Kali Linux: The hacker distro, is it good for me?

Kali Linux 2016.1

Kali Linux is the favourite hacker distribution, or at least that’s what they say. Because of that, it gets so much attention, even among non-technical and beginner users; but is it a good thing? In this article I try to explain why Kali Linux isn’t probably your best choice.

About Kali Linux

Kali Linux is a Debian-based distribution for Penetration testing and Ethical Hacking. It’s no wonder it is a hacker’s favourite, though that’s not always true. Before Kali the favourite one was BackTrack an Ubuntu-based distribution with the exact same focus. But let’s pull the veil: Kali is the successor of BackTrack, developed by the same company, it is a complete rewriting of BackTrack and was meant to be more stable and enterprise-ready.

Kali Linux and beginners

One of the common misconceptions about Kali is that it is the only distribution for hacking purposes. We all know how hacking sounds cool, and probably every tech-addict wanted to try it almost once. And this is where Kali becomes the first choice, but is it the only one? The answer is: no, it isn’t. As a matter of fact, Kali comes with many open source tools that can run on a variety of different Linux distributions. If you really wanted, you could run those very same tools on an Ubuntu or Fedora installation.

Running Kali makes you a hacker

The second common misconception is that running this operating system makes you a fully fledged hacker. That’s not true, hacking isn’t something that you do without knowledge. There is no magic wand or software that transforms a common user in a hacker. If you decide to try Kali because you think that you will be able to do things that you aren’t able now, well that’s plainly not true. When you will boot the operating system, there is no wizard that guides you through hacking a Wi-Fi access point or sniffing packets. All the tools are there, but you need to know how to use them. If you really want to start “hacking” you should learn how to use the Linux command line (since most penetration tools are command line only).

Kali as a persistent operating system

Through the years, with a worrying rhythm, many non-Linux guys came to me asking for the hacker’s favourite operating system to be installed on their computers. That’s really something you shouldn’t do, not because it isn’t possible or recommended, because if you’re new to Linux this isn’t your best shot. If you’re asking me to install Linux because you’re not able to do it yourself, you’re a beginner, and a beginner isn’t accustomed to words like rootpackage managers or partitions. Kali isn’t really beginner-friendly, and comes with many programs that the user isn’t aware of. That’s why you should never use it as a main/persistent operating system, and it is also suggested to run it as a Live-CD (or DVD/USB nowadays).

Image courtesy of mark | marksei

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