers, and more.
A quick Metasploit tutorial
Download the program from Rapid7 to get started. A free version is available for use, but be prepared to pay for more advanced functionality.
As you work with the program:
- Be patient. Metasploit runs in Ruby. If you're comfortable in this environment, deploying the tools will be easy. If you understand Python, it might be easy enough to use Metasploit too. But if coding doesn’t come naturally to you, practice is required.
- Use a cheat sheet. You'll likely tap into the same commands repeatedly as you protect your assets. Cheat sheets like this one from the SANS Institute help you work quickly.
- Be careful. Don't run tests on websites without permission. Remember that this is a hacking tool, and you can face legal action for deploying it.
- Take a class. Plenty of organizations hold online seminars for people who want to learn about Metasploit. Consider enrolling to learn more about how the program works.
If you want to spot vulnerabilities but you're not sure if Metasploit is right for you, check out our blog about pentesting. We offer a few competitors you might consider instead.
Metasploit: A Walkthrough of the Powerful Exploitation Framework. (October 2020). Free Code Camp.
What Is Metasploit? (March 2019). CSO.
Put Your Defenses to the Test. Rapid7.
Metasploit Cheat Sheet. SANS Institute.