Introduction to Kali Linux: Everything You Need to Know

6 min


If you plan to start your Kali Linux journey, you should know a few basic information about Kali Linux. Here’s a summary.

Kali Linux is a popular Linux distribution that is widely used in the cybersecurity community. It is known for its powerful tools and capabilities that make it an excellent choice for security professionals, ethical hackers, and cybersecurity researchers.

Introduction to Kali Linux

Kali Linux with Xfce Desktop Environment
Kali Linux with Xfce Desktop Environment

At the core, Kali Linux is built upon the Debian-testing branch and is specially designed for network analysts, penetration testers, and cybersecurity professionals. Kali Linux is a Debian-derived Linux distribution maintained by Offensive Security, developed by Mati Aharoni and Devon Kearns.

It comes with a comprehensive set of pre-installed tools that are used for various security testing purposes. It is an open-source operating system that is freely available to download and use.

History

Kali Linux was initially released in March 2013 as a successor to BackTrack Linux. BackTrack was a popular Linux distribution that was widely used for penetration testing and digital forensics. It was created by Offensive Security, a cybersecurity company that specializes in information security training and penetration testing services. Since its initial release, Kali Linux has undergone many updates and improvements to become the most popular Linux distribution for security workloads.

An older screenshot of BackTrack Linux
An older screenshot of BackTrack Linux

Features and when you should use Kali Linux

Kali Linux has many pre-installed tools essential for security professionals, ethical hackers, and cybersecurity researchers. It has a user-friendly interface makes it easy to use, even for beginners. The operating system is highly customizable and can be tailored to meet the user’s needs. It is also compatible with a wide range of hardware, making it a versatile operating system for desktops, laptops, and even small devices like the Raspberry Pi.

It also comes with a specific variant called Kali NetHunter which mainly provides you with tools for Android operating systems.

Installation process

There are various ways you can use Kali Linux. Hence the installation options may vary. The usual way to proceed with penetration or security testing is to use a LIVE medium. Kali Linux and its tools are configured such a way that you can run it off a USB stick on the infected or vulnerable system.

In addition, Kali Linux can also be installed as a virtual machine or on a physical machine. The installation process is straightforward and can be completed within a few minutes. Offensive Security provides detailed instructions on how to install Kali Linux on its website.

If you are in Windows systems and want to try Kali Linux on a Virtual machine, you may read the following tutorial:

How to install Kali Linux on Windows

Getting Started with Kali Linux

Once you have installed Kali Linux or boot from it, you will need to familiarize yourself with its interface and features. This is important if you are using it for the first time. Ideally, if you are new to Linux, you should not start with Kali Linux as your first dive. You should first familiarize yourself with Linux and its commands. So, the best way to do it is to install an easy-to-use Linux distribution such as Linux Mint, and then try Kali Linux.

Kali Linux uses a lightweight and fast Xfce desktop environment, which brings the traditional menu and icon-driven desktop. The main application menu has all the tools categorized for easier usage.

Know about tools

Kali Linux comes with a wide range of basic tools essential for security testing, including network scanning, vulnerability assessment, password cracking, and forensics analysis. Some of the most popular tools in Kali Linux include Nmap, Metasploit, Aircrack-ng, and John the Ripper.

Some of the most popular advanced tools in Kali Linux include Burp Suite, OWASP ZAP, Social Engineering Toolkit (SET), and Wireshark. These tools are highly sophisticated and require advanced technical skills to use effectively. However, they are essential for conducting comprehensive security testing and are widely used by security professionals around the world.

Kali Linux Tools
Kali Linux Tools

You can find the tools with their categories in the primary application menu (as shown in the above image).

Kali Linux vs Other Security Tools

Kali Linux & its tools are not the only tool boxes available in the cyber security space. Other security tools like Metasploit, Nessus, and OpenVAS are also widely used for security testing purposes. However, Kali Linux has several advantages over these tools.

Firstly, it is an all-in-one platform with a comprehensive set of pre-installed tools, making it a convenient choice for security professionals.

Secondly, Kali Linux is an open-source platform, which means it is free to download and use. This makes it a cost-effective option for small businesses and startups. Not to mention, you have zero cost to train students and recruits in Kali Linux with its comprehensive documentation, one of the best offerings by the Kali team.

Finally, Kali Linux has a large and active community of developers and users who regularly contribute to its development and provide support to users.

Applications of Kali Linux

Kali Linux is widely used in penetration testing, a process of testing a computer system, network, or web application to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses that attackers can exploit. The use case may vary based on your or your organization’s needs.

Penetration testing is an essential component of cybersecurity and is used by security professionals to assess an organisation’s security posture. Kali Linux is a popular choice for penetration testing because of its comprehensive set of tools and features that make it an effective platform for conducting security testing.

Apart from penetration testing, Kali Linux has several security applications. It can be used for digital forensics, incident response, and malware analysis. Kali Linux comes with pre-installed essential tools for these applications, including tools for file carving, memory analysis, and network forensics.

Here’s a brief list of categories whose applications (open source) are pre-installed in Kali Linux:

  • Information gathering
  • Vulnerability analysis
  • Web application analysis
  • Database assessment
  • Password attacks
  • Wireless attacks
  • Reverse engineering
  • Exploitation tools
  • Sniffing and Spoofing
  • Post exploitation
  • Forensics
  • Reporting tools
  • Social enginnering tools

To learn more about these, you have to install Kali Linux and try them out.

Kali Linux Updates and Support

Kali Linux receives regular updates and patches that address security vulnerabilities and improve the operating system’s performance. Offensive Security provides detailed instructions on updating Kali Linux on its website. In addition to updates, Kali Linux has a large and active community of developers and users who regularly contribute to its development and provide support to users.

Tips for Using Kali Linux Effectively

To use Kali Linux effectively or learn it from the ground up, users should follow several tips and best practices. These include:

  • Familiarize yourself with the operating system and its features
  • Get a spare machine or USB stick and put Kali Linux into it
  • Use the pre-installed tools effectively and efficiently
  • Keep the operating system up to date with regular updates and patches
  • Join the Kali Linux community to get support and share knowledge
  • Use Kali Linux ethically and responsibly

Conclusion

Kali Linux is a powerful and versatile Linux distribution that is widely used in the cybersecurity community. It comes with a comprehensive set of pre-installed tools and features, making it an effective platform for security testing, digital forensics, incident response, and malware analysis. While Kali Linux requires advanced technical skills to use effectively, it has a large and active community of developers and users who provide support and share knowledge.

In conclusion, if you are a cybersecurity professional, ethical hacker, or someone interested in cybersecurity, Kali Linux is an essential tool you should familiarize yourself with. With its advanced tools, open-source platform, and active community, Kali Linux is a powerful platform for conducting security testing and research.

A few FAQs about Kali Linux

What is the difference between Kali Linux and other Linux distributions?

While Kali Linux is a Linux distribution, it is specifically designed for penetration testing and cybersecurity. Unlike other distributions, Kali Linux has a comprehensive set of pre-installed tools and features essential for security testing and research.

Can I use Kali Linux on my personal computer?

Yes, you can use Kali Linux on your personal computer. It can be installed as a virtual machine or as a dual boot with your existing operating system.

Is Kali Linux legal to use?

Yes, Kali Linux is legal to use. However, it should only be used ethically and responsibly for security testing and research purposes.

Can I customize Kali Linux to add or remove tools?

Yes, you can customize Kali Linux to add or remove tools. Kali Linux is an open-source platform, meaning users can modify and customize it to suit their needs.

How do I get support for Kali Linux?

Kali Linux has a large and active community of developers and users who provide support and share knowledge. Several online resources, including forums, blogs, and documentation, provide solutions to common issues and errors. Offensive Security, the developers of Kali Linux, also provide support on their website.

More resources


Arindam

Creator and author of debugpoint.com. Connect with me via Telegram, 𝕏 (Twitter), or send us an email.
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