9 Best Hacking/Pentesting Linux Distros 2024 - Hack with Linux

Penetration Testing or Pentesting (informally), is a simulated cyberattack against the system in order to check for exploitation vulnerabilities. 9 best Hacking/Pentesting Linux Distros have all the offensive and defensive tools you require to perform cyber security and professional hacking activities.

It involves the attempted breaching of any number of application systems like APIs which are Application Protocol Interfaces, fronted or backed servers to uncover vulnerabilities like as the unsanitized inputs which are susceptible to code injection attacks.

Insights which it provides are used to fine tune WAF security policies as well as patch vulnerabilities which are detected.

Different Stages of Hacking with Linux Distros

The planning stage

  • Scope and goals of the test are defined, including systems to be addressed and methods of testing to be used,
  • Gathering intelligence in order to understand how the target works and its potential vulnerabilities.

The scanning stage

In this we see how the target app responds to different intrusion attempts. It is done using the following:

Time to do the analysis properly

This inspects code of the application in order to estimate the way it behaves while running. The tools are able to scan the code entirety in single pass.

It inspects the application code in running state. It is seemed to be more practical way to scan as it provides with real time view into performance of the application.

The part where you gain access to servers or networks

It uses the web application attacks like cross-site scripting, SQL injection and backdoors in order to uncover vulnerabilities of the target. The testers both try and exploit vulnerabilities often by escalating privileges, intercepting traffic, steal data and a lot more to understand the damage which is caused. There are various ways that access can be gained including sending a virus, a malicious PDF file or injecting a DLL file.

Now, you need to keep your access always maintained

Now you need to keep vulnerability intact so that it can be used to achieve a persistent presence in the system which is exploited long enough for a bad actor to gain in-depth access. The main purpose is to imitate advanced persistent threats which remain in the system most of the time for months to steal sensitive data of the organization.

Finish off with your results

Results that we get from the penetration test are then compiled into a report detailing the following:

  1. Certain vulnerabilities which were exploited,
  2. Sensitive data was accessed and if there may be any leftovers in the logs.
  3. Time in which the pen tester remained in the system undetected.
  4. Use a program such as Microsoft Word or LibreOffice to finalize the report of findings.

The information is then analyzed by the security personnel to help configure the enterprise’s WAF settings and other app security solutions in order to patch vulnerabilities as well as protect against all future attacks.

Difference between Hacking and Pentesting using Linux Distros

Ethical Hacking and Penetration Testing (Pentesting) are two different terms in Cyber Security. One is offensive and the other is defensive in a sense of assessing the security measures such as software firewalls or antivirus in place. Below are some points that distinguish them:

  1. Penetration testers are able to assess security of a certain aspect of an information systems in accordance with an outline’s scope. Ethical hackers on the other hand carry out different kinds of cyberattacks on the complete system by using various attack vectors without being restricted by a scope document.
  2. If we talk about penetration testers then they carry out one-time, limited-duration engagement.
  3. Whereas the other security professionals have a continuous engagement and generates results that are more comprehensive and in-depth.
  4. Penetration testers need to have a robust knowledge of the domain area that their tests shall target. Coming to ethical hackers then they shall need to have detailed knowledge of security tactics, techniques as well as procedures so that they are able to imitate cybercriminal steps.
  5. Penetration testers do not take responsibility of the security configuration and incident handling of the client whereas the other ones are required to assist blue and incident handling teams in incident containment and validation for various kinds of cyberattacks.
  6. Penetration testers as must need to be good at writing foolproof reports whereas the other ones do not need to be good in well-versed report writing.

9 Best Linux Distros for Hacking/PenTesting

  1. BlackArch – Best Linux Distro for Penetration Testing
  2. Kali Linux 2023.1 – Best Linux Distro for Hacking
  3. Caine Live – Best Live Linux Distro for Security Analysis
  4. Pentoo – Most Versatile Linux Distro for Security Experts
  5. Network Security Toolkit (NST 36) – Free Linux Distro for Hackers
  6. DEFT – Top Linux Distro for Digital Forensics
  7. BackBox – Best Black Hat Hacker OS
  8. BugTraq – Best Linux Distro for Reverse Engineering
  9. WifiSlax – Top Live Security Linux Distro

BlackArch – Best Linux Distro for Penetration Testing

Best Linux Distro for Pentesting

This is light in weight Distro which has been designed for security professionals who have the ability to work with Linux just like a pro.

For now, it has around 2000 hacking tools and also covers almost all the cybersecurity phases including from Keyloggers to Network Sniffing Tools. These tools save you the time to download them manually one by one and are just pre-installed for you. For example, you can install BlackArch, and use Nmap to find all open FTP servers on your network.

It used to use FluBox and OpenBox as a desktop environment with other DEs. it has more than 1500 hacking tools in its repository and distro. It was released back in 2013.

To run this, you need to have around 64-bit processor, 1 GN free hard drive space and a USB drive with at least 2GB free space.

Download BlackArch Linux

Kali Linux 2023.1 – Best Linux Distro for Hacking

Best Linux for Hacking

This seemed to be the best option present on the list. It has been developed by Offensive Security. It was released back in 2006 and is a completion of the BackTrack Linux project.

It comes with many pre-installed hacking tools for different operations like pen testing, forensic analysis, network scanning, exploitation, malware analysis, information gathering and much more. Kali Linux also comes with WPA3 and WPA2 dictionaries such as RockYou and others that you can use for brute-forcing passwords on WiFi networks.

Previously it used GNOME as a desktop environment but for now it has become a rolling release distro. It carries a lot of tools in the Kali repositories. It has been ranked as number 1 among many presents on the list.

Download Kali Linux

Caine Live – Best Live Linux Distro for Security Analysis

It is abbreviated as Computer-Aided Investigation Environment. This is yet another famous option on this list which is based on Ubuntu which comes coupled with many tools for computer forensics and security analysis. This also runs as a portable OS directly from bootable USB drive which makes it a lot easy to deploy.

You also have the chance to install it to your hard drive if you want to.

It has some tools for memory auditing, database analysis, digital forensics and network analysis. It also comes with basic utilities such as web browser, email client, and great editor among others.

Download Caine Live Linux

Pentoo – Most Versatile Linux Distro for Security Experts

This is yet another option on the list which was released back in 2005.

It has its focus on security and penetration testing which is based on Gentoo Linux. It is somewhat a Gentoo installation with many customization tools and Linux Kernel features.

It has a great desktop environment, the list does not end here as it has huge variety of tools which fall in the category of crackers for password hacking, exploits, scanners and much more.

If you intend to go for ethical hacking and penetration testing on custom Gentoo environment then this is your call.

Download Pentoo Linux

Network Security Toolkit (NST 36) – Free Linux Distro for Hackers

Best Linux Distro for Hackers

This is a professional best Linux Distro for hacking and penetration testing which has also been designed for network security and network penetration testing operations.

Using this you shall see that it has the most professional and used tools in the field of network pen test. It was first released back in 2003.

Moreover, it also gives the chance to use the open-source network security tools and apps for this purpose.

Its user interface is quite easy which makes accessing options easy. You can use it if you are a network administrator or security professional along with other tools.

Download NST 36

ALSO SEE: Top 7 Linux Distros for Slow/Old Laptops and for Gaming.

DEFT – Top Linux Distro for Digital Forensics

This one stands for Digital Evidence and Forensics Distro. This usually comes bundled with a variety of computer forensic tools as well as user guides for hackers to get started or do malware analysis of any new detection they find on a device.

With all these documents and user guides you can learn the ins and outs of this distro very easily and begin using it even if you are a newbie. Moreover, it desktop environment is quite cool which makes execution of features and functions easy.

Its function usually targets forensic acquisition and analysis of digital evidence though it is super light in weight and powerful. It is popular among law enforcement and related agencies.

This project now looks to be archived and is no longer in support.

Download DEFT Linux

BackBox – Best Black Hat Hacker OS

Best Black Hat Hacker Linux OS

This option is based on Ubuntu and has been developed by BackBox team. It got released back in 2010.

Previously it used XFCE as desktop environment and Ubuntu LTS version as base.

It comes with the most professional yet famous used tools in the field of pen testing such as MSF, Armitage, SQLMap, BurpSuite, NMAP and many others.

The best part about this it can be customized. To access the machine from anywhere you want simply opt for cloud-based Backbox on AWS which is device agnostic.

It comes with its very own software repository where you can get other tools that you may need to get your cybersecurity professional work done.

Download BackBox Linux

BugTraq – Best Linux Distro for Reverse Engineering

Best Linux Distro for Reverse Engineering

This has been designed not only for penetration testing operations but also for reverse engineering and malware analysis missions.

It is based on Debian and carries many tools for hacking. It was developed by the bugtraq team and was released back in 2012.

WifiSlax – Top Live Security Linux Distro

Best Linux Distro for Corporate Network Security

This a great option on the list used for this purpose and is based on Ubuntu. It carries a lot of wifi cracking/hacking/Pentesting tools. It got developed by Italian security team.

It has been deployed mainly with corporate network to ensure employees can access the protected network. It was built on the concept of it required to be plugged into an office network much like Active Directory but the Linux version.

Download WifiSlax

Frequently Asked Questions

What Linux Distros do hackers use?

A Linux Distro is just an operating system (a platform) hackers use to perform their activities. A Linux distro specifically designed for hacking includes Kali Linux or Parrot OS which include special hacking tools such as Aircrack-ng or Wireshark.

Why do hackers use Linux and not Windows 10 or 11?

Linux offers a more versatile toolset for penetration testing when compared to Windows, also many cyber security professionals prefer CLI-based interfaces and not graphical ones.

Are Linux Distros hard to use for Professional Hacking?

Linux distros for hacking or penetration testing are just like any other Distros including Fedora, Mint or CentOS. The only difference is that they include bespoke tools and menus to make it a little easier and more convenient to use them in a professional setting where time is of great importance.

Other cyber security articles for you:

  1. Download Best Python Hacking Scripts (Copy/Paste).
  2. Top 5 Programming Languages to Learn for Penetration Testing.
  3. Python for Cyber Security and Hacking Book (PDF).


Linux Distros are very agile and can be customized to suit any needs. 9 Best Linux Distro for hacking is exactly why Linux is chosen to be used because of its flexibility and hacking tools that come bundled with them. If you don’t like the look of the OS it can always be changed by using a compatible theme.

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Paul Carruthers
Paul is an avid programmer who specializes in Python and Java with over 16 years of experience in the field. He loves automating complex tasks and creating useful scripts to streamline work and make life easier. He is also a massive fan of Linux and currently uses it as his main desktop OS. When he is not staring at code, he loves hiking and swimming in different parts of the world.


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