If you are trying to find the best Linux distro to learn hacking or penetration testing, you are in the right place. There are various Linux distributions out there but choosing the one right for your needs is crucial. Choosing which one can become hard and confusing as many of them have similar features but have different ways of working. It does not matter what title you hold, you could be a security researcher working in information security.
You need a good Linux distro no matter what. This is a very powerful tool that is used by millions of servers daily. Please do make sure to secure your Linux server before reading our list of the best Linux distributions for hackers.
8 Best Linux Hacking and Penetration Testing Distros (Download)
The below list of Linux distributions is only focused on security, ethical hacking, and auditing network security. The Linux distros below come with many tools that can be used in various aspects of information security and other research tasks.
Kali Linux: Rebirth of BackTrack
This is the most popular Linux distro for ethical hacking! It is developed and maintained by the Offensive Security team. Kali Linux has the most advanced set of security and hacking tools that you will ever use. It comes with all of them preinstalled and ready to launch. It is the favorite distro for penetrating testers as it has everything they need.
You don’t need to install anything extra for it to work. There may be chances where you will be just required to update the packages and tools.
It offers full disk encryption that encrypts the full drive of Kali Linux installation. It has a data destruction feature called ‘Kali LUKS nuke option’. This erases all the data on your Kali Linux box. It has a very simple to use and easy interface with all the security tools accessible from a menu. They are all organized and easy to find.
You can also run a Kali Linux machine in the cloud on AWS (Amazon web services). It is also available for Android devices (NetHunter) and can also be run on a Raspberry Pi. It supports almost every device that runs on an ARM.
Some popular hacking and penetration testing tools that come with Kali Linux:
- Aircrack-ng: Used for WiFi hacking and auditing
- THC Hydra: Used for brute-forcing authentication protocols.
- John The Ripper: A famous cracking tool that can brute force passwords and logins. Popular among in the cybersecurity industry.
- Metasploit Framework: This is an open-source framework that is used by security professionals for vulnerability assessments.
- Netcat: This allows you to troubleshoot networks and use TCP/IP protocol for reading and writing data.
- Nmap: This is a popular tool used for scanning networks and intercepting traffic. It is also used by network administrators to do a security audit of their network.
BlackArch: The distro for Security Researchers
This is a Linux distro built for security research and penetration testing. BlackArch is based on Arch Linux but is security-focused in every way. It comes with thousands of ethical hacking and security auditing tools that are grouped into categories. To be exact, there are over 2000 tools.
A great bonus is that if you are using Arch Linux, you can install all the BlackArch tools on it. This distro is on every hacker’s favorite list of operating systems.
BackBox: Ubuntu Based Penetration Testing Distro
This is a Linux distribution built for security and pen-testing professionals. It is based on Ubuntu. BackBox Linux comes with its own repository of tools and software. It provides you with only stable and latest versions of network analysis and ethical hacking tools on the web. It has a minimalistic user interface. BackBox runs on the XFCE desktop environment.
There are many forums out there that you can find help on. The community is supportive and can provide answers to your questions. You can also create your own Launchpad PPA. It provides you with the fastest Linux distro ever that is very reliable and stable. You can also run BackBox on older PCs with lower specifications and resources. It is the best distro software for hacking, period.
Recommended read: Top 9 Microsoft Windows CMD Hacking Commands (2022 Edition).
Parrot Security OS: Anonymity for Hackers
This is a new player in town. Parrot Security OS developed by Frozenbox network is specially made for penetration testers and security researchers that want online anonymity and security. Parrot Security provides them with all the security they need! It comes with a fully encrypted system that also has a cloud-friendly environment.
Parrot Security OS uses the MATE desktop environment. You can find all the hacking tools you want and also has some unique tools from Frozenbox. It also contains tools for digital forensics and online privacy. It protects your data from being spied on by ISPs and other agencies. Parrot Security is also classed as a Linux distro for software developers. It comes with the top editors installed by default.
DEFT Linux: Digital Evidence and Forensics Toolkit
This is the best Linux Distro made for digital/computer forensics. It can run live systems and has capabilities so that it does not corrupt or tamper devices that are connected to the PC when it is booting and turning on.
DEFT comes with a Forensics system that is only available for Windows officially. It is called DART (Digital Advanced Response Toolkit). DEFT uses the LXDE desktop environment and is paired with WINE to run the Windows tools on Linux.
Pentoo Linux: Distro Software Based on Gentoo
This is a Linux Distro based on Gentoo Linux that provides you with a variety of customization capabilities. It is a penetration testing and hacking distro with LiveCD. Pentoo uses the XFCE desktop environment just like BackBox.
Pentoo Linux also has persistence support. This means that even though it is a LiveCD any changes that you might make will still be untouched if you reboot. This only applies if you are running it through a flash drive.
Samurai Web Testing Framework: Web Penetration Testing
This is one of the top live Linux environments used for pen-testing. You do not have to configure it to use, it comes pre-configured for you. You will find many open source and free hacking tools for finding vulnerabilities in websites/web apps. It is preferred a lot of by web penetration testers who are always looking for security flaws in popular websites.
It comes as a virtual machine that is supported on VMWare and VirtualBox. You will find all the tools that are used in the four-step process of web pen-testing. Some of the tools that you will get with Samurai Web Testing Framework include:
- Fierce domain scanner
- Burp Suite
Caine: Computer-Aided Investigative Environment
This is hands down, one of the top Linux distros focused only on digital forensics and ethical hacking for security research. Caine Linux has all the forensic tools that you will need to do a digital investigation of a crime. It is fully open-source and can be customized if you are a developer. The user-friendly interface helps the investigators with their four-step process during an investigation.
It has all the tools that are required in forensics. You can also install other security tools for Linux. It also comes as a live DVD/USB and can be installed as well.
More Hacking Linux Distributions
- Network Security Toolkit: This is a bootable live CD distro that was built and developed based on Fedora. It comes with all your favorite network security tools. You will find all the tools related to network monitoring and security in this distro.
- Fedora Security Spin: This is just Linux Fedora but on a beast mode. It comes with security auditing and testing tools pre-installed.
- ArchStrike/ArchAssault: This is a Linux Distro for penetration testers and security professionals based on Arch Linux.
- Bugtraq: This is the only distro that you will need which comes with all the tools for ethical hacking, security audits, forensics, and lab work.
Some more Linux distribution software includes Cyborg Linux, Weakerth4n, and Matriux.
Which Linux Distribution Do You Use For Ethical Hacking?
All the Linux Distros listed above have great hacking and security tools for your pen-testing needs. But the main question is, which one do you use? The above list should help you in choosing your best hacking and penetration testing distro. The distribution software listed above comes with all varieties of tools you need to complete security audits, ethical hacking, computer forensics, and network security audits.
The distros above can be used for any purpose in the information security field, for example, hacking WiFi networks. We hope that you will find the best hacking distro for your needs and it will be from one of our choices!
Please do share any other Linux distributions that you are using or might know that will be a great fit in our top 8 list of Linux hacking and pen-testing distros of 2022.