Kali Linux has come a long way since its BackTrack days and is still widely regarded as the ultimate Linux distribution for penetration testing. The system has undergone quite a transformation since its old days and includes a new look, improved performance and some significant changes in its use.
Offensive Security is the team behind Kali Linux, a Debian-based system. Kali is the preferred weapon of choice on Null Byte and you can install it as your primary system (not recommended), use it with dual-boot, use it in a virtual workstation or create a portable live version on a USB flash drive.
We'll walk you through a very simple setup today, just enough to get you started along with Null Byte guides. There are actually a lot of things that can be done to tweak the installation, but we just want the quick and dirty process.
What's New in Kali Linux?
In Kali Linux version 2019.4, released at the End of 2019, Offensive Security made significant changes to how Kali looks and feels. And the 2020.1 update, released in January 2020, built on the new foundation.
Perhaps the most important update is the default desktop environment, which is now Xfce, a change made mainly for performance issues. For most users, GNOME is overkill, and a lightweight desktop environment like Xfce offers lower overhead, leading to smoother and faster performance. For all the die-hard GNOME fans out there, the previous desktop environment is still supported and even comes with an updated GTK3 theme.
Other new features include the introduction of undercover mode, new public packaging and documentation processes, an update for Kali NetHunter, the addition of PowerShell, non-root users are now the default and other bug fixes and updates.
Choosing the Right Kali Linux
To get started, navigate to kali.org and go to the download page, where you can choose from several images.
The available images include Kali Linux for both 64- and 32-bit architectures (via Installer), Lite editions (via NetInstaller) and Live versions, and there are links to downloads for the ARM architecture and VMware and VirtualBox virtual machines. How you want to use Kali is entirely up to you.
- The links " Installer " are for Intel based computers and contain a copy of the standard packages. You can install Kali later without an internet connection. These are good if Kali will be your primary operating system or part of a dual boot system. For best performance without sacrificing your preferred primary system, dual-booting is best.
- The links " NetInstaller " are much smaller than those of the installer, since they do not contain copies of the packages to be installed. These are only recommended if you don't have enough bandwidth to download a full version as you will likely want to install the missing packages later.
- The links " VM " are for Kali to be installed as a virtual machine on your primary system. The two compatible virtual environments are VirtualBox (free) and VMware Workstation (not free). These are good options for Null Byte readers because you can practice hacking between systems on one computer, which can prevent you from breaking cybersecurity laws. However, keep in mind that a fair amount of RAM is required for everything to run smoothly and to run wireless hacks you will need an external wireless adapter, an adapter that you can preferably put in monitor mode.
- Not listed are Kali NetHunter images for mobile devices, but you can find them on the Offensive Security site. They work on various Android devices such as OnePlus, Sony Xperia and Nexus models.
If you want to use an older version of Kali, you can visit the index of older image versions. While Kali 2020.1 replaced standard root users with non-root users, you may want to install a version of 2019, which still gives you most of the latest features. In this guide, I install the 2019.4 version as my primary system because I want to keep the default user.
Once you have decided how you want to use Kali, click on the name of the image to download it. You can also click the "Torrent" link if that will get the job done better.
Installing Kali Linux
The process for installing Kali Linux will differ depending on which version you have chosen. For help installing Kali in VirtualBox, see our previous article about using Kali in VirtualBox on a Mac: the article is a bit old, but the process is generally the same and works the same on Windows . For help installing Live images, Kitten's guide, a Null Byte reader, might help.
I downloaded the Kali 2019.4 64-bit image and burned the ISO to a disc, and that's what I'm showing today. After opening the installer, the boot menu offers several options. We keep it simple and do the graphical installation. A minimum of 20 GB of disk space is recommended.
Then select the language and keyboard layout options.
Th and enter a host name for the system.
Then set a password for the root user. Remember that if you install 2020.1 or higher, there is no root user by default, only a non-root user, but you can also set a custom password for the user.
Now set the desired time zone to configure the clock:
Then we can start partitioning the disk . We keep it simple again and use the "Guided" method. In my case the "user complete disk" method.
Once everything is configured, the changes are written to disk.
And the installation will begin. This can take some time.
A network mirror can be used to update the software during installation. If you're connected to a network, it usually makes sense to do this.
The GRUB boot loader must also be installed for the operating system to boot.
The installation has finally been completed. Now we can restart the machine and boot into the new system.
As soon as Kali boots up, we see a new login prompt, which looks much different than on Kali version 2019.3 and older. If you installed 2019.4, the credentials are the host name you chose and the root password you created, or the non-root user and password you created. For 2020.1 and later, "kali" and "kali" are the default default user credentials for certain installations such as in VirtualBox. (The root user's default references were "root" and "toor.")
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