11 Best Linux Distros For Hacking And Penetration Testing in 2023

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Which is the best Linux distro for hacking in 2023?

Linux is the most popular operating system among hackers and pentesters. However, there are many Linux distributions out there. While some are designed for specific tasks others are for general purpose use.

So, finding the best Linux distro that fits your ethical hacking and pentesting needs can be a daunting task… especially if you are looking for a security-focused Linux distro.

In this article, we are going to look at the best Linux distros that provide you with the tools you need for assessing network security and other hacking-related tasks. A Linux distribution that is more security-focused will be your best asset for assessing and exploiting security vulnerabilities in networks and systems.

All these Linux distros are free, open-source tools and are great for learning ethical hacking from scratch online.

At the end of this article, I will also mention my favorite Linux distro for hacking to get you started.

Let’s begin.

1. Kali Linux

Kali Linux is the most popular Linux distro for hacking and penetration testing among information security professionals.

It is an open-source Debian-based Linux distribution developed by Offensive Security that has over 600 hacking tools out of the box. In fact, I have written another article where I list the best Kali Linux tools for penetration testing and hacking.

These tools are frequently updated and are often used for penetration testing, ethical hacking, digital forensics, security research, and reverse engineering. It is very easy to install as you simply need to load a live image into your system RAM to get started using its tools.

2. BackBox

BackBox is an open-source community-driven Linux distro for hacking that is focused on promoting information security.

It is an Ubuntu-based distribution that is both lightweight and compatible with older system hardware. This Linux distro for pentesting is popular because it comes out of the box with tools for network analysis, web application testing, security vulnerability analysis, and exploitation.

It is also very customizable. In fact, if you want to be able to access the machine from anywhere, you can opt for a cloud-based BackBox on AWS that is device agnostic.

BackBox also has its own software repository where you can download other tools that you may need to get your cybersecurity professional work done.

3. Parrot Security OS

Parrot Security OS is another of the very popular Linux distros for hacking and penetration testing developed by the Frozenbox team. It comes with a GNOME2 desktop environment with a great user interface that is very responsive and easy to use.

While being lightweight and user-friendly, it also comes with a number of useful penetration testing tools that ensure anonymity while performing your hacking tasks.

Apart from hackers, this Linux distro for hacking is also loved by computer programmers as it has tools for software development, privacy defense, and software security testing for ensuring your applications are foolproof. So if you are serious about a career in hacking and pentesting then this is a Linux distro you must check out.

4. BlackArch

BlackArch is a top Linux distribution that is focused on penetration testing and is common among security researchers and ethical hackers. It is based on Arch Linux and allows you to install BlackArch components on top of it.

One of its most outstanding features is its repository with over 2,000 hacking tools that are well tested before release. This Linux distro for pentesting does not provide a desktop environment so you have to operate it through a Window Manager.

It also facilitates the installation of these tools by letting you either install them as bundles like crackers, keyloggers, sniffers or download them separately. In order to run BlackArch, you need a 64-bit processor, 1GB free hard drive space, and a USB drive with at least 2GB free space.

5. DEFT Linux

DEFT Linux, which stands for Digital Evidence and Forensics Tool, is another one of the best Linux distros for hacking that is based on Ubuntu. This pentesting Linux distro comes bundled together with a huge variety of computer forensic tools and user guides for hackers to get started with.

With these documents and user guides, you can easily learn the ins and outs of this Linux distro and start using it even if you are a complete beginner. It also comes with a cool desktop environment that makes executing these features and functionalities much easier.

Even though it is lightweight and super powerful, its functionalities mainly target forensic acquisition and the analysis of digital evidence. So it’s most common among law enforcement and related agencies.

6. Bugtraq

Bugtraq is a popular community-driven Linux distribution that is mostly used for ethical hacking, digital forensics, and cybersecurity-related tasks. It is also famous for its electronic mailing list that is solely focused on computer security news and articles.

Bugtraq also comes, out of the box, with a variety of penetration testing tools including mobile forensics and malware testing tools. The community behind this Linux distro for pentesting also develops a lot of software and tools that you can use to perform various other hacking tasks.

Apart from being available for Android as an app, it is also available in 10 other different languages for ease of use. Since it’s available in different flavors, this Linux distribution for ethical hackers is user-friendly and very easy to get started with.

7. Samurai Web Testing Framework

Samurai Web Testing Framework is a pre-configured Ubuntu-based Linux distro that is specifically used for web application penetration testing, among other really interesting security testing tasks.

It comes with a variety of free and open-source hacking tools for detecting and exploiting vulnerabilities in web applications. In fact, it is known as the best Linux distro for web app pentesting.

Even though Samurai is a virtual machine, and not a complete operating system on its own, it comes with all the tools you need for comprehensive web app testing. And the best thing is that it comes pre-configured with a web application hacking environment so you don’t have to fiddle around with different settings.

You just launch it and get started…

It also comes with a pre-configured wiki set up to store information while penetration testing websites.

8. Pentoo Linux

Pentoo Linux is a top-rated Linux distro focused on security and penetration testing that is based on Gentoo Linux. It is basically a Gentoo installation with a lot of customized tools and Linux kernel features.

Apart from having a great desktop environment, it also comes with a variety of tools that fall into the categories of exploits, crackers for password hacking, and scanners, etc.

The Pentoo Linux live CD also comes with persistence support that enables you to save all the changes you make before running it off a USB stick. So the changes you make to the live CD will still be available the next time you boot your computer, or simply restart it.

It is a great Linux distro if you want to perform ethical hacking and penetration testing on a custom Gentoo environment.

9. Caine

Caine stands for Computer-Aided Investigation Environment.

It is another famous Linux distro based on Ubuntu that comes bundled with a lot of tools for computer forensics and security analysis. You can run it as a portable operating system directly from a bootable USB drive, which makes it very convenient to deploy.

But you can also install it on your hard drive if you want to.

Some of the tools that it comes with include tools for memory auditing, network analysis, database analysis, and digital forensics. Besides the applications for performing expert hacking tasks, it also comes with basic utilities like a web browser, an email client, an amazing image editor among others.

10. Fedora Security Spin

Fedora Security Spin is one of the best Linux distros released as a variation of Fedora, designed for security testing and used for teaching purposes.

Its main purpose is to provide support to teachers and students while learning information security, forensic analysis, and web application security. Like other top Linux distros, it also comes bundled with various tools for security auditing, penetration testing, and system rescue.

It is also backed by a huge community of developers and security researchers who will help you find your way around. Apart from coming with an XFCE desktop environment, it is also very lightweight. So you can even install it on an older computer if you want to turn it into a hacking machine.

11. Network Security Toolkit

Network Security Toolkit is a Linux distro for pentesting based on Fedora that runs on both 32 and 64 bit systems.

It is available as a bootable live USB disk. With this easy-to-use Linux hacking distribution, you can quickly turn an x86 system into a hacking machine with the ability to perform intrusion detection, network packet sniffing, host scanning, among others.

This Linux hacking distro also comes with a great-looking and easy-to-use user interface that makes accessing the options much easier. If you are a security professional or network administrator you can use it, alongside your other tools, as a very cool set of network security tools.

It gives you the opportunity to use the best open-source network security tools and applications for penetration testing purposes.

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Since all these Linux distros for hacking are free, anyone can use them to get their hacking career started. There are many other Linux distros for information security professionals, so the best way to find the one that works for you is to try each one and see for yourself.

However, in this article, I have listed the most popular Linux distributions for pentesting and ethical hacking. If you are still undecided as to which one to start with, then my recommendation is to start with Kali Linux.

It is a great Linux distro for hacking, digital forensics, intelligence, and penetration testing. Being the most popular Linux distro for pentesting it has a lot of learning resources to get you started.

In fact, I put together this online Kali Linux courses review to provide you with links to the best tutorials to get you started with the Kali Linux operating system.

Kali Linux is very easy to install. You don’t even need to run a separate Linux installation, you just need to load a live image into your system RAM to start using the best Kali Linux pentesting tools. This Linux distro is also frequently updated and has over 600 pentesting tools to choose from.

Have you used any of the other Linux distros for hacking in this list?

Please share your experience in the comments below.

Lerma Gray

Lerma is our expert in online education with over a decade of experience. Specializing in e-learning and e-courses. She has reviewed several online training courses and enjoys reviewing e-learning platforms for individuals and organizations.

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