Sri Manikanta Palakollu

@srimanikantapalakollu

Operating System for Penetration Testing in a Nutshell; Kali Linux vs Parrot Security OS

March 6th 2019

An overview of the two most popular operating systems used by most of the security professionals.

Photo by Arget on Unsplash
If you are a hacker, penetration tester, bug bounty hunter, or a security researcher, then it's likely that you must have already heard about various Linux distributions which are flexible for your workflow.

I’ve used both the operating system quite often for my research work and pen testing work. linux has a heterogeneous collection of distributions which are available in the market. but the most famous distribution used by most of the security researchers and penetration testers is Kali Linux. Kali has gone through various iterations in the form of updates while another penetration testing cybersecurity-related distributions were also being developed around the world, In this article, we will compare Kali to one such distribution that has come under the spotlight, i.e. ParrotOS. this comparison explains the various pros and cons of both operating systems.

Penetration testing is not about using tools, it’s all about our skillset to solve an issue.

what is Kali Linux?

Source: Google

Kali Linux is a Debian-based Linux distribution aimed at advanced Penetration Testing and Security Auditing. Kali contains more than 600 hundred pre-installed tools which are geared towards various information security tasks, such as Penetration Testing, Security research, Computer Forensics, Web Application testing, and Reverse Engineering. Kali Linux is developed and maintained by Offensive Security, a leading information security training company. It was developed as a refined pen-testing distro that would be served as a replacement for backtrackOS. It was released on the 13th March 2013 as a complete, top-to-bottom rebuild of BackTrack Linux, adhering completely to Debian development standards.

Features

More than 600 penetration testing tools included — It comes with various penetration testing tools from the installation itself, After reviewing every tool that was included in BackTrack, It eliminated a great number of tools that either simply did not work or which duplicated other tools that provided the same or similar functionality.

Multi-language support — Although penetration tools tend to be written in English, to improve the usage of the non-native English users Kali includes true multilingual support, allowing more users to operate in their native language and locate the tools they need for the job.

Completely customizable — The initial design of the Kali Linux is not up to the mark because the look and feel are not so good, to avoid that problem Kali has made it as easy as possible for our more adventurous users to customize Kali Linux to their liking, all the way down to the kernel.

Wide-ranging wireless device support — A regular sticking point with Linux distributions has been supported for wireless interfaces. Kali Linux supports as many wireless devices as possibly can, allowing it to run properly on a wide variety of hardware and making it compatible with numerous USB and other wireless devices.

Custom kernel, patched for injection — As penetration testers, we often need to do wireless assessments and testing, so our kernel has the latest injection patches.

Free — Kali Linux, it is free to use like BackTrack, we will never, need to pay for Kali Linux.

what is parrot os?

Source: Google

Parrot Linux (Parrot Security, parrot OS, Parrot GNU/Linux) is a free and open source GNU/Linux distribution based on Debian Testing designed for security experts, developers, and privacy aware people. When I say Debian based, it means that the code repositories adhere to Debian development standards. It includes a full portable arsenal for IT security and digital forensics operations, but it also includes everything you need to develop your own programs or protect your privacy while surfing the net. The operating system ships with the MATE desktop environment preinstalled and is available in several flavors to fit your needs.

Parrot OS was first released in 2013 and was developed by a team of security experts, Linux enthusiasts, and open source developers. The team was headed by Lorenzo Faletra.

Features

Secure — It is always updated, frequently released and fully sandboxed! Everything is under our complete control.

Free — It is free and open-source, we can view source code and customize it as per our requirements.

Lightweight — This Operating system has proven to be extremely lightweight and run surprisingly fast even on very old hardware or with very limited resources.

Kali Linux vs Parrot Os

These both operating systems are meant for the same purpose i.e cybersecurity and penetration testing. Most of the factors in such cases boils down to a matter of personal taste rather than an objective comparison. Now, before we start comparing ParrotOS vs Kali Linux, let me list out the similarities between the two operating systems.

Similarities

  1. Both Operating systems are tuned for penetration testing.
  2. Both Operating systems support 32bit and 64bit architecture.
  3. Both Operating systems support cloud VPN.
  4. Based on Debian development standards.
  5. Comes with the pre-installed arsenal of hacking tools.
  6. Both Operating systems support for embedded and IoT devices.

Now, let’s discuss various differences between both operating systems

ParrotOS vs Kali Linux: Hardware Requirements

Parrot OS —

  1. No Graphical Acceleration Required.
  2. Minimum 320mb RAM is required.
  3. Minimum 1GHZ dual-core CPU is required.
  4. It can boot in legacy and UEFI modes as well.
  5. At least16GB of hard disk space is required to install the operating system.

Kali Linux —

  1. Graphical Acceleration Required.
  2. Minimum 1GB RAM is required.
  3. Minimum 1GHZ dual-core CPU is required.
  4. It can boot in legacy and UEFI modes as well.
  5. At least 20GB of hard disk space is required to install the operating system.

Hardware requirement is something which we ignore most of the time, primarily because we know that our systems are much more powerful than the minimum hardware requirements computers. but Parrot needs lower specification hardware when compared to Kali, meaning it can be run on low powered laptops and machines.

This is one of the reasons why I prefer Parrot sec over Kali Linux, but I like and use both of them as I said Its never about which operating system or tool you are using, it all depends on your skills.

ParrotOS vs Kali Linux: Look and Feel

When it comes to look and feel of an operating system I mostly prefer parrot os over Kali Linux because —

Source: Google

The interface of Parrot OS is built using the Ubuntu-Matte-Desktop-Environment. There are two clear sections. On top, you see a pane which contains the Applications, Places, System which is much like Kali itself. Parrot OS also gives some cool information about CPU temperature along with a usage graph. The bottom pane contains the menu manager and the workstation manager.

On the other hand, Kali Linux follows the GNOME desktop interface. In my opinion, it has the same functionality as parrot os but doesn’t provide the same clean, refined look.

ParrotOS vs Kali Linux: Hacking tools

When it comes to general tools and functional features, Parrot OS wins over Kali Linux. Parrot OS has all the tools that are available in Kali Linux and also adds its own tools. There are several tools you will find on ParrotOS that is not found on Kali Linux. Let’s discuss a few such tools —

AnonSurf

Being anonymous for a hacker is the first step before hacking a system.

You already have heard the line, every hacker changes his night at midnight.
I don’t want to go too much into it, but parrot has Anonsurf preinstalled and configured, so if you are doing something stealthy and want to be anonymous, you can cloak yourself with just one click.

Wifiphisher

It is a rogue Access Point framework used for conducting Wi-Fi security testing. Using Wifiphisher, penetration testers can easily achieve a man-in-the-middle position against wireless clients by performing targeted Wi-Fi association attacks. Wifiphisher can be further used to mount victim-customized web phishing attacks against the connected clients in order to capture credentials or infect the victim stations with malware.

ParrotOS vs Kali Linux: Variations

Both operating systems come with a variety of variations, but Parrot OS has much more in terms of variety.

Kali Linux —

  1. Kali Full Edition
  2. Kali Lite Edition
  3. Kali armhf/armel (IoT devices)
  4. Kali Desktop Variation (e17/KDE/Xfce)

Parrot OS —

  1. Parrot Sec OS Full Edition
  2. Parrot Sec OS Lite Edition
  3. Parrot Sec OS Studio Edition
  4. Parrot Sec OS Air Edition

As we see, Parrot has some diverse features with a release focussed on wireless penetration testing (AIR) and one that is tuned for multimedia content creation(studio). Other than that, it also has releases that have cloud support and support for IoT devices. Kali gives the basic full and lite edition along with custom desktop interfaces(e17/KDE/Matter/LXDE). Kali also has support for cloud and IoT devices.

ParrotOS vs Kali Linux: Performance

when we talk about performance, Kali is a bit laggy and when you run it on a low-end system, sometimes it's a nightmare when you have a brute-force attack going on in the background and you doing something else. But Parrot it is very lightweight and doesn't lag much. because it runs on low specification systems as well.

Conclusion

I hope you got a clear idea about the Parrot security OS and Kali Linux. I discussed pretty much everything about both the operating systems in a detailed manner. But selecting an operating system is based on your taste and choice, if you have a low specification system I would highly recommend to go with Parrot Sec OS. other than that go with whatever you want.

Most of the people argue that Parrot has more tools than Kali Linux and in Parrot Os, we can set up Anonymous Surf easily. but what I believe and say is Penetration testing is not about Setting up the tools it’s all about identifying the defects in a system.

Hope this helps you learn about various differences between Kali Linux and Parrot for penetration testing.

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