Hacking, penetration testing, vulnerability scanning and exploiting can be done on almost all modern operating systems, including macOS (OSX) and Microsoft Windows. Various Linux distributions, however, seem to be the platform of choice for experienced persons in the field. Even though Ubuntu is a popular choice, and most if not all software, scripts and applications can be compiled and run on it, two other Linux distributions stand out and will therefore be highlighted separately below.
Firstly, since most of the tutorials that you will find on Google, Youtube, forums and other places (including the somewhat pumped up Darknet) are based on the two operating systems down below, we will focus specifically on them. Secondly, we would like to emphasize that you will never – neither today nor in the future – find detailed tutorials on these pages, which is why we strongly advise you to dig deep into other sources for such material. Only you can educate yourself. Learning takes time; take that time! Thirdly, installing a new operating system may seem as a really big step for many. But it doesn’t have to be! Practically all operating systems can be run on so-called virtual machines. This might sound even more complex, but in practice it is quite simple: Download and install Oracle VM VirtualBox on the machine you are already using. It is free and available for all major operating systems, and there are plenty of guides and tutorials for it. Using VirtualBox, you can install new operating systems, which will reside inside of your existing ones. Play around! Should something go wrong, deleting a virtual machine is quick and easy, and will leave no remaining trace. Starting over again is a breeze.
Even though BackTrack is officially deprecated, it still deserves mentioning because of two reasons: 1) Many tutorials you will stumble upon are based on it and 2) Rumor has it lots of people are still using it. It is a custom Linux distribution aimed at security, digital forensics, and penetration testing. It came with a comprehensive and large collection of security-related tools ranging from port scanners to security audit. If you are new to pentesting, we do not recommend that you start with BackTrack today, but you should definitely be aware of its marvelous capabilities and its place in hacking history.
The developers behind BackTrack eventually migrated the project over to a Debian core, out of which Kali Linux was born. It is the gold standard operating system for pentesting and related activities – and most definitely the droid you are looking for. Kali can be run from a bootable USB thumb drive or a so-called Live-CD, so that it leaves no permanent trace on its host computer and its hard drives, after a simple reboot. It plays very well with VirtualBox too. Kali comes with over 600 preinstalled penetration-testing programs and is regularly updated and well-maintained. We cover some of the most important programs on separate pages, so see you there!
Take home-message: Use Kali Linux