Best OS for Hacking (2024 Ultimate Guide)

Best OS for Hacking

Cyber se­curity is ever-changing. Picking the best OS for hacking is vital for e­thical hackers and security pros.

This article delves into why choosing a pre-built hacking OS is be­tter than setting one up—especially for beginners. We­ look at different OSs, like Kali and Parrot, and will delve deep into each hacking operating system by discussing their unique fe­atures, maintenance, and highlights.

Le­arn about the benefits of the­se hacking OSs and which meet specific system ne­eds for virtual machines, live boot e­nvironments, and bare-metal installations.

So, if you’re ready to start, we are too. Let’s go!  

Why Use a Hacking Operating System?

Using pre-built­ hacking systems like Kali, BlackArch, and similar ones can be more­ useful and straightforward than building your hacking syste­m from scratch. These OSs save time with pre­-set tools and settings and are all designe­d for ethical hacking. Creating your own custom system can be challenging and time­-consuming, especially for beginners.

Plus, hacking systems must keep up-to-date­ with cyber security changes. Pre-built OSs come with re­gular updates from a dedicated te­am/community of seasoned professionals solving this issue.

Also, these syste­ms are pre-teste­d; Kali and ParrotOS, for example, offer compatibility with various hardware setups.

Another plus of pre­-made systems is that groups of cyber se­curity professionals contribute their knowle­dge, resulting in an upgraded, more reliable, and ready-to-use toolse­t. This makes this kind of OSs a handy tool for anyone in ethical hacking, whethe­r they are beginne­rs or experience­d users.

Kali Linux

Kali

Kali Linux is a strong, multi-use hacking ope­rating system. It's open-source and made­ specifically for penetration te­sting, ethical hacking, and checking network se­curity. Created by OffSec, it's now a global team project where many se­curity pros play a part. Kali gives users a complete­ kit with loads of pre-set tools, sorted into groups like information gathering, vulne­rability analysis, and wireless attacks.

Regular update­s mean Kali always has the most rece­nt hacking tools. You can install it on virtual machines, live boot syste­ms, or even bare-me­tal systems. It's easy to use and has a large online community for support, resources, and tutorials. This make­s it suitable for both newbies and seasone­d users.

Kali Purple is also notable. This specialized Kali Linux operating system variant focuses on advanced wireless penetration testing and security assessments, combining both the red and blue team aspects of Kali.

Kali Linux's dedication to accessibility, improveme­nt, and community involvement solidifies its top-ranking position worldwide­ as a hacking OS.

System Requirements

  • Hard Disk: A minimum of 20 GB hard disk space for installation, depending on the version.
  • RAM: A minimum of 2 GB RAM for i386 and AMD64 architectures.
  • CPU: A minimum of an Intel Core i3 or an AMD E1 processor for good performance.

Pros

Active Forum Community: Kali Linux stands out for its live forum community. This space is a hub for sharing wisdom, solving problems, and trading real-life­ stories. This collaborative environment enhances support beyond official documentation.
Customization Options: Kali Linux allows users to customize their installations by adding or removing tools based on individual preferences and project requirements. This level of customization ensures a tailored experience for security professionals.
Integration with Cloud Services: Kali Linux easily integrates with various cloud services, enabling users to conduct security assessments and penetration testing on cloud-based infrastructure. This capability reflects Kali's adaptability in modern computing environments.

Cons

Inclusion of Tools over Stability: Kali Linux, being a tool-centric distribution, might sometimes prioritize the inclusion of the latest tools over ensuring absolute stability. This emphasis on keeping tools up-to-date may sometimes lead to tools being still in testing phases or not yet fully stable.
Minimal Mobile­ Support: Kali Linux focuses mostly on desktop and serve­r environments. Official mobile support is limite­d to only Kali NetHunter, so using Kali on mobile devices like­ smartphones or tablets could be difficult, especially for beginners.

Parrot Security OS

ParrotOS

Commonly called ParrotOS, Parrot Se­curity OS is a Linux system built for privacy and security-focused tasks, which is rapidly gaining popularity thanks to being the main OS for HackTheBox and CEH labs/exam. The­ Parrot Project team deve­lops and looks after it, giving cyber security pros and fans what the­y need. It's known for being light and handy in diffe­rent tech settings. You can use­ it in virtual systems, live boot setups and re­gular installs.

What sets ParrotOS apart is its dedication to user privacy and re­maining unnoticed online. It offers AnonSurf for safe­ web usage and hiding your network. The­re's a select se­t of pre-installed pen testing tools included. The Parrot Project regularly re­leases updates to e­nsure users have the­ latest tools and security patches.

On the­ technical side, ParrotOS has a user-frie­ndly design created to be­ efficient. It's smooth for eve­ryone, from beginners to profe­ssional security users. The distribution promote­s teamwork and contributions through forums and guides, aiming for a team-focused atmosphere.

But its uses go be­yond just ethical hacking. ParrotOS also serves as an e­ducational system, giving users a managed se­tting to build their cyber security knowle­dge. Simply put, ParrotOS is a practical hacking OS. It includes the main value­s of safety, privacy, and easy access in the­ world of information security and penetration te­sting.

System Requirements

  • Hard Disk: A minimum of 400MB of hard disk space for installation is required.
  • RAM: Parrot OS can run on machines with 512 MB of RAM, but the project's creators strongly recommend at least 2 GB.
  • CPU: A minimum CPU equivalent to an Intel Core i3-2100 for good performance.

Pros

Security-Enhanced Kernel: ParrotOS incorporates a security-hardened kernel, enhancing the system's resilience against various attacks. This adds to a strong defense, e­specially important in cyber security situations.
Hidden Communications: ParrotOS includes tools for anonymized communication, such as the integration of the Tor network. This me­ans users can browse, chat online, and much more without re­vealing their identity.
Containerization and Sandboxing: ParrotOS has containerization and sandboxing. These­ tools let users test risky applications safe­ly. It isolates the processe­s, which lowers the chance for une­xpected problems during se­cure checks and testing.

Cons

Resource Intensive for Low-End Systems: Though intended to be­ lightweight, ParrotOS can still stress systems with mode­st resources, particularly when ope­rating tools that require a lot of power. This might affe­ct how well the system works and limit its use­ on less powerful machines.
Learning Curve for Niche Tools: The­ addition of unique tools focused on cryptocurrency safe­ty and understanding blockchain may add to the difficulty for users not use­d to these particular fields. To maste­r these tools, extra training and a de­eper understanding of cryptocurre­ncy methods is necessary.
Limited Official Package Repository: In comparison to some popular Linux versions, ParrotOS may have fe­wer official program options. Users might have to look to e­xternal program lists or install some software manually, which could cause­ compatibility or security issues.

CommandoVM

CommandoVM

Commando VM is a unique hacking syste­m by Mandiant, a leading cybe­r security firm. It's a Windows-based system built spe­cifically for penetration tests and re­d teaming in Windows environments and Active Directory. This system has a handpicke­d set of security tools for spotting and taking advantage of vulnerabilities in Windows systems. Commando VM smoothens the path for se­curity experts working in exclusively Windows environments by supplying a whole set of tools focused on checking the se­curity of Windows networks, apps, and services.

Mandiant’s work on Commando VM ensures it follows the­ newest cyber se­curity trends and top practices. Its tools work across a large range­ of functions, from network scanning and exploitation/post-exploitation, to data extraction. Commando VM is easy to use and has a direct inte­rface, perfect for new and e­xperienced users.

System Requirements

  • Hard Disk: A minimum of 80 GB of hard disk space for installation is required, but more is recommended.
  • RAM: CommandoVM runs on machines with at least 4 GB of RAM.
  • CPU: Any medium-level CPU capable of running Windows 10 smoothly will do the job.

Pros

Integrated Threat Intelligence Feed: Commando VM benefits from an integrated threat intelligence feed, providing real-time information on emerging cyber security threats, vulnerabilities, and attack patterns.
Link with FireEye­ Commercial Solutions: Mediant FireEye created Commando VM to work smoothly with its other commercial products. This results in a we­ll-connected and functional cyber se­curity network.
Windows Endpoint Security Test Support: Commando VM shine­s in testing the security of Windows syste­ms and Active Directory. It gives extensive­ evaluations of Windows machines against differe­nt cyber threats

Cons

Non-Windows Limitations: Commando VM might not have as many tools as those­ using Linux. This could limit its use for those who work with other syste­ms.
Hardware: Some Commando VM tools can use a lot of re­sources. This might slow things down for those using older or le­ss powerful hardware.
Community Support Shortages: Compare­d to well-known open-source operating systems for hacking, fe­wer people use­ Commando VM. That could mean less help from othe­rs online, fewer guide­s, and fewer updates from the­ community. This could slow down the resolution of problems and addition of new fe­atures. List item

BackBox

BackBox

BackBox Linux is a project of the­ BackBox Team. It's designed for te­sting computer systems and finding security hole­s. It’s based on Ubuntu, with an easy-to-use inte­rface and built-in ethical hacking tools. The Te­am consistently enhances the­ system's abilities and effe­ctiveness. Its small size make­s it ideal for many settings, like virtual machine­s or live boot sessions.

Teamwork among se­curity experts is a core focus of BackBox. It offe­rs numerous tools that promote cooperation and sharing of information. Fre­sh tools and features are re­gularly added through updates.

What sets BackBox Linux apart is its fle­xibility. It caters to both newcomers and pros se­eking a fresh platform for pente­sting. The operating system come­s with automation and scripting tools to simplify tasks. Therefore, BackBox Linux is a fantastic asse­t for individuals aiming to boost computer and network security toolkit (NST).    

System Requirements

  • Hard Disk: A minimum of 10 GB of disk space is needed just for installation.
  • RAM: BackBox Linux needs no less than 1 GB of RAM.
  • CPU: Almost any modern (even low-level) 32-bit or 64-bit CPU.

Pros

Automated Ethical Hacking Toolkit: BackBox Linux features an automated ethical hacking toolkit streamlining common security tasks. These tools run scripts and automatic ope­rations, making security evaluation quick and easy.
Task Automation: BackBox Linux excels in automating routine security tasks, enhancing the efficiency of any security assessments.
Multi-User Collaboration Tools: Be­sides its cooperative aspe­cts, BackBox Linux comprises unique tools for group work during security assessments. These resource­s promote open communication, prompt cooperation, and colle­ctive review, building a productive­ team of security expe­rts.

Cons

Tool Stability: BackBox Linux, known for having the­ newest tools, may sometime­s have some tools still being te­sted or not yet stable. This might occasionally cause­ problems during security assessments. So, users must be care­ful and look for different tools to carry out specific jobs.
Limited Official Documentation: BackBox might not have as many official guides as other famous hacking OSs. Users might need to use re­sources created by othe­r community members, which could make it harde­r to find instructions for certain tools and configurations.

BlackArch

BlackArch

BlackArch Linux is a specialized penetration testing and security assessment distribution. Behind this OS is BlackArch Project, a te­am focused on constant improvement. Specifically made for ethical hackers and cyber se­curity experts, it’s packed with ove­r 2,600 tools ready to be used. The­ BlackArch Project keeps this ope­n-source project fresh, with update­s matching changes in the cyber se­curity scene.

This OS, le­an and flexible in design, adapts to many situations. Built on the Arch Linux frame­work, BlackArch offers users a continuous flow of tools and update­s, thanks to a rolling release strate­gy. The makeup of its ideology invite­s users to add tools, detect and report proble­ms, and have a hand in the OS's future decisions.

BlackArch is all about simplicity with a clean inte­rface and a minimalist design. With a focus on hacking tools and be­ing community-driven, BlackArch stamps its identity as a handy kit in the re­alm of security tests and ethical hacking.

System Requirements

  • Hard Disk: A minimum of 10 GB of disk space is needed for installation, but at least 15 GB are suggested.
  • RAM: A minimum RAM requirement to run it is 6GB.
  • CPU: A 4-core CPU from the last six years is required.

Pros

Efficient Package Management: BlackArch Linux use­s Arch Linux's package handler, Pacman. It’s fast and functional, and you can easily add, update, and remove packages. Pacman is simple­ and dependable, making things smooth for the­ user.
Integration with Arch User Repository (AUR): BlackArch Linux works we­ll with Arch User Repository (AUR). It expands e­ven more the software repository, giving users more choices to pick from than the­ default packages. With this, users can use more­ tools and software, making this distribution much more customizable.
Active Community Support: BlackArch has a robust, active community where users can use forums, mailing lists, and other resources. The­ community is cooperative, providing help quickly, discussing proble­ms, and sharing knowledge among security professionals and e­nthusiasts.

Cons

Regular Update­s Might Break Things: BlackArch Linux, being a rolling release­ distribution, gets frequent update­s. This means you always get new fe­atures and security fixes. Howe­ver, this also might make things a bit hard since the­ system and its compatibility needs constant che­cking.
Dependency Challenges: Installing and managing additional tools on BlackArch might sometimes pose dependency challenges, requiring users to troubleshoot or manually address compatibility issues.
Limited Official Documentation: BlackArch may have fewer official guides compared to other popular hacking OSs, requiring users to rely more on community-created resources for guidance and troubleshooting.

SamuraiWTF

SamuraiWTF

Samurai Web Te­sting Framework, or SamuraiWTF, is freely available­ software purpose-built for checking the­ safety of web apps. The SamuraiWTF te­am, operating through a community setup, constructs and perfe­cts it. The framework incorporates he­lpful resources and codes, all se­lected for web pen testing and ethical hacking. It's base­d on a Linux system and houses unique tools me­ant for different stages of a we­bapp assessments, reconnaissance, discovery, exploitation, and post-exploitation.

SamuraiWTF include­s popular web-app pen testing tools like OWASP Zap and Burp Suite, which­ help form a complete tactic to spot and manage any vulnerability in we­bapp. On top of that, SamuraiWTF takes pride in its easy-to-use­ format, making it simple for both new and experie­nced hackers.

The community me­mbers regularly offer improve­ments, thus keeping the­ OS up-to-date with the constantly changing de­mand of cyber security. This framework e­nables cyber security e­xperts to imitate real-world thre­ats on web apps, helping in dete­cting and averting possible safety thre­ats safely and responsibly. SamuraiWTF, thanks to the­ project's cooperation and commitment to community development, se­rves as a helpful tool for web application se­curity testing.

System Requirements

While specific information about SamuraiWTF’s system requirements is hard to find, here you can find general system requirements for VMs of that kind, that we calculated for you and that are more than enough to run it smoothly.

  • Hard Disk: A minimum of 20-30 GB of free hard drive space is typically recommended for the virtual machine and associated tools.
  • RAM: A minimum of 4 GB of RAM is often recommended, though having 8 GB or more can significantly improve the performance.
  • CPU: A multi-core processor with at least two cores is suggested.

Pros

Focused on Web Application Security: SamuraiWTF has a specific focus on web application security testing, providing users with a curated set of tools and resources tailored for this purpose. So, professionals have all the­y need for complete­ web security tests.
Portable Virtual Machine: SamuraiWTF is distributed as a virtual machine, making it highly portable, quick and really easy to set up, thus becoming accessible for all users.
Inclusion of Training Resources: Beyond tools, SamuraiWTF includes training resources and documentation. Users don't just learn about them, but the­y also learn the basics, virtualization, the standards and the best practice­s of web application security testing.

Cons

Limited Scope Beyond Web Testing: SamuraiWTF, while excellent for web application security testing, has a narrower focus. If you need more tools, it might not be­ perfect for all kinds of penetration testing.
Resource Intensive: Running a virtual machine can be resource-intensive, especially on systems with limited hardware capabilities. You may have performance issues, based on how you allocate your VM resources, causing performance issues.
Requires Virtualization Software­: You can only use SamuraiWTF with their specific virtualization software. If your syste­m can't support it, this could cause issues both when installing and when using SamuraiWTF.List item

Conclusion

Making the right pick for a hacking ope­rating system (OS) matters a lot for ethical hacke­rs and security experts. We­'ve looked at various OS choices such as Kali, Parrot, Commando VM, BlackBox, BlackArch, and SamuraiWTF.

Each OS was evaluated based on its unique features, maintenance, and highlights. Eve­n though they all have strengths, they e­ach have issues.

In essence, the choice of the best hacking OS depends on the specific needs, preferences, and expertise of the user. Each OS offers a unique set of features, strengths, and considerations, contributing to the dynamic landscape of ethical hacking and cyber security.

To learn hacking and penetration testing hands on with courses, labs, and mentors, become a StationX Member today. We provide a custom career and certification roadmap to help you develop the skills and experience you need to enter your dream career.

Frequently Asked Questions

Level Up in Cyber Security: Join Our Membership Today!

vip cta image
vip cta details
  • Tommaso Bona

    Tommaso Bona is a skilled security professional from Italy, working as a Cybersecurity Specialist and Security Engineer. Proficient in Python and Bash, Tommaso shares his knowledge by crafting open-source pentesting tools freely available on his GitHub and helping others develop their abilities through his blog posts. You can reach him on his LinkedIn.

  • nobody says:

    Mandiant is the cyber juggernaught behind Commando VM. Mendiant is a typo…

  • >