What is Kali Linux?

In one of my recent post I explained and easy and safe way to set up your own Digital Forensics Lab and I mentioned a Linux based operating system by the name of Kali Linux. But what is it? and why would you use it in your virtual hacking lab?

Kali Linux is a Debian based operating system that uses the Gnome desktop environment, but unlike Ubuntu and Gnome Kali is packed full of usefully tools and applications for cyber security and digital forensics. Meaning that it is pretty much a one stop shop for just about any tools you could need, this makes things very convenient as you do not have to search around and download multiple applications they are already there in one place. It makes use of the Gnome menu system and groups all of the tools into named folders with the type of tool it is. This again means there is no hunting around when you have installed all of your tools.

There are a number off different use cases for a package such as Kali and the could be from a general curiosity to using it in industry as a professional. I personally use it along side my degree as is part of my course. But with it being free you can start using it when ever you want and with the many tutorial online it is really simple to get started and learn how to use it.

Because it uses the Gnome desktop it feels nice to use just like Ubuntu or Gnome, and it doesn’t feel like a tool your using. Granted a lot of people would be very unfamiliar with either of these Linux system but after a little bit it feels natural or like using any other graphical operating system. It also means that you could use it as a daily operating system if you were that way inclined. And don’t worry about requiring the latest computer hardware to run it because due to it being Linux based it doesn’t require all to much. Granted for certain task an application a little extra power wouldn’t go amiss but if you where to run it on 1 or 2 cores with 1 or 2 GB or ram it wouldn’t feel sluggish. And better yet you can run it live from a USB stick so you don’t even have to install it to benefit from it tools and features.

I tend to run it through a virtual machine, this is due to the safe lab that I mentioned before, and again it runs just like any other system within a VM. One benefit of doing this is that you can play around with the hardware the VM will supply it with. So if you have the hardware to spare you can build a beefy Kali System.

Tools Included in Kali

  • AirCrack
    • AirCrack is a WEP and WPA (Router Password) cracking tool, meaning that if you where preforming a penetration test on a company you may be able to gain access to there network through the WiFi.
  • Burp Suite
    • This package allows you to test the security of web applications, it does this by canning the application the searches for possible vulnerability. This is a very helpful tool for developers who wish to make there product as secrecy as possible.
  • Hydra
    • Hydra is a brute force password cracking application that on the surface looks limited and outdated. But in reality is a powerful tool allowing you to attack one or many users with either a single password or from a list of passwords.
  • John the Ripper
    • John the Ripper is another password cracking application that is command line based, although you can use a graphical version in the form of Jonny the ripper. It has been know for its speed at being able to crack passwords.
  • Maltego
    • This is one that you are very unlikely to have used or heard of and it is Maltego, this application is an effective relationship tracker that can work on social media platforms, Computer networks and websites. Once it scans the target location it produces a map using graphics making it clear and easy to understand.
  • Megasploit Framework
    • This is another application that works well for developers or system admin, Megasplot Framework runs simulated attacks on your network trying to find vulnerabilities. This allows you to patch or alter the vulnerability and make your system as secure as possible. And because it is all simulated there is no negative effects on the network its self.
  • Nmap
    • Is another command line application that has a graphical front end application as well this time its in the form of Zenamp. The purpose of this tool is to preform network discover scan and also security auditing.
  • Zed Attack Proxy
    • The Zed Atatck Proxy or ZAP is another penetration testing tool targeting web applications, It supports the Open Web Application Security Project or OWASP and is pack to the brim with functionality and features.
  • Sqlmap
    • Sqlmap is again a penetration testing tool but this time it is targeting SQL databases and looks for weakness in SQL injection, In some cases SQL injection can compromise an entire database. This could potentially leave the target in a whole heap of trouble.
  • Wireshark
    • Wireshark is a network protocol analyser, it boast some features such as being able to scan hundreds of protocols and preform offline analysis.

Other Similar Operating Systems

All of the above are aimed to provide a similar services to Kali Linux, and although I have limited hands on experience with each of them. I do know from others that they are good at what they do and that they should be considered as an alternative to Kali. Some of them are more tailored towards anonymity online while other are again forensics packages.





Reasons for Full Disk Encryption

To those who are unfamiliar with the concept of full disk encryption it is very simple, normal your computer or mobile devices will store data on a HDD (Hard Disk Drive) without the requirement for a password or any verification to access it bar maybe a password to log into the machine. And this is all fine and well in a lot of cases, your average user might simply use there laptop for basic web browsing or to use services such as Netflix or Gmail.

But for some users personal or sensitive information might be stored on the computer, meaning that if the devise was to be stolen then all of this information could be accessed and could potently have massive consequences. But by using full disk encryption it makes it almost impossible to gain access to the drive and therefore the information stored on it. The best part is you don’t need to be “tech-savy” or a “computer genius” to achieve this level of protection. And it is also a huge amount easier to achieve than it might sound.

Firstly there are a number off different methods to protect your computer with full disk encryption, this could be in the form of a downloaded application but most operating systems these days also allow the user the ability to use full disk encryptions.

Listed below are a few of the easiest options to secure your PC with full disk encryption

Bit Locker

Bit Locker is Microsoft Windows answer to full disk encryption, and was introduce with Windows Vista, but only on the higher tier packages such as professional and business. This could be a slight restriction to some users who have the home version of Windows.

But much it is a very effective and smooth process to encrypt your disk using Bit Locker, and with it being built it it is also very easy to set up and use. Unlike TrueCrypt this is ran through Microsoft, meaning constant updates and improvements to security and as a result making your data as safe as it can be.


Before Bit Locker was around full disk encryption was hard to come by, but there was an open source tool that gave users this ability. And this was TrueCrypt a very easy to use and secure full disk encryption software. That has unfortunately been unsupported since 2014. However your are still able to downloaded it, and even though it states on the website that you should migrate to Bit Locker I personally feel that for your average user that wants a little extra security it will still do an effective job. Largely due to the fact that if your devise was to get stolen, unless the thief was very technically able it would be incredibly challenging for anyone bar an expert to utilize the security vulnerabilities said to be within TrueCrypt.

TrueCrypt Disclaimer
Source – http://truecrypt.sourceforge.net/


Ubuntu Home Folder

If you are a Linux user then Ubuntu has you covered on the encrypted folder front, during the install process for Ubuntu you are given the option to password protect your home folder. If you opt to set up a password your home folder will then be encrypted requiring a password to access once logged into the system. It is really nice to see it in the installation stage as it means once your system has been installed everything is set up for you and you will not have to go and set it up after. Although if you use Ubuntu and didn’t do it during the start up, don’t worry about it because you can do it after while usng the system. There are guides to this on the official Ubuntu website.


In some cases there are different methods to unlock an encrypted drive, this could be done in a few different ways. One of the more popular is using a UBS drive as a decryption key. Meaning to access the encrypted drive the user will need to have access to the specific USB drive. This is very similar to using a key card to access the encrypted drive. In my opinion it is also a little bit more user friendly as you will not have to keep typing out what should hopefully be a lengthy and complicated password.

And one of my personal favourites is the use of biometrics such as a finger print scanner. These can be purchased online and with a little but of work in some cases, allows the user to have a scanner on the desk, and once a finger print is detected open the encrypted drive.

There are also other methods to be able to add secure sections to your files system, one I have a lot of experience with is use BitDefender. The BitDefender has an option to protect certain folders, Essentially setting up an encrypted location that requires a password to access, although it is not quite full disk encryption its a very easy and manageable way to secure some of your files. It also requires the user to select how much space is going to be need meaning that the area that you secure could be a large as you need.


Daily use of a VPN

The first time I used a VPN or DNS  services was on an iPad 1, through a website called unblock US. And this was for the simple reason that I wanted to watch the American Netflix ,at that time the UK’s was very limited. But since Netflix has caught on to people changing their DNS settings and IP address it is very difficult to gain access to the Us Netflix from the UK.

So why do I still use a VPN across most of my devices, well there are multiple reasons to use on for day to day activity. This can range from regularly using a shared network or a public network. And some of the others are less obvious but are also a very good reason for using a VPN service on a daily basis.

Public or Shared WiFi and internet –

One of the main reasons I personally use a VPN is due to the places that I regularly connected to the internet from. Due to living in accommodation that has 1 router per floor, there are multiple users on the same network. And if you don’t secure your connection it is very possible for people to either monitor your network traffic. Or depending on how you have setup your machine you might have made your Windows OS visible on the network.

So how does a VPN help to protect you in this environment? Well its simple, a VPN created an encrypted tunnel between yourself and the host server meaning that your connection is going through the VPN services before going to the internet and not directly from your machine to the router and then out into the internet. This is the simple principle for public WiFi the type you might find in a coffee shop or any other place that offers you free WiFi. This is such as risk as you never truly know who else is connected to the same connection as you are, meaning there could be a hacker that is potentially trying to intercept packets from your machine. Or gaining access to your machine without your express permission. Both of these things could have multiple effects on you, such as credit card fraud or the loss of sensitive personal information that you would rather keep away from prying eyes.

Bypass Censorship –

This next reason for daily use of VPN is a very serious and unfortunate on in the information age that we are currently living in. Thankfully in the UK there are no restrictions or censorship on what we can and cant view on the internet. But sadly this is not the case in many country’s around the world and as a result some people are either being punished for using the internet or being that heavily restricted its all just propaganda and information that has been deemed acceptable.

Some VPN services actually market themselves as being able to offer a way around these censorship. This could be very important if your are in a journalist in an area were freedom of speech is heavily limited and expressing information that the government doesn’t agrees with can land you in a heap of trouble.  By using a VPN service it restores the control and freedom that should be globally available when using the internet.

It can also reduce the risk of people using free-speech to speak out against regime that from the outside world might look as if the care about the population. This open the world to the horrors of living in these country’s. There are also other ways around this such as using the Tor network, but again when using this service there is a massive recommendation to use a VPN. As some country’s will either block access to the Tor download page or will monitor and punish people that access the site.

Government Monitoring –

We are currently in an age of government monitoring, as more and more people are using the internet the information that is passed around using it has also increased.  In some ways govement monitoring is very useful and important. But in others they are monitoring the normal users online that have no malicious intentions in the slightest. So in some cases it is not fair that the government monitors all of your internet usage. This is proven when you read story’s such as true crime writers having there house raided due to there internet search habits (As research for a new book)

The scale of government monitoring has been proven in recent years, after data leaks from the likes of Edward Snowden. But the scale is ever growing as more and more government agency’s are gaining the ability to access anyone’s information. This was shown when you look into the Investigatory Powers Bill  the amount of agency’s that have the permission to monitor your activity’s is huge. If you read the list of agency’s that have permission, you might very well question why these agency’s need such a huge amount of power. Granted the UK if thankfully not a country that censors the nations internet access, but with these law that allow monitoring it is always good practice to protect your self if you like you privacy.

Some Good VPN Options

ProtonVPN Express VPN Cactus VPN
Windows, Mac, Linux and ios and android support Windows, Mac, Linux and ios and android support Windows, Mac, Linux and ios and android support
$8 per month $12.95 per month $6.99 per month

How to Setup an Ethical Hacking Lab

I have recently been setting up a Virtual Lab to use with Kali Linux, to safely practice some pen-testing. And just messing around with some stuff, but the first thing I needed to do before I started was to create a safe environment for myself to practice in. I did this by using VMware

VMware is a virtual machine package allowing you to run virtual machines on your main devices, this can be used for a number of different things. Such as setting up a forensics test environment to discover how some application change the machines as they are used. Or to practice ethical hacking in a safe and secure environment. This can be important because unless you had permission to practice on a real network you would be in breach of a number off different laws depending on the country your in.

This means without having access to a functional lab you’d struggle to either practice away from your studies or to even get started without the worry of getting yourself into trouble. Due to these reasons I went about setting my self up a little lab using VMware. This was very straight forward and simple to-do. And now means I can practice to my hearts content without the risk of breaking any laws.And here is how I did it.

VMWare Downlaod Page
First thing you will need to do is go to the VMware website, and download the VMware Workstation Player (And don’t worry its free for personal use)
VMware Welcome Screen
Once you have downloaded and installed VMware, you will be greeted by this window. From here we are going to select “Create a New Virtual Machine”
Create VM 1
Once you have selected to create a new virtual machine, you will have to select the ISO you wish to install (I will leave a list of Linux ISO below)
Create VM 3
Once you have selected your operating system you will be asked to enter information about the user
Create VM 4
The next step is to decided where you want to save your VM files and to name the VM if you have multiple VM’s of the same operating system this is usefulto manage and keep track of them.
Create VM 5
You will then be asked to select how much storage you want the virtual machine to have, I usually leave it around the 20GB mark but you can do what ever best suites your needs. As I only use mine for testing purpose and never store any data on them.
Create VM 6
This is the final stage before powering on your VM, and is also the stage you are give the option to assign how much hardware the VM will receive.
Create VM 7
Once you have decided how many cores and how much ram your VM is going to require you need to go down to the networking option and select Host-Only. This means that you will only be able to communicate with machines on the same virtual network as yourself.
Create VM 8
And finally you should be able to power on your virtual machine and install the operating system. Once this machine boots up you will be in your own virtual network and can practice your hacking in a safe and secure environment.


So if you follow all of the steps above you will be able to repeat this step to install OS such as Kali Linux, this is my go to operating system for practicing ethical hacking as it has all the tools you could need and is used within industry meaning you will have access to tools that are used by professionals.

I found it useful to play around with some older operating systems to practice on first, this tended to be Windows XP or an older version of Ubuntu. This is due to the security features on Windows 10 for example and more advance making it more of a struggle to practice. I also found the easiest way to get a Windows XP key was to have a look around the house and try and find an old laptop that ran windows XP and use the serial off that. But if you don’t have any laying round the house you can buy them on eBay for about £30.


Linux ISO Downloads