You've most likely heard of Nmap, the network-mapping tool developed by "Fyodor." Nmap is widely used and is a standard tool in countless security administrators' toolkits. Fyodor operates a mailing list, nmap-hackers, for general announcements, patches, and light discussion regarding Nmap.
In 2000 and 2003, Fyodor surveyed the members of the mailing list to find out which security tools were their favorites. The 2000 survey resulted in a list of the top 50 most popular security tools. The 2003 survey resulted in an expanded list of the top 75 most popular security tools. Both lists have been great resources, especially since people could often discover new tools that they weren't previously aware of.
It's been three years since the last survey, and in that time lots of new security tools have come into existence, while other security tools have been updated (in some cases several times) with new features and functionality. This year, Fyodor conducted a new survey, and 3243 people responded. This latest survey resulted in an even longer list: the top 100 most popular security tools.
Although the list contains tools for several platforms, including Windows, Linux, BSD, Solaris, and Mac OS X, it's easy to figure out which tools work on which platforms because each tool description includes platform-specific icons. There are also icons that let you know whether a tool is free, whether it has a command-line interface or GUI, and whether source code is available.
Another feature of the list shows you whether the tool has risen or dropped in popularity compared with the 2003 survey results. Surprisingly, the top four tools on the current list remain unchanged in their popularity rank. Those top four tools are Nessus, Wireshark (formerly Ethereal), Snort, and Netcat. Metasploit Framework (released after the 2003 survey) is new to the list and is ranked the fifth most popular tool. Incidentally, you can read a semi-related news story, "Microsoft Response to Exploit Riles Metasploit Developer," on our Web site at the URL below. http://www.windowsitpro.com/Article/ArticleID/53885
An interesting trend revealed by 2006 survey results is that wireless security is far more important to security administrators than it was three years ago, evidenced by the fact that the wireless sniffer Kismet rose from the 17th most popular tool in 2003 to 7th most popular tool in 2006. Aircrack, originally released in mid-2004, now ranks as the 21st most popular security tool in the list. Aircrack helps crack Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) encryption, which, as you probably know, are typically used to help secure communication on WiFi networks.
Another interesting trend is that two great password-cracking tools, John the Ripper and Cain and Abel, broke into the top 10 as the 9th and 10th most popular tools respectively. John the Ripper was previously ranked #11 in 2003 and Cain and Abel was ranked #23, so the latter made quite a jump in popularity.
So that's a brief rundown of a few of the tools and trends from the list. You can of course glean even more information about security tool trends by reviewing the complete list, and you can learn about more tools that are new to the list, such as BackTrack, P0f, WebScarab, WebInspect, Core Impact, Canvas, and others. Check out the full survey results at http://sectools.org.