What is Kali Linux And What Makes Kali the Hacker’s Favourite Distro?

Kali Linux has become the go-to operating system for ethical hackers and penetration testers. With over 600 security and hacking tools preinstalled, Kali provides everything an ethical hacker needs to thoroughly assess vulnerabilities in networks, applications, servers, and more.

But what exactly is Kali Linuxand why has it gained such widespread popularity in the cybersecurity community? Keep reading to find out.

An Overview of Kali Linux

Kali Linux is a Debian-based Linux distribution designed specifically for penetration testing and digital forensics. It comes preinstalled with hundreds of tools used to test for vulnerabilities, analyze networks, crack passwords, exploit security holes, maintain access to compromised systems, and more.

The operating system is maintained and funded by Offensive Security, an organization that provides practical cybersecurity training and certifications. Kali Linux is the successor to BackTrack Linux, a previous go-to distro for penetration testers.

Some key features that make Kali such a powerful pentesting distro include:

  • Root access by default: No need to enable admin privileges for penetration testing tasks. Kali runs as root by default.

  • Wireless injection patches: Custom Linux kernel allows for packet injection attacks on wifi networks.

  • Minimal repositories: Only trusted and tested Kali repositories are included, reducing risk of instability.

  • Latest exploit tools: Frequent updates ensure you have the latest pentesting tools at your disposal.

Overall, Kali Linux strives to provide an out-of-the-box ready environment for ethical hackers to safely use the same tools and techniques as malicious attackers.

What Can You Do With Kali Linux?

The penetration testing tools included in Kali Linux empower ethical hackers to thoroughly assess vulnerabilities at all stages, including:

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Recon or information gathering is a critical first step to mapping out vulnerabilities. Kali includes tools like:

  • Nmap: Network discovery and port scanning

  • Maltego: Gather info on domains, IPs, emails, and more

  • theHarvester: Gather emails, IPs, hosts from public sources


After reconnaissance, actually scanning the network and applications to uncover vulnerabilities is next. Scanning tools in Kali include:


The exploitation phase involves attempting to gain access to systems by exploiting the vulnerabilities uncovered in scanning. This is where tools like Metasploit Framework come into play, offering an extensive database of cybersecurity exploits.

Privilege Escalation

Gaining root or admin access allows even more control over compromised systems. Tools like Linux Privilege Escalation Awesome Scripts automate the escalation process.

Maintaining Access

Once access has been gained, hackers want to keep that access. Kali tools like Cymothoa allow backdoors to be installed for persistent access. John the RipperHashcat, and other Kali password crackers also enable maintaining access to systems protected by passwords.

Covering Tracks

The final phase involves altering system logs and hiding evidence that a system was compromised. Kali includes various log editors and rootkit tools to cover hacker tracks.

These are just a few examples of popular tools—Kali Linux contains over 600 tools total for nearly any penetration testing need.

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A list of Kali Linux tools (Image source: Kali Linux)

Why is Kali Linux a Hacker Favorite?

Given Kali’s immense arsenal of hacker tools, it’s no surprise the distro has become a favorite of ethical hackers and penetration testers. But Kali Linux offers several advantages that distinguish it from other Linux distributions for hacking:

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1. Comprehensive Toolset

With hundreds of preinstalled tools spanning information gathering, vulnerability analysis, exploitation, password cracking, maintaining access, and cleaning up tracks, Kali saves hackers enormous amounts of time and effort compared to assembling toolsets manually.

Needing to install just one distro with everything included lowers barriers for beginners as well.

2. Latest Exploits and Updates

As new vulnerabilities and exploits are discovered, Kali Linux ensures its penetration testing tools stay up-to-date with the latest releases. This keeps ethical hackers aware of emerging threats.

Frequent tool updates also enable assessing both legacy and cutting-edge systems.

3. Customizations for Hacking

Rather than a general purpose Linux distribution, Kali Linux is specifically optimized out-of-the-box for penetration testing tasks. These customizations include wireless network injection support, root access by default, and a minimized set of repositories with only trusted hacking tools.

4. Thriving Hacking Community

Kali Linux benefits from Offensive Security’s respected brand and massive community supporting their cybersecurity training and certifications. Connect with fellow hackers and security professionals on Kali’s community forums to get help with penetration testing projects. The active community contributes tools, tweaks, and customizations to make Kali even more versatile. Community maintained meta-packages like the Katoolin hacking suite add even more tools.

5. Completely Open Source

As an open source project, the entire Kali ecosystem is available for scrutiny, adaptation, and contribution from the global hacking community. The open nature results not just in massive community support, but also greater trust for high-stakes penetration testing engagements where clients require full disclosure. Openness also means enterprise consulting firms can completely customize Kali for their specific needs if desired.

Getting Started with Kali Linux

If you’re inspired to give Kali Linux a try for your ethical hacking endeavors, getting started is easy.

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You don’t even need to install Kali on your hard drive – the convenient live boot option allows running the complete Kali operating system from a USB drive without altering your system. For installing, follow Kali’s official installation guide covering everything from partition configuration to which desktop environment to choose. OffSec also provides phenomenal paid training like the Penetration Testing with Kali (PWK) course leading to the highly regarded OSCP certification. For beginners, Kali even offers a free introductory penetration testing course.

Remember hacking without permission is unethical and illegal – only leverage Kali’s incredible capabilities for lawful security demonstrations, assessments, and research. With incredible capabilities, constant innovation, and a passionately supportive community, it’s no wonder Kali Linux has emerged as a hacker favorite. The out-of-box ready environment lowering barriers for beginners combined with advanced tools catering to experienced pentesters means Kali Linux has something amazing to offer at all levels.

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