Best Linux Distributions for Hacking and Penetration Testing

The best Linux distros that can help you learn hacking and pentesting.
Warp Terminal

Looking for the best Linux distro to learn hacking?

Whether you want to pursue a career in information security, are already working as a security professional, or are just interested in the field, a decent Linux distro that suits your purposes is a must.

There are countless Linux distros for various purposes.

For instance, there are weird Ubuntu distributions, independent Linux distros, and more. Here, we list some of the best Linux distros to learn hacking and penetration testing.

These distros provide multiple tools for assessing networking security and other similar tasks.

The list is in no particular order of ranking.

1. Kali Linux

kali linux 2023

Kali Linux is the most widely known Linux distro for ethical hacking and penetration testing. It is developed by Offensive Security.

Kali Linux is based on Debian. It comes with a large amount of penetration testing tools from various fields of security and forensics. And now it follows a rolling release model, meaning every tool in your collection will always be up to date.

It is the most advanced penetration testing platform, supporting various devices and hardware platforms. Moreover, Kali Linux provides decent documentation and has a large and active community.

You can easily install Kali Linux in VirtualBox inside Windows and start practicing hacking right away.

2. BackBox

BackBox is a Ubuntu-based distro developed for penetration testing and security assessment.

BackBox Linux

BackBox has its software repository that provides the latest stable versions of various system & network analysis toolkits and the most popular ethical hacking tools. Designed with minimalism in mind and uses the XFCE desktop environment.

It delivers a fast, effective, customizable, and complete experience. It also has a beneficial community behind it.

3. ParrotOS

Parrot Security OS or ParrotOS is a solid alternative to the options above. Frozenbox Network is behind the development of this distro.

The target users of ParrotOS are penetration testers who need a cloud-friendly environment with online anonymity and an encrypted system.

Parrot Security OS

ParrotOS is based on Debian and uses MATE as its default desktop environment.

The distro is available in three editions: Security, Home, and Architect. You can also find variants for Virtual Box, VMware, and more.

4. BlackArch

BlackArch is a penetration testing and security research distro built on Arch Linux.

blackarch linux

BlackArch has a repository containing thousands of tools organized into various groups. And the list is growing over time. If you are already an Arch Linux user, you can set up the BlackArch tools collection on top of it.

It may not be an Arch-based user-friendly distribution. But, it is a specialized offering for pen-testers.

Suggested Read πŸ“–

Top 10 User-friendly Arch-Based Linux Distributions [2023]
Want to experience Arch Linux without the hassle of the complicated installation and setup? Here are a few user-friendly Arch-based Linux distributions.

5. Samurai Web Testing Framework

Samurai Web Testing Framework is developed with the sole purpose of penetration testing on the web. Another aspect of this distro is that it is a virtual machine tailored, supported by Virtualbox and VMware.

Samurai Web Testing Framework

Samurai Web Testing Framework is based on Ubuntu and contains the best free and open-source tools for testing and attacking websites.

It also includes a pre-configured wiki set up to store information during your penetration tests.

6. Pentoo Linux

Pentoo is based on Gentoo Linux. It is a distro focused on security and penetration testing. It is available as LiveCD with Persistence Support (meaning any changes made in the live environment will be available on the next boot if you use a USB stick).

pentoo linux

Pentoo is a Gentoo installation with many customized tools, kernel features, and more. It uses the XFCE desktop environment.

If you are already a Gentoo user, you can install Pentoo as an overlay.


CAINE stands for Computer Aided Investigative Environment. It is intended as a digital forensics project and is entirely focused on this field.


CAINE comes with a wide variety of tools developed for system forensics and analysis.

8. Network Security Toolkit

Network Security Toolkit is a bootable live ISO based on Fedora. It provides security professionals and network administrators with various open-source network security tools.

Network Security Toolkit

Network Security Toolkit has an advanced Web User Interface for system/network administration, navigation, automation, network monitoring & analysis, and the configuration of many applications in the Network Security Toolkit distro.

9. Fedora Security Spin

Fedora Security Spin is a variation of Fedora designed for security auditing and testing, which can also be used for teaching purposes.

Fedora Security Spin

This distro aims to support students and teachers while they practice or learn security methodologies: information security, web application security, forensics analysis, and so on.

10. ArchStrike

ArchStrike (formerly ArchAssault) is a project based on Arch Linux for penetration testers and security professionals.

ArchStrike (previously ArchAssault)

It comes with all the best parts of Arch Linux and additional tools for penetration testing and cyber security. ArchStrike includes thousands of tools and applications categorized into modular package groups.


While we have already mentioned the ones suitable for the purpose, there can be some newer options, like Athena OS that you can look at.

Which of the hacking Linux distros have you tried? Want to suggest a distro that we missed? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

About the author
Ankush Das

Ankush Das

A passionate technophile who also happens to be a Computer Science graduate. You will usually see cats dancing to the beautiful tunes sung by him.

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