If you’ve ever asked yourselves “Which is the best OS for hacking?” than you’re exactly where you should be, in your room, and on this exact page!
Security and Hacking has always been a passion of mine, and I’m sure you too have wanted to become a hacker at least at some point of your life, for some duration of time at least.
So, here I bring to you the 11 best Kali Linux Distro for hacking, well no they won’t make you an expert “hacker”, that’s something you’ll have to work hard for, but these definitely will get you the tools and equipment you need to become so.
21 Best OS for Hacking
In case you’re totally new to this, these hacking Linux distros are simply operating systems or more like versions of operating systems, locked and loaded with all the weapons you’ll ever need to test the security and stability of whatever you’re testing.
Try to use them to secure your computer or network rather than break into someone else’s.
So here’s the arsenal folks, 21 best OS for hacking (don’t forget to check out #9).
I believe not many of you here will even debate this, I mean even a hacker, who isn’t a hacker, and hasn’t ever wanted to be one, has heard of Kali Linux, isn’t that right? It’s arguably the best OS for hacking hands down!
Kali is designed and distributed by Offensive Security Ltd. as a re-write for Backtrack which was more of a forensic Linux distribution tool rather than a hacker’s hammer.
Now before I say anything else, let me just say like for everything else on the planet, there are lovers, and haters for Kali, both with their own set of logics and reasons, and the “I’m right” game goes on.
But, I personally love Kali for some basic reasons, it has 600+ pen-testing tools for starters, it’s open-source, and it uses a single-root account by default, as most of the tools on Kali need highest level of privileges so it just seemed logical and time-saving (Although it has its downsides).
It’s supported not only on computers with x86 wireframes, and ARM architectures, but also on smartphones including the Nexus series, One Plus One and some others!
Bottomline, Kali is designed for pen-testers and hackers; most of the tools need to be used from shell and there isn’t a lot of GUI, but that’s the beauty of it, you can’t claim to climb the mountains and use a car to do so at the same time, can you?
This is the name that pops up the most whenever you search for anything even remotely related to a Kali Linux alternative.
Let’s just start with the fact that BackBox is free, and open-source; designed with an aim to promote IT security it has its very own software respiratory as well.
It promotes a wide array of pentesting, everything from forensic analysis, social engineering, information gathering, reverse engineering, maintenance access, documentation, reporting to hardcore exploitation is possible.
It may not be as heavily armed as Kali Linux when it comes to the number of tools, which is just around 100 at most compared to 600+ of Kali, even then it acts in its favor; helping minimize distraction while providing only the most used and important tools for Ethical hacking and testing.
Some of the tools it includes are Crunch, Metasploit, Wireshark etc. just so you know you aren’t missing anything with this one.
Although in my personal opinion, Kali has more of a learning curve as compared to BackBox, the GUI still is minimal; and some friendship with Shell and scripting is demanded by both of them.
So in a nutshell, Backbox has all the potential required to be the best OS for hacking just in case Kali couldn’t satisfy your needs.
Parrot Sec Forensic OS
Parrot Sec has quite a lot in common with Kali Linux, starting with the fact that they both are GNU based Linux distros, and obviously both of them are great pen testing tools.
One primary edge it has over Kali is its lesser use of Hardware and resources, meaning it doesn’t lag that often, or loads faster and is just smoother and seamless overall.
And then again, Parrot Sec also has around 100 more tools as compared to Kali Linux when “quantity” is taken into account, not that it really matters or makes a big dent because most of the tools available with Parrot can also be separately downloaded for Kali.
It has two versions, a “Home” version, more light-weight, with lesser features but somewhat simpler for the common man who doesn’t exactly need to be Mr. Robot.
While its other “Security” version is the same thing overall, just with some additional features and tools which aren’t available to the home version.
Or even if it’s anonymity you’re looking for, it takes care of that as well by providing us with tools to get us an anonymous net surfing experience.
It may or may not be the best OS for hacking depending on how you see it; but it clearly is a more “complete” kind of package than most other Linux pen-testing distros out there.
Samurai Web Testing Framework
As the name indicates, the Samurai Web Testing Framework is clearly a “Web” testing solution.
What this means is, it too is a hacker’s toolbox but it’s focused more around hacking/testing websites and finding vulnerabilities in them rather than hacking into someone else’s computers or cell phones.
It’s like a “package” of tools, a kind of compilation of tools needed to hack into websites, in their words, they’ve “collected the top testing tools and pre-installed them to build the perfect environment for testing applications.” (Source: Sourceforge).
Also, more than an operating system such as Kali or Parrot-Sec, the Samurai Web Testing Framework is rather a virtual machine, something which runs best when run inside another operating system.
Now they may not have as many tools as Kali or Parrot Sec, but even then they’re one of the best OS for hacking because in this case we’re focused only around the “web” and naturally that lowers the number of tools required.
Some of the tools included with the framework are SQLBrute, BurpSuit, SpikeProxy, RatProxy, HTTP_Print etc.
DEFT stands for Digital Evidence and Forensic Toolkit; absolutely to the point. So, let me make it clear right here that DEFT can help you “hack” and “pentest”; but it’s best used as a “tracker” or “analyzer” of sorts.
In fact, even if you are a newbie, DEFT includes a guide which helps you navigate around the environment and learn some of the basics of using it.
It comes as a Live CD and is armed with WINE and LXDE which gives you the power to run Windows apps on the Linux environment.
Some of the tools it includes are Google Password Decryptor, MySQL password auditor, socket sniff, sniffpass etc.
Along with these tools which make it one of the best OS for hacking; it also includes general apps which you can run to do what most normal people do, such as LibreOffice, Gnome media player and some browsers.
Live Hacking OS
Live Hacking OS is a Linux based live OS which can be run directly from a CD/DVD and doesn’t need any installation.
It has two versions; the full version is heavier and better, with a full graphical interface and all the available tools.
The second version has been named “mini-CD”; and even though is equally powerful as the full version, lacks a graphical interface and is command-line only.
It totally is “one” of the best pen-testing distro available, but in my opinion go for it only if you have super low system specs. Otherwise, Kali or Parrot should be your priority.
One of the reasons why I said that is; as a project, Live hacking OS has been “retired”; meaning there won’t be any more updates or changes to it. Although it still can be used and hasn’t lost its usefulness any bit and totally deserves a mention as one of the best OS for hacking.
Based on Gentoo Linux, it surely is on every hacker, or security enthusiasts’ best OS for hacking list.
It too, like all the other Linux distros here is a security and pen testing solution, and it too is available as a live CD and USB stick, so yeah no hardcore installations needed.
It supports both 32bit and 64bit infrastructures, although in addition can also be used as a Gentoo overlay.
Some of the features and tools it includes are GGPU; packet injection tools and many more. Although yes they aren’t as many as Kali if “quantity” is taken into account, but the tools are more than what most people would need, or ever use.
It also beings with itself the nightly vision for some tools in addition to GrSecurity and PAX with the Pentoo Kernal.
Bottomline, it may not be the best Linux for hacking, but without doubt is one of the top ones.
CyborgHawk is one of the most popular and best OS for hacking with an average 1,000 downloads per week as of today!
Not just that, when it comes to tools and feature even then it beats Kali and most other distros here with its vast arsenal of 750+ security and pen testing tools.
It too can be used from a CD or USB-stick; and as far as types of hacks, vectors or infrastructures go, let me just say that list includes just about everything.
It can be used for Wireless security, forensics, mobile security, web security, social engineering, exploitation and what not.
And obviously, the most popular and most used tools such as Metasploit, fingerprinter and everything else are packed too.
It’s free, has its own respiratory, and totally supports virtual machines. Bottomline? You may even give it a try before you try Kali out!
Knoppix isn’t something you should be using if you’re totally a new resident in the Linux world, as nearly everything on Knoppix is done from the command-line.
The reason it’s being listed here is because of its extremely long features and tools’ list, it includes nearly every tool that any other OS boasts of in this list.
It too can be booted from a CD or USB without the need to install it, and it actually is pretty simple and “basic” to use as long as you’re familiar with Linux.
It includes Packet sniffes, TCP tools, tunnels, wireless tools, vulnerability assessment tools and basically everything else.
It totally can be used as a “summary” of all the tools we’ve talked of so far, consider all of them bundled up in this one distro and that’s what Knoppix STD is.
Formerly known as “Ubuntu Pentest Edition“, NodeZero is a name that’s earned its place on almost all the pieces existing on the Internet about the best Hacking tool or OS.
I’ll call a spade a spade and make it clear that it shouldn’t be compared to Kali or Backbox; it’s not as massively feature-rich although with tools like Implementation 6, Implantation 6D, Toobit6, parasite 6, smurf 6, fake-mipv6 it’s not entirely useless and in the right hands could wreak havoc.
It’s totally capable of being used as a “Live OS” (one which isn’t traditionally installed and rather lives temporarily on the system) although its true powers are unleashed when it’s installed permanently as the primary (or maybe secondary) OS.
An OS crafted specially for Pentesters derived from Arch Linux is what BlackArc Linux is (the name made it kinda obvious; didn’t it?)
As for the number and types of tools; it’s a total feast and has an arsenal consisting of over 2154 tools! Tools for Cryptography, Debugging, Forensics, Binary, Recon, Proxy, Radio, Fingerpriting, Firmware, Networking, Cracking, Bluetooth, Windows, Tunnel, Spoofing, Packing, Keylogging and everything else in between have been included.
It also allows individual installation of these tools; or in groups saving time.Being a relatively newer project a bug may show itself now and then but the OS in itself is pretty stable and can be used for major projects.
CAINE is a Computer Forensic OS which stands for – Computer Aided Investigative Environment. It was primarily designed for the law enforcement agencies, military, corporate agencies or just individuals who may wish to use a computer to some of its “extended potentials” rather than just surf the web.
It comes pre-bundled with quite a few Investigative as well as everyday-tools such as Firefox, image editors etc. It’s completely open-source. There are 18 primary tools in the “Forensic category” however each have their own sub-categories extending the number quite a bit.
Being interpolable, it (semi)-automatically compiles gathered data during a research into the final report. The interface won’t be very pleasing, but that’s not what you’re searching for anyone are you? Although obviously it’s completely graphical, with some exceptional apps requiring command-line usage.
It can be run both from a live-disk as well as be installed on the Harddisk. However, the latter isn’t as straight-forward as installing Windows and may not be for everyone.
Now note that in order to use it as an OS for hacking, you may have to make some manual changes and take extra precautions as “hacking” isn’t the goal it was created with. Hence “anonymity” is something which needs to be taken care of separately.
Another Best OS for Hacking is Dracos Linux. It’s LFS-based (Linux from Scratch). Is open-source so definitely trustworthy. Based out of Indonesia, the primary goal Dracos Linux was built with is to provide a feature-rich Pentesting tool.
Although the website requires you to have basic knowledge of what you’re doing. So you won’t find a “features” list or any other marketing gimmicks explaining to you what the OS does.
Includes a plethora of tools, some of which include tools for Reverse Engineering, MITM attacks, Exploitation Testing, Analyzing Malware, Testing stress, Social Engineering etc. Basically the entire bunch which we generally expect with other similar tools.
It also mentions that no personal user data is collected which is a win and a desirable feature. The interface is another reason why we think it’s not exactly beginner- friendly, it relies more on command-lines and less on GUI. But that’s where the roots of hacking lie, don’t they?
The one benefit which you can reap off Dracos as compared to other best hacking OS is that it has low system demands. So low-end systems can run it without lags or freezes as well.
Bottomline, give it a try if you have even the least bit of Pentesting experience and you probably won’t be disappointed.
Network Security Toolkit
Network Security Toolkit, also abbreviated as NST is a Fedora-based live OS. Or in other words, it doesn’t require installations can be mounted directly from a USB stick / CD drive.
It provides extremely advanced pentesting, network and traffic monitoring tools. What’s more interesting is quite a number of features that NST offers can also be accessed from a web-interface.
Some of the pre-included tools and features are Network intrusion detector, Multi-port terminal server, Multi-tap network packet capture, connections monitor, NMap, Kismet, Arp Scanning, Host/IPv4 Address Geolocation, Virtual system server etc.
All in all, a pretty feature-rich OS for hackers capable of getting most jobs done.
Arch Strike is a Linux distro designed specifically for Cyber pros and pentesters. A total of 5000+ packages are offered which let you play with the full length and breadth of hacking that there is.
Some of its features include the “crackmapexec” package which deals with almost everything that there is about active directories. “Wsfuzzer” automates SOAP pentesting, free proxy servers, ASP fingerprinting tool, SQL injection, info extraction from malware, payload generator, Wi-Fi injection are just some of the many other superpowers that Arch Strike offers.
It also includes an automated XSS payload generator, an XSS detection suite, a scanner for cross-site scripting, a python-based RDP etc.
It’s a LIVE-OS and can be written to USB-sticks or CD-drives. The size of the iso is 3.7GB. “root” is the username as well as password for root access, while the normal user can login using “archstrike”.
GnackTrack may not be the supercharged hacking beast that Kali Linux is, however it totally qualifies as at least one of the family members.
If you’re just starting out with hacking or Pentesting, GnackTrack may actually be an easier and better way to take that first step.
The interface is based on GNOME. It’s completely open-source (obviously), and brings with itself a hoard of tools including metasploit, wa3f, Armitage etc. The tools have been categorized into Information Gathering, Digital Forensics, VoIP, Radio Network Analysis, and the rest has been put into Miscellaneous.
The OS can be used both with 32 bit as well as 64 bit systems. Chromium, Opera, a couple extra web browsers, FileZilla, Xchat etc. are pre-bundled.
The OS was primarily developed by a single individual and hasn’t seen an update in quite some time now. Be that as it may, it still is totally functional and usable to this date.
Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)
We’ve listed 16 best OS for hacking so far.
That’s a pretty long, and sufficient list, isn’t it?
Let’s try and answer some of the basics related to hacking OS then?
Which is the best OS for hacking?
Any OS can be used for hacking.
However, Kali Linux is the most widely used OS for hacking.
When not Kali, hackers still use one or the other Linux distro. Only rarely is a non-Linux environment used by serious hackers.
Why are all hacking OS Linux-based on this list?
There are a few pretty clear reasons why this is so
1. Linux is open-source. This offers more transparency as far as backdoors and loopholes go. This also means users can customize the OS to their needs.
2. Linux is portable. A Live USB disk can be created in a fizzy. Moreover, Linux distros make Linux lightweight when required.
3. Linux is almost universal. Most hardware including routers and other network devices have some form of linux/Unix installed. This means they’re easier to hack when targeted from a linux device.
4. Command-line access is something else that’s useful for hackers. It offers more control and is much faster than GUIs that Windows or other OS offer.
5. It’s believed that Linux has more unpatched loopholes and entry-points because of its open-source nature. As a result, it’s easier to hack into Linux systems espicially when the hacker is on Linux himself/herself.
6. Linux is lightweight in general, specially when compared to Windows. It’s capable of running even on systems with minimal resources while that’s not the case with Windows systems.
Why is Kali Linux good for hacking?
It offers one of the biggest arsenals (over 600) of pre-included hacking tools.
It’s extremely customizable.
The primary purpose of Kali too was penetration-testing to begin with.
Is Kali Linux illegal?
No, it’s not.
Kali Linux is just an operating system.
When used for illegal hacking, the illegal hacking is what’s illegal not Kali Linux itself.
Are the best OS for TOR and best OS for hacking the same?
No, they aren’t.
The best OS for TOR are focused on privacy and anonymity.
The best OS for hacking on the other hand bring in “tools and techniques” to hack into other systems.
Which is the most secure OS?
There’s no such thing as “most secure OS”.
The Linux distributions are generally safer.
Did you know Windows 10 is extremely unsafe, risky and nosy? (Here are some Windows 10 privacy tools).
Parrot OS vs. Kali Linux: Which is better?
I’ve found this to be a question asked quite frequently by those searching for the best hacking OS.
Well, in simpler terms, if you need a less feature-rich but updated hacking OS, Parrot OS is the answer.
But, if you need more control with customization, better injection abilities, better hardware support and support for multiple languages, you should go with Kali Linux.
However, because Parrot OS is comparatively lightweight, it can be used even on a bit outdated or low-spec devices.It can be run on just 320MB RAM and 16GB space.
On the other hand, Kali is a bit more demanding. You’ll need at least 1GB RAM and 20 GB storage. Obviously, I doubt any of you reading these have systems lower than these specs anyway.
Just in my personal opinion, it may help going with Parrot OS if you’re an absolute beginner. Once you get the hang of things, the switch can be made.
Note that the features are largely the same. It’s just the interface and overall UX which differs to some extent.
So that’s a wrap as far as this piece on the best OS for hacking goes folks. I believe I’ve listed the world’s most popular, most used, and feature-rich OS used for hacking, or security forensics.
Know that using none of these tools is as easy as they show in the movies, so you can’t just hack your block’s power grid on day one or something, but eventually, these tools totally have the potential and the features to make that happen.
Obviously considering all of these are Linux distros, you’ll need at least basic knowledge of Linux before you actually unleash the true potential of these beasts.
Anyway, note that these best OS for hacking are shared here purely for educational purposes, any proper or improper use of them is totally your responsibility and me or anything or anyone else associated with me can’t be held liable for your actions.
That been said, also remember that downloading, or even using these tools is completely legal, as long as you do not harm anyone else in any way.
Do let me know what you think of this piece and the tool on our Facebook page, hearing from you folks means a lot.