In this article, we will discuss the Linux for ethical hackers operating system and how it relates to ethical hacking. We’ll explore Linux distributions that were designed with hacking in mind and see how hackers can use their natural strengths to become ethical hackers. We will also discuss some basic skills that ethical hackers will need to master for Linux OS.
Why is Linux good for ethical hackers?
The concept of Linux for ethical hackers focuses on using the Linux operating system only for the purpose of ethical hacking. There are several skills that hackers need to equip themselves with when approaching Linux hacking because a large number of the devices they will be hacking into will be Linux devices and a large percentage of the tools that exist today are Linux based.
There are several reasons why hackers will need to use Linux. We will look at some of them next time.
Why do hackers use Linux?
In order to familiarize yourself with the wide range of ethical hacking tools, it is important to know the Linux OS. As systems engineer Yasser Ibrahim said in a post on Quora: “In Linux you need to understand from basics to advanced, learn console commands and how to navigate and do everything from console, also shell programming (not necessary but always better), know what it’s kernel and how it works, understanding Linux filesystems, how to network on Linux.”
Hackers will want to use Linux for hacking for many reasons. These include the following:
Linux is open-source
The ability to manipulate the Linux source code to your liking is one of the reasons security enthusiasts choose to go this way over Windows. This is especially worth remembering today, when privacy concerns are an issue for large corporations.
Linux is transparent
We are able to understand the inner workings of Linux because we have access to its entire code. We can manipulate the functioning of individual components of the operating system. This is something that operating systems like Windows do not allow.
Linux offers granular control
Linux allows us to quickly and easily program certain aspects of the OS using scripting languages such as BASH or even Python. Windows, on the other hand, prevents you from accessing certain parts of the operating system.
Most hacking tools are built for Linux
A large percentage of hacking tools are written for Linux. This is because using scripting languages like BASH and lightweight languages like Python make it easy to write minimal code that can do a lot. Today, more than 90% of hacking tools available are written for Linux.
The future is in Linux
As technology advances, embedded systems rely on the Linux kernel for its efficiency and light weight. More and more devices are connecting to the Internet every day, and people are embracing the Internet of Things. These devices rely on Linux and require internet security.
The above reasons have attracted most of the security industry to rely on Linux for ethical hacking. So now that we know why Linux is the most popular, why don’t we see how we can run it ourselves?
How to Run Linux for Ethical Hacking?
Linux can be installed and run from your computer or in a virtual machine environment such as VirtualBox. There are several ethical hacking Linux distributions that you can run. The most common include:
Kali Linux: This is the most popular hacking OS. It is based on Debian and maintained by Offensive Security. It contains a number of hacking tools which makes it the most wanted hacking OS.
Black Arch: This is a hacking OS based on Arch Linux with more than 2,300 hacking tools built into it. Although it has more tools than Kali, it is a relatively new project and therefore less popular at the moment. This also means that it is less stable compared to Kali
Parrot OS: This is another hacker OS based on Debian. It has hacking tools for a wide range of security projects, from pentesting to digital forensics
Santoku Linux: Santoku Linux is a mobile security based Linux distribution with mobile security specific tools
BackBox Linux: This is a Debian-based Linux distribution that aims to be incredibly lightweight
Of the distributions mentioned above, Kali Linux is the most widely used. This is what we will be using in this article. You can access the Kali documentation here to learn more about it, and here’s a step-by-step guide on how to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox.
It’s a good idea to first install Kali Linux on VirtualBox and learn how to use it there before you’re confident enough to make it your daily driver. Engineer Sylvain Leroux at It’s FOSS advises: “Some commands can be potentially harmful to your home network. Moreover, by not understanding the implications of what you are doing, you may find yourself in a difficult situation using these tools at work, at school, or on public networks. And in that case ignorance is no excuse.”
What are some basic commands in Linux?
There are a few basic commands that you should become familiar with as you grow in your understanding of Linux. Since we are discussing Kali Linux in this article, we will focus on Debian based packages and commands. We have decided to distinguish between the various commands and arrange them according to the categories that will be discussed below.
File System Management: The Linux file system includes the files and folders that make up the system. You can browse this file system using a Linux terminal as opposed to a GUI. System management through the terminal enables fast and powerful interaction with the system. Below are some of the commands that can be used in this category:
pwd: This command will show you where you are currently working within the system
ls: This command will show you the contents of the current directory
whereis: This command can be used to find installed binaries on the system
locate: This command is used to locate files in the system
find: This command allows you to find files in the system in a more detailed way
rm: This command allows you to rename or delete files and directories on the system
cp: This command allows you to copy files and directories from one location to another within the system
File management in the system: In Linux, it is possible to manage file input and output. The following commands and programs can be used:
cat: This command will list the contents of the file. It can also be used to insert the contents of a file into another file by combining it with the > operator
head: This command lists the contents of the file from the beginning, outputting only the first 10 lines
tail: This command will list the contents of the file from the bottom and output the last 10 lines of the file
grep: This command can be used to filter the contents of a file to match a specific regular expression
nano: This program can be used to modify the contents of files. It is one of the available text editors working from the Linux terminal
vi: This program can be used to edit the contents of files. It is one of the available text editors working from the Linux terminal
Adding and removing software: The Linux operating system allows you to manage software using a terminal. This is in contrast to the Windows operating system, which relies on installation binary packages. Although there are also installation packages in Linux, here are the main ways to manage software:
APT Package Manager: APT Package Manager uses apt-get to install, remove, reconfigure, and repair broken packages on Linux
Aptitude Package Manager: The aptitude package manager uses the aptitude program to manage (install and remove) software
DPKG Package Manager: This software manager uses the dpkg program to manage software packages in Linux
Network Management: Network management is an important skill that can include various tools and programs that ethical hacking beginners should master. Some of these commands are listed below:
ifconfig and iwconfig: These commands can be used to bring up or remove network interfaces — ifconfig for Ethernet interfaces and iwconfig for wireless interfaces
tcpdump: This command can be used to analyze network traffic for various purposes and to capture network traffic to a file that can later be thoroughly analyzed for specific traffic.
Controlling File and Directory Permissions: One of the most important hacker skills is being able to control access to files and directories. This can be a deep topic, so we decided to include this introductory article on file and directory permissions in Linux. The following commands can be used to manage permissions in Linux:
chown: This command can be used to change ownership of files and directories from one user to another
chgrp: This command is used to change ownership of files and directories from one group to another
chmod: This command can be used to change the general permissions of a file or directory
It is also important for novice hackers to understand how to manage running processes, control user environment variables, manage and discover wireless networks, be anonymous using proxies, VPNs, and TOR, write basic scripts, and understand the Linux logging system. However, these are skills that beginners will need to acquire cumulatively as they progress in their understanding of Linux.
In this article, we have discussed the basics of how to start ethical hacking with Linux. We focused on Kali Linux because it is the most popular hacking OS. We recommend it for its stability and numerous online resources that make it easy for you to learn how to use it on your ethical hacking journey. We have also introduced some of the necessary commands to help you get comfortable with using Linux.
- Understanding Linux File Permissions, Linux.com
- How to Install Kali Linux on VirtualBox: Complete Walkthrough, Nakivo
- OccupyTheWeb, “Linux Basics for Hackers,” No Starch Press
- Kali Linux Review, It’s FOSS