Popular Linux Distributions for Security Testing

Popular Linux Distributions for Security Testing

In this article, we will show you some special purpose Linux distributions for performing security-related tasks. They will all have a Linux base of Debian or Ubuntu along with some built-in custom tools. Linux is the go-to choice for security testing dues to the advantages it offers. This popularity is the prime reason for having many distributions built on it. Here are some of the tasks that you can perform with the help of Linux distros:

  • System and network security
  • Security analysis
  • Ethical hacking
  • Penetration testing
  • Digital forensic
  • Security audits

This article will discuss some of the popular Linux distros which can help you get started. You can try all of these and choose the one that works best for you:

Kali Linux

Kali was first introduced in 2012 as a Debian-based distribution, released with over 300 specialized tools for penetration testing and digital forensics. It uses the rolling release model that makes sure that any tool you use for security testing will always be up to date. It is a rewrite of BackTrackand maintained and funded by Offensive Security Ltd.

Kali is free to use and can run natively as a virtual machine or even as a live boot. The live boot is an exceptional advantage when using Kali for penetration testing and digital forensics. Kali supports a plethora of devices and hardware platforms, including VMware and ARM. It is rightly considered as one of the best and sophisticated penetration testing platforms available today, with a large and active community helping to make it better and more advanced.


BackBox Linux is one of the most popular distros for security and penetration testing. It is an Ubuntu-based operating system with a plethora of security analysis tools that can be used for network and system analysis, exploitations and vulnerability analysis, forensics, and much more. Its main advantage is that it is light-weight, swift, simplified, and comes with a complete XFCE desktop environment.

Backbox is also compatible with older hardware, highly customizable, and has its own software repository with applications updated regularly with the most stable versions. Lastly, Backboxenjoys the support of a vast community, which has also made it one of the most effective distros to work on. 

Parrot Security

Parrot Security is a Debian-based distro developed by the frozen box team, which uses Kali repositories for updating the tool. Designed for cryptography, penetration testing, vulnerability testing, and digital forensics, Parrot Security is a lightweight system that is cloud-friendly, effective, highly customizable, and enjoys robust community support.

Parrot Security can be used from a rookie developer to the most pro developer for security testing. It uses MATE as its desktop environment; works on a minimum of 256MB RAM, and is available with both 32 and 64bitprocessors.


BlackArchis one of the most sophisticated Linux distribution for security testing and ethical hacking. Derived from Arch Linux, BlackArch has a huge tool repository with 2000+ tools. It is lightweight and compatible with Arch install existing currently. However, this distro is suitable only for a pro developer and not for a newbie. 

Samurai Web Testing Framework

Samurai Web Testing framework is an Ubuntu-based framework created with keeping web penetration testing in mind. It is a live Linux environment which comes with pre-installed to work as a platform for penetration testing and free open source tools. It can be used as a virtual machine along with the support of Virtualbox and VMWare.

Pentoo Linux

Pentoo Linux, which can be based an overlay on Gentoo Linux, is developed with a focus on penetration testing. It offers support to 32 and 64-bit processors and is available for alive boot session via a CD or a USB player. Pentoo comes with a lot of tools for security testing ranging from scanners, web application testing, analyzing, exploitation, and much more. It is an XFCE-based distribution with lots of of kernel features and is continuously updated by various developers.


DEFT, which stands for Digital Evidence and Forensic Toolkit, is a specialized Linux distro for digital forensics. This open source distribution is Ubuntu based and paired with DART. DEFT is based on GNU Linux and its tools are focused around forensics. It uses anLXDE desktop environment and WINEfor executing Windows. DEFT can be run live or via a virtual machine and is made for running a live system without damaging the devices connected to the PC where the booting takes place via any tampering or corrupting.

You now have a fair idea about some of the most popular Linux distros for security testing. While this is by no means a comprehensive list, there are various other distros that you can work with and are equally good to work with. Some of them include:

  • Caine
  • Fedora Security Spin
  • Bugtraq
  • Network Security Toolkit
  • ArchStrike
  • Cyborg Linux
  • Matriux
  • Weakerth4n
  • NodeZero Linux
  • Santoku

These are also some of the favorites among developers. In the end, the choice depends on the requirement of the developer or the security professional.

This article was written to give you a brief idea about some of the best distros available today. If you choose to work with Kali Linux among them, we have just the right book to help you get started. Kali Linux – An Ethical Hacker’s Cookbook – Second Edition will help you discover end-to-end penetration testing solutions for enhancing your ethical hacking skills. It is packed with practical recipes that will quickly get you started with Kali Linux (version 2018.4 / 2019), in addition to covering the core functionalities.

About the Author :

Himanshu Sharma has already achieved fame for finding security loopholes and vulnerabilities in Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Adobe, Uber, AT&T, Avira, and many more with hall of fame listings. He has helped celebrities such as Harbhajan Singh in recovering their hacked accounts, and also assisted an international singer in recovering his hacked accounts. He was a speaker at the international conference Botconf ’13, CONFidence 2018 and RSA Singapore 2018. He also spoke at the IEEE Conference as well as for TedX. Currently, he is the co-founder of BugsBounty, a crowd-sourced security platform.

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