Linux users have a plethora of free operating systems when it comes to penetration testing and digital forensics. The world of ethical hacking has been constantly evolving, which is probably one of the reasons many people are drawn to these areas of auditing.

For this purpose, several Linux distributions and software are available for forensic investigation, ethical hacking, and penetration testing. If you're an advanced Linux user looking to play your brain muscles and get the ball rolling, it's time to check out some of these cybersecurity-related Linux distributions.


Kali Linux derives its roots from Debian and is one of the most popular and advanced Linux distributions for penetration testing. The operating system is available in 32-bit and 64-bit. Users who want to try the operating system can download ISO files and virtual images for Kali Linux.

Kali is an open source operating system managed by Offensive Security. The OS offers over 350 tools in the following categories:

  • Reverse engineering

  • Wireless and hardware attacks

  • Weak point analysis

  • information gathering

  • Sniffing and spoofing

  • Stress tests and reporting

Related: How to Install Kali Linux in VMware Workstation


ArchStrike, a security-related Linux distribution based on Arch Linux, is widely used by cybersecurity professionals.

Starting from Arch Linux, it offers a variety of options in terms of package management. The simple installation and removal of available packages makes this operating system seamless for the end users.

More than 5000 tools related to exploitation, social engineering, spoofing, malware, brute force, networks, forensics, DDoS and enumeration are available on this system.

DemonLinux Interface-1

Demon Linux, as the name suggests, is a Linux-based operating system that is widely used for ethical hacking. Despite its dark theme, it remains a lightweight and easy-to-use distribution for security professionals. Its true simplicity comes to the fore as you can open any app with a single key.

In addition, Demon Linux consists of a simple dock design that works with ease. Users can record their desktop and take screenshots easily using the quick access menu bar.


Cyborg Hawk is an Ubuntu-based distribution that houses more than 750 open source tools. If you are a Ubuntu lover, you will like this operating system down to the last detail.

Cyborg Hawk tops the list of network security and assessment operating systems. Rest assured that you can even run accurate tests of mobile security and wireless infrastructure with this operating system.

On the contrary, it may not be as good as Kali; nevertheless, it does its job quite well.

Some features include:

  • Access to over 750 penetration test tools.

  • Since it is an open source Linux distribution, it is free to use and you can even use it as a live operating system.

  • Some services include stress testing, exploit toolkit, reverse engineering, mobile and wireless security, etc.

  • Cyborg Hawk is a reliable, stable and trustworthy operating system that has its own software repository.

Backbox desktop

BackBox is an open source Ubuntu-based operating system that has quickly become one of the most popular names in the world of ethical hacking.

In addition, it provides users with a network analysis toolkit that is very helpful in the world of penetration testing. BackBox comes with 70 tools; However, before running any tools, make sure that you have a good understanding of the tool that you plan to use. Otherwise, you could get lost in the maze of commands.

Some common pre-installed tools include Metasploit, SQLmap, Aircrack-ng, Nmap, Scapy, w3af and Wireshark.


Parrot Security is based on Debian and is tailor-made for security professionals, privacy-conscious users and developers. It inherits its code repositories from Debian and is developed in collaboration with CAINE. It supports privacy browsers and cryptographic software like I2P and Tor.

As an operating system, Parrot Security is equipped with a full arsenal of tools for IT security and digital forensics. You can even develop your own programs and maintain your privacy while you surf the Internet. Parrot comes with the MATE desktop (standard) and offers different flavors to its end users.

Parrot is updated regularly, is fairly secure, and entirely sandboxed. Since it is open source, you can easily view the source code and adapt it to your needs.

Related: What Are Penetration Tests And How Do They Improve Network Security?


Computer Aided Investigative Environment, better known as CAINE, is a well-known and popular Linux distribution that offers an easy-to-use graphical menu and interface. CAINE Linux has its roots in Ubuntu and is a big player in the world of system forensics.

CAINE's graphical user interface provides a complete forensic environment that you can integrate with existing software tools. If you're looking for a meaningful, well-structured report that will help you better investigate and facilitate communication with your team, CAINE should be your first choice.

Some common forensic tools in this operating system are Autopsy, The Sleuth Kit, Wireshark, PhotoRec, fsstat, RegRipper, and Tinfoleak.

Pentoo is an open source Linux-based operating system that is available in 32-bit and 64-bit architectures. If you've used Gentoo Linux in the past, you'll find that Pentoo is relatively easy to install and use.

Pentoo is available with a full UEFI and comes with UNetbootin, a secure boot support software. Thanks to the live run function of the operating system, you can run it directly from a USB stick.

This distribution comes with Xfce as the standard desktop environment. Xfce is a lightweight, reliable desktop and has a ton of customizable options. Some additional tool categories include Exploitation, MitM-Fuzzer, Forensics, Cracker, and Database. It also has a number of important uses including GPGPU, OpenCL, CUDA, John the Ripper, and Hashcat.

Learn about penetration testing with the best Linux distributions

There are a lot of open source operating systems for penetration testing for forensic testing. Each operating system is free to download and offers end users a wide variety of customizations.

While these operating systems may seem complex at first, they still provide an overview of the various segments required for forensic testing. If you're a beginner in the world of forensic testing, it's time to do some research before jumping into complicated tools.

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About the author

Wini Bhalla
(36 published articles)

Wini is a Delhi based writer with 2 years of writing experience. While writing, she was associated with digital marketing agencies and technical firms. She has written content on programming languages, cloud technology, AWS, machine learning, and much more. In her free time, she enjoys painting, spending time with her family and traveling to the mountains whenever possible.

By Wini Bhalla

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