Penetration testing

Top 10 Linux distro for ethical hacking and penetration testing

Irfan Shakeel
April 8, 2018 by
Irfan Shakeel

A security-focused operating system is a hacker's best companion as it helps them to discover the weaknesses in computer systems or computer networks. Whether you are pursuing a career in Information Security or working as a security professional or you are interested in this specific field of knowledge, you must be known of a decent Linux distro that suits your purpose.

Here is a list of some top Linux distro for ethical hacking and penetration testing that will surely help you to pick one that best fits your need.

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Kali linux

It is developed by Offensive Security as the rewrite of BackTrack and tops our list as one of the best-operating systems for hacking purposes. This Debian-based OS comes with 500+ preinstalled pen testing tools and applications that make your security toolbox richer to start along. These flexible tools are frequently updated and are offered for different platforms like ARM and VMware. Kali Linux is also feasible for a forensic job as it comes with a live boot capability that provides a perfect environment for vulnerability detection.

Download Kali Linux

Parrot security OS:

It is also a Debian-based OS that is developed by Frozenbox's team. Parrot security is a cloud-friendly operating system designed for ethical hacking, pen testing, computer forensics, cryptography, etc. Compared to others, Parrot Security OS is a lightweight OS that is highly efficient to work with. Parrot Security OS is a mixture of Frozenbox OS and Kali Linux. Moreover, this highly customizable hacking operating system also comes with a strong community support.

Download Parrot Security OS


BackBox Linux is an Ubuntu-based operating system that is used for security assessment and penetration testing. BackBox Linux has a wide range of security analysis tools that can be used for web application analysis, network analysis, etc. It is fast and easy to use Linux distro that is famous among hacker's community which comes with a complete desktop environment. The software applications provided by the OS are regularly updated with the most stable versions.

Download BackBox Linux

Samurai web testing framework

Samurai Web Testing Framework is essentially a live Linux environment that comes pre-configured to work as a web penetration testing platform. It contains multiple free and open source hacking tools for detecting web vulnerabilities. It is often known as the best operating system for Web Penetration Testing.

Download Samurai Web Testing Framework

Pentoo linux

Pentoo is a pen testing focused operating system based on Gentoo Linux. It can be used on top of an existing Gentoo Linux installation. Pentoo is an XFCE-based distro which comes with persistence support that enables you to save all the changes you make before running off a USB stick. It comes with a wide variety of tools that fall under categories like Exploit, Cracker, Database, and Scanner, etc.

Download Pentoo Linux

DEFT linux

The open source Linux distribution "DEFT" stands for Digital Evidence and Forensic Toolkit. DEFT is based on Ubuntu and built around the DART (Digital Advanced Response Toolkit) software. It is preconfigured with many popular forensic tools and documents that can be used by ethical hackers, penetration testers, IT security specialists, and other individuals.

Download DEFT Linux


Security focused distro "Caine" is an Ubuntu-based operating system that is available as a live disk. It stands for Computer Aided Investigation Environment. This Linux distro comes with a wide range of tools to help you in computer forensics. Caine comes with various numbers of database, memory, forensics, and network analysis applications.

Download Caine

Network security toolkit (NST)

Fedora-based Linux distro "Network Security Toolkit" runs on 32 and 64-bit platforms. This bootable live CD was created to give you a right to use the best open source network security applications for pen testing purposes. This easy-to-use hacking distro easily converts the x86 systems into an ethical hacking machine that is helpful in intrusion detection, network traffic sniffing, network packet generation, network/host scanning, etc.

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Download Network Security Toolkit

BlackArch linux

BlackArch Linux is an absolute Linux distribution for security researchers and ethical hackers. It is derived from Arch Linux, and one can also install the BlackArch Linux components on top of it. It provides more than 1400 tools that are thoroughly tested before adding to the codebase. Moreover, it is constantly growing reputation is making it popular among operating systems for hacking purposes.

Download BlackArch Linux

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Bugtraq is famous for its electronic mailing list that is purely dedicated to computer security. It is available in Debian, Ubuntu, and OpenSUSE. The Bugtraq developer team consists of experienced hackers and developers that offer a great service for ethical pen testers. It comes with a number of penetration testing tools including mobile forensic tools, malware testing tools and other software developed by the Bugtraq-Community.

Download Bugtraq

However, there are many other distributions as well that are used by many professional, but these are the mainly used distributions that are highly recommended and preferred by experienced professionals from the field. Moreover, the selection of Linux distribution depends on the purpose for what purpose it is being used.

Irfan Shakeel
Irfan Shakeel

Irfan Shakeel is the founder & CEO of An engineer, penetration tester and a security researcher. He specializes in Network, VoIP Penetration testing and digital forensics. He is the author of the book title “Hacking from Scratch”. He loves to provide training and consultancy services, and working as an independent security researcher.