The 8 Best Linux Distributions for Penetration Testing


Linux users have a plethora of free operating systems when it comes to penetration testing and digital forensics. The world of ethical hacking has continued to evolve, which is probably one of the reasons why many people find themselves being attracted to these auditing fields.

To serve this purpose, several Linux distros and software are available for forensic investigation, ethical hacking, and penetration testing. If you are an advanced Linux user looking to flex your brain muscles and get the ball rolling, it’s time for you to check some of these cybersecurity-related Linux distros.


1. Kali Linux


Kali Linux derives its root from Debian and is one of the most popular and advanced penetration testing Linux distributions. The operating system is available in 32-bit and 64-bit. Users who want to try the OS can download ISO files and virtual images for Kali Linux.

Kali is an open-source operating system maintained by Offensive Security. The OS offers over 350 tools in the following categories:

  • Reverse engineering
  • Wireless and hardware attacks
  • Vulnerability analysis
  • Information gathering
  • Sniffing and spoofing
  • Stress testing and reporting


2. ArchStrike


ArchStrike, a security-related Linux distro based on Arch Linux, is used heavily by cybersecurity professionals.

Deriving its roots from Arch Linux, it offers a wide range of options when it comes to package management. The ease of installation and removal of available packages makes this OS seamless to the end-users.

There are more than 5000 tools available on this system related to exploitation, social engineering, spoofing, malware, brute-force, networking, forensics, DDoS, and enumeration.

3. Demon Linux


Demon Linux, as the name aptly suggests, is a Linux-based operating system commonly used for ethical hacking. Despite its dark theme, it continues to be a lightweight and user-friendly distro for security professionals. Its true simplicity comes to the fore, as you can open any app with a single key.


Additionally, Demon Linux consists of a simple dock design that works effortlessly. Users can record their desktop and take screenshots easily from the quick access menu bar.

4. Cyborg Hawk


Cyborg Hawk is an Ubuntu-based distro that is home to more than 750 open-source tools. If you are an Ubuntu aficionado, this OS is going to please you to bits.

Cyborg Hawk ranks quite high on the list of network security and assessment operating systems. Rest assured, you can even perform accurate mobile security and wireless infrastructure testing within this OS.

On the contrary, it might not be as good as Kali; nevertheless, it does its job rather well.

Some features include:

  • Access to 750+ penetration testing tools.
  • Since it’s an open-source Linux distro, it’s free to use and you can even use it as a live OS.
  • Some services include the likes of stress testing, exploitation toolkit, reverse engineering, mobile and wireless security, etc.
  • Cyborg Hawk is a reliable, stable, and trustworthy OS, which comes with its own software repository.

5. BackBox


BackBox is an Ubuntu-based open-source OS, which has rapidly become one of the most popular names in the world of ethical hacking.


Additionally, it provides users with a network analysis toolkit, which is quite helpful in the world of penetration testing. BackBox ships with 70 tools; however, before running any tools, make sure you have a good understanding of the tool you are planning to use. Otherwise, you might find yourself lost in the labyrinth of commands.

Some common pre-installed tools include Metasploit, SQLmap, Aircrack-ng, Nmap, Scapy, w3af, and Wireshark, amongst many others.

6. Parrot OS


Parrot Security, based on Debian, is tailor-made for security experts, privacy-conscious users, and developers. It inherits its code repositories from Debian and is developed in collaboration with CAINE. It supports privacy browsers and cryptographic software like I2P and Tor.


Parrot Security, as an OS, comes equipped with a full arsenal of tools for IT security and digital forensics. You can even develop your own programs and maintain your privacy while surfing the internet. Parrot ships with the MATE desktop (by default), and provides different flavors to its end-users.

Parrot is regularly updated, is quite secure, and is fully sandboxed. Since it is open-source, you can view the source code easily and customize it as per your requirements.



Computer Aided Investigative Environment, more commonly known as CAINE, is a renowned and popular Linux distro that offers a user-friendly graphical menu and interface. CAINE Linux derives its roots from Ubuntu and is a big player in the world of system forensics.


CAINE's graphical interface offers a complete forensic environment, which you can integrate with the existing software tools. If you are looking for a meaningful well-structured report to help you with a better investigation and foster communication with your team, CAINE should be your first choice.

Some common forensic tools within this OS include Autopsy, The Sleuth Kit, Wireshark, PhotoRec, fsstat, RegRipper, and tinfoleak.

8. Pentoo

Pentoo is an open-source Linux-based operating system, available in 32-bit and 64-bit architectures. If you have used Gentoo Linux in the past, you'll find Pentoo relatively easy to install and use.

Pentoo is available with a full UEFI and comes well-equipped with UNetbootin, a secure boot support software. Thanks to the live run feature of the operating system, you can run it directly from a USB stick.


This distro ships with Xfce as the default desktop environment. Xfce is a lightweight, reliable desktop, and offers a ton of customizable options. Some additional tool categories include exploitation, MitM fuzzers, forensics, crackers, and database. It also offers a series of vital applications which include the likes of GPGPU, OpenCL, CUDA, John the Ripper, and Hashcat.

Learn Penetration Testing With the Best Linux Distributions

There are a ton of open-source penetration testing OSes available for forensic testing. Each operating system is free to download and offers a myriad of customizations to the end-users.

Although these operating systems might seem complex at first, nevertheless, they offer a bird's-eye view of the various segments required within forensic testing. If you are a beginner in the world of forensic testing, then it is time to do some research, before tackling any complicated tools.



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