4 of the best Linux security testing distros

Today, having a solid security posture is essential; make sure you're aware of these security distros.

by Pete
Published: Updated: 16 minutes read

Are you interested in becoming a security tester or analysing your organization’s security posture? Professional penetration and vulnerability testers can be costly (for the right reasons), but with the correct tools, you can perform some of it yourself. Fortunately, the open-source and Linux communities are on your side. In my experience, Kali has been the de facto security distribution, but there are a few alternatives worth considering first. 

Let’s get into it

Here are our top four options for security testing Linux distributions, which you can download and start testing right away. There are more, and this is not an exhaustive list, but it should get you started.

Kali Linux is a comprehensive distribution that includes a wide range of tools for penetration testing, forensics, and other security-related tasks. It comes with a large number of security tools pre-installed, and is regularly updated with new tools and features.

Features

According to the Kali Linux website, it includes over 600 pre-installed tools, covering a wide range of categories such as:

  • Information gathering
  • Vulnerability analysis
  • Web application analysis
  • Password attacks
  • Wireless attacks
  • Exploitation tools
  • Sniffing and spoofing
  • Maintaining access
  • Reverse engineering
  • Hardware hacking

Reasons to use Kali

  1. Wide range of security tools: Kali Linux comes with more than 600 pre-installed security tools, covering a wide range of areas such as penetration testing, forensics, and reverse engineering. This makes it a one-stop shop for many security tasks.
  2. Customizable and flexible: Kali Linux is based on the Debian operating system and uses a rolling release model, which means that users can always access the latest version of the operating system and its tools. Additionally, Kali Linux allows users to customize their installations and choose the specific tools and packages they want to use.
  3. Focused on security: Kali Linux is specifically designed for security professionals and researchers, and as such, it includes a number of features that are tailored to these users. For example, it includes a lightweight desktop environment and automatic hardware detection to make it easier to use on a wide range of systems.
  4. Widely used and supported: Kali Linux is a well-known and widely used operating system in the security community, which means that there is a large user base and a wealth of online resources and support available.
  5. Regular updates: Kali Linux is constantly updated with new tools and features, and users can easily access these updates through the operating system’s package manager. This ensures that users always have access to the latest and most powerful security tools.

What can Kali be installed on

Kali Linux can be installed on a wide range of hardware platforms, including personal computers, laptops, and servers. It can be installed on bare metal or as a virtual machine on top of an existing operating system.

Kali Linux can be installed on a number of different architectures, including:

  • x86 (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • ARM
  • ARM64

In addition to installing Kali Linux on traditional hardware platforms, it can also be installed on some types of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. This allows security professionals to use Kali Linux on the go and perform security tasks while on the move.

It is important to note that Kali Linux is a powerful and advanced operating system that is mainly intended for use by security professionals and researchers. It may not be suitable for everyday use by general users, as it may be more complex and have a steeper learning curve than other operating systems.

BlackArch is a comprehensive distribution that includes a wide range of tools for penetration testing and other security-related tasks.

Features

According to the BlackArch website, it includes over 2,500 tools, covering a wide range of categories such as:

  • Information gathering
  • Vulnerability analysis
  • Web application analysis
  • Password cracking
  • Wireless attacks
  • Exploitation tools
  • Sniffing and spoofing
  • Maintaining access
  • Reverse engineering
  • Hardware hacking

Reasons to use BlackArch

  1. Extensive collection of security tools: BlackArch Linux includes more than 3,500 security tools, covering a wide range of areas such as penetration testing, forensics, and reverse engineering. This makes it an excellent choice for security professionals who need access to a wide range of tools.
  2. Customizable and flexible: BlackArch Linux is based on Arch Linux and uses a rolling release model, which means that users can always access the latest version of the operating system and its tools. Additionally, BlackArch Linux allows users to customize their installations and choose the specific tools and packages they want to use.
  3. Lightweight and fast: BlackArch Linux is designed to be lightweight and fast, which makes it well-suited for use on a wide range of hardware platforms. It uses the Openbox window manager, which is designed to be lightweight and highly customizable, and it includes a number of performance-enhancing features.
  4. Regular updates: BlackArch Linux is constantly updated with new tools and features, and users can easily access these updates through the operating system’s package manager. This ensures that users always have access to the latest and most powerful security tools.
  5. Widely used and supported: BlackArch Linux is a well-known and widely used operating system in the security community, which means that there is a large user base and a wealth of online resources and support available.

What can BlackArch be installed on

BlackArch Linux is a lightweight and flexible distribution of Linux that is specifically designed for penetration testers and security researchers. It can be installed on a wide range of hardware platforms, including personal computers, laptops, and servers.

BlackArch Linux can be installed on a number of different architectures, including:

  • x86 (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • ARM
  • ARM64

In addition to installing BlackArch Linux on traditional hardware platforms, it can also be installed on some types of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. This allows security professionals to use BlackArch Linux on the go and perform security tasks while on the move.

It is important to note that BlackArch Linux is a powerful and advanced operating system that is mainly intended for use by security professionals and researchers. It may not be suitable for everyday use by general users, as it may be more complex and have a steeper learning curve than other operating systems.

Parrot Security is a comprehensive distribution that includes a wide range of tools for cybersecurity and digital forensics.

Features

According to the Parrot Security website, it includes over 100 pre-installed tools, covering a wide range of categories such as:

  • Information gathering
  • Vulnerability analysis
  • Web application analysis
  • Password cracking
  • Wireless attacks
  • Exploitation tools
  • Sniffing and spoofing
  • Maintaining access
  • Reverse engineering
  • Hardware hacking

Reasons to use Parrot

  1. Wide range of security and privacy tools: Parrot Security comes with a wide range of tools for security and privacy, including tools for penetration testing, digital forensics, and anonymity.
  2. Customizable and flexible: Parrot Security is based on the Debian Linux distribution and uses a rolling release model, which means that users can always access the latest version of the operating system and its tools. Additionally, Parrot Security allows users to customize their installations and choose the specific tools and packages they want to use.
  3. Focused on security and privacy: Parrot Security is specifically designed for security professionals and privacy-conscious users, and as such, it includes a number of features that are tailored to these users. For example, it includes tools for anonymous web browsing and secure communication, as well as tools for bypassing censorship and surveillance.
  4. Widely used and supported: Parrot Security is a well-known and widely used operating system in the security and privacy community, which means that there is a large user base and a wealth of online resources and support available.
  5. Regular updates: Parrot Security is constantly updated with new tools and features, and users can easily access these updates through the operating system’s package manager. This ensures that users always have access to the latest and most powerful security and privacy tools.

What can Parrot be installed on

arrot Security is a powerful and flexible open-source operating system that is designed for use by security professionals, ethical hackers, and privacy-conscious users. It can be installed on a wide range of hardware platforms, including personal computers, laptops, and servers.

Parrot Security can be installed on a number of different architectures, including:

  • x86 (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • ARM
  • ARM64

In addition to installing Parrot Security on traditional hardware platforms, it can also be installed on some types of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

BackBox is a Linux distribution that is specifically designed for penetration testing and other security-related tasks. It is based on Ubuntu, and includes a wide range of tools for information gathering, vulnerability analysis, exploitation, and other tasks.

Features

According to the BackBox website, it includes over 100 pre-installed tools, covering a wide range of categories such as:

  • Information gathering
  • Vulnerability analysis
  • Web application analysis
  • Password cracking
  • Wireless attacks
  • Exploitation tools
  • Sniffing and spoofing
  • Maintaining access
  • Reverse engineering
  • Hardware hacking

Reasons to use BackBox

  1. Wide range of security tools: BackBox comes with a wide range of security tools, including tools for penetration testing, digital forensics, and vulnerability assessment.
  2. Customizable and flexible: BackBox is based on the Ubuntu Linux distribution and uses a rolling release model, which means that users can always access the latest version of the operating system and its tools. Additionally, BackBox allows users to customize their installations and choose the specific tools and packages they want to use.
  3. Lightweight and fast: BackBox is designed to be lightweight and fast, which makes it well-suited for use on a wide range of hardware platforms. It uses the Xfce desktop environment, which is designed to be lightweight and fast, and it includes a number of performance-enhancing features.
  4. Widely used and supported: BackBox is a well-known and widely used operating system in the security community, which means that there is a large user base and a wealth of online resources and support available.
  5. Regular updates: BackBox is constantly updated with new tools and features, and users can easily access these updates through the operating system’s package manager. This ensures that users always have access to the latest and most powerful security tools.

What can BackBox be installed on

BackBox can be installed on a number of different architectures, including:

  • x86 (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • ARM

In addition to installing BackBox on traditional hardware platforms, it can also be installed on some types of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. This allows security professionals and penetration testers to use BackBox on the go and perform security tasks while on the move.

It is important to note that BackBox is a powerful and advanced operating system that is mainly intended for use by security professionals and penetration testers. It may not be suitable for everyday use by general users, as it may be more complex and have a steeper learning curve than other operating systems.

In Summary

In summary, there are several open-source operating systems that are popular among security professionals and researchers, including Kali Linux, BlackArch Linux, Parrot Security, and BackBox. These operating systems are designed to be lightweight, flexible, and powerful, and they come with a wide range of security tools and features that are tailored for use by security professionals.

These operating systems can be installed on a wide range of hardware platforms, including personal computers, laptops, servers, and mobile devices. They can be installed on a number of different architectures, including x86, ARM, and ARM64.

While these operating systems are primarily intended for use by security professionals and researchers, they may also be of interest to general users who are interested in exploring the world of security and privacy. However, it is important to note that these operating systems may be more complex and have a steeper learning curve than other operating systems, so they may not be suitable for everyday use by all users.