What are the best operating systems for ethical hacking and pentesting?

Ethical hacking is identifying weaknesses in computer systems or networks to exploit their vulnerabilities so they can be fixed later. Hackers use various techniques to identify threats and thereby increase the security of the device. These people can utilize Linux-based operating systems to hack PC or networks. It contains a wide range of applications to prevent cybersecurity attacks.

A hacker is a highly skilled computer operator who uses bugs and exploits to break into computer systems and networks. An ethical hacker, on the other hand, identifies vulnerabilities in computer systems and networks and plugs these holes. (Similar post: Most vulnerable ports every hacker should know)

Which operating system do most hackers use in 2022? Linux is an extremely popular operating system for hackers. There are two main reasons behind this. First off, Linux’s source code is freely available because it is an open-source operating system. This means that Linux is very easy to modify or customize. Second, there are countless Linux security distros available that can double as Linux hacking software.

Almost all the best ethical hacking operating systems for security experts are based on the Linux kernel, so the favorite operating systems of all types of hackers are always Linux — though a security-focused operating system is a security analyst’s best friend. But also keep in mind that, simply having these operating systems doesn’t make anyone a security expert or hacker — you should also learn some essential programming languages to enrich your knowledge in this field. (Similar post: Full guide on how to become an Ethical Hacker)

The best operating systems for ethical hacking and pentesting in 2022

Below I list some of the best operating systems used by ethical hackers and penetration testers are featured. All of them are free, open-source, based on the Linux kernel, and bundled with many hacking tools.

1. Kali Linux – Best OS For Hacking

Kali Linux maintained and funded by Offensive Security Ltd. is one of the well-known OS and considered the best ethical hacking operating systems used by hackers and security professionals. It is a Debian-derived Linux distribution designed for real hackers or digital forensics and penetration testing. It was developed by Mati Aharoni and Devon Kearns of Offensive Security through the rewrite of BackTrack, their previous forensics Linux distribution based on Ubuntu.

Apart from desktop support, Kali Linux also has a dedicated project set aside for compatibility and porting to specific Android devices, called Kali Linux NetHunter. When comes to security tools, this top ethical hacking operating system is equipped with 600+ preinstalled pen testing tools and they are frequently updated and are offered for different platforms like ARM and VMware. Now Kali Linux is based on a rolling release model.

  • Bundled with more than 600 penetration testing tools as compared to Backtrack OS.
  • Completely free and open source and committed to GitHub, the source code of each package is available.
  • Kali Linux is FHS (Filesystem Hierarchy Standard) compliant to locate binaries and support files and libraries.
  • Kali Linux offers a custom kernel for customized coding and patching up the latest updates.
  • Every package in it is GPG signed and, hence, committed to high-quality standards by developers.
  • ARMEL and ARMHF support allow Kali Linux to be installed on various other devices like Pi, Odroid, Chromebook, etc.

2. Parrot Security OS

Parrot Security OS (or ParrotSec) is a GNU/LINUX distribution based on Debian. This Linux distribution for hackers is built in order to perform penetration testing, vulnerability assessment and mitigation, computer forensics, and anonymous surfing. It has been developed by Frozenbox’s Team. (Similar post: How to learn Python for hacking)

Parrot is cloud-friendly Linux distribution and unlike other ethical hacking operating systems, Parrot OS is a lightweight Linux distro — that runs over machines that have a minimum 265Mb of RAM and it is suitable for both 32bit (i386) and 64bit (amd64), with a special edition it works on old 32bit machines (486).

  • It is available as lightweight software that runs with limited resources.
  • You can read and change the source code the way you like.
  • Provides support of experts to help you in cybersecurity.
  • This hacking OS has distributed infrastructure with dedicated CDNs (Content Distribution Network).
  • You can share this operating system with others.

3. BackBox

BackBox is an Ubuntu-based penetration testing Linux distribution. It provides penetration test and security assessment oriented providing a network and informatics systems analysis toolkit along with a complete set of other tools required for ethical hacking and security testing. (Simila post: Most affordable laptops for pentesting and ethical hacking available)

It includes some of the most used security and analysis Linux tools to help out security experts from stress tests to sniffing including vulnerability assessment, computer forensic analysis, and exploitation.

  • BackBox Linux is one of the first platforms supporting the cloud for penetration testing.
  • It is fully automated and non-intrusive, with no agents or network configuration changes required to achieve regular automated configuration backups.
  • Saves time and eliminates the requirement of tracking individual network devices.
  • With the support of the XFCE desktop, BackBox is regarded as fast in operations and suitable even for old configuration systems.
  • Completely hacker friendly due to the support it receives for creating its own Launchpad PPA and sending the package to developers who, in turn, contribute instantly to BackBox Linux.

4. OWASP Samurai Web Testing Framework

Samurai Web Testing Framework primarily focuses on testing the security of Web applications and comprises lots of Web assessment and exploitation tools. The credit for developing the Samurai Web Testing Framework goes to Kevin Johnson, Justin Searle, and Frank DiMaggio. The Samurai Framework provides ethical hackers and pen testers with a live Linux environment that is preconfigured to run as a virtual machine to perform Web penetration testing.

The Samurai Web Testing Framework includes popular testing tools like Fierce Domain Scanner and Maltego for Reconnaissance, WebScarab and Ratproxy for mapping, w3af and Burp for discovery, and BeEF and AJAXShell for exploitation. The framework is based on Ubuntu 9.04, is fully open source, and receives regular updates with regard to products.

5. BlackArch

BlackArch is a free Linux-based platform that contains a wide range of tools for automation, mobile, networking, etc. It is an open-source Operating System that is specially created for security researchers and penetration testers. You can install it individually or in a group. Best free online cybersecurity & hacking courses

  • It offers live ISO (International Organization for Standardization) with multiple window managers.
  • This operating system can be run using limited resources.
  • Supports more than one architecture.
  • The installer can be built from the source.

6. Linux Digital Evidence and Forensics Toolkit

DEFT (Digital Evidence and Forensics Toolkit) is based on GNU Linux and DART (Digital Advanced Response Toolkit), a forensics system comprising some of the best tools for forensics and incident response. DEFT Linux is specially designed for carrying out forensics tasks and runs live on systems without tampering with the hard disk or any other storage media. It consists of more than 100 highly-rated forensics and hacking tools.

It is currently developed and maintained by Stefano Fratepietro along with other developers and is available free of charge. It is used actively by ethical hackers, pen testers, government officers, IT auditors, and even the military for carrying out various forensics-based systems analyses.

  • It is based on the Lubuntu distribution comprising open-source digital forensics and penetration testing tools.
  • Full support for Bitlocker encrypted disks, Android, and iOS 7.1 logical acquisitions.
  • Consists of Digital Forensics Framework 1.3.

7. Live Hacking OS

Live Hacking OS is a Linux distribution packed with tools and utilities for ethical hacking, penetration testing, and countermeasure verification. It includes the graphical user interface GNOME inbuilt. There is a second variation available that has a command-line only, and it requires very fewer hardware requirements.

8. Network Security Toolkit

The Network Security Toolkit (NST) is a Linux-based Live CD that provides a set of open-source computer security and networking tools to perform routine security and networking diagnostic and monitoring tasks. The distribution can be used as a network security analysis, validation, and monitoring tool on servers hosting virtual machines. The majority of tools published in the article “Top 125 security tools” by Insecure.org are available in the toolkit.

  • Provides visualization of ntopng, ntop, Wireshark, traceroute, NetFlow, and Kismet data.
  • JavaScript console with a built-in object library helps in the development of dynamic Web pages.
  • Other features include network intrusion detection, Web-based Snort IDS integration, active connections monitor, VNC/RDP desktop session management, host/IPv4 address geolocation, and network segment ARP scanner.

9. NodeZero

NodeZero is an open-source Linux kernel-based ethical hacking operating system derived from Ubuntu and designed to be used for penetration testing operations. Besides the fact that it allows you to start the live system, the boot menu contains various advanced options, such as the ability to perform a system memory diagnostic test, boot from a local drive, start the installer directly, as well as to boot in safe graphics mode, text mode or debug mode.

With NodeZero you will have instant access to over 300 penetration testing tools, as well as a set of basic services that are needed in penetration testing operations.

10. Fedora Security Lab

Fedora Security environment enables you to work on security auditing, forensics, and hacking. It comes with a clean and fast desktop environment. This OS contains essential networking tools like Wireshark, Medusa, Sqlninja, Yersinia, and more. Fedora Security environment makes pen-testing and security testing simple.

  • It has a customized menu that offers all the instructions needed to follow the right test path.
  • This tool can make Live USB creator (a full operating system that can be booted)
  • You can save your test result permanently.
  • It creates a live image to make it possible to install software while running.

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