Kali Linux is arguably one of the best out-of-the-box Linux distributions available for security testing. While many of the tools in Kali can be installed in most Linux distributions, the Offensive Security team developing Kali has put countless hours into perfecting their ready-to-boot security distribution.
Kali Linux is a secure Debian-based Linux distribution that comes pre-loaded with hundreds of well-known security tools and has gained quite a name for itself.
Kali even has an industry-respected certification available called “Penetration Testing with Kali Linux”. The certification is a rigorous 24-hour challenge in which applicants must successfully compromise a number of computers with another 24 hours to write up a professional penetration test report that is sent to and graded by the personnel at Offensive Security. Successfully passing this exam will allow the test taker to obtain the OSCP credential.
The focus of this guide and future articles is to help individuals become more familiar with Kali Linux and several of the tools available within the distribution.
Please be sure to use extreme caution with the tools included with Kali as many of them can accidentally be used in a manner that will break computer systems. The information contained within all of these Kali articles is intended for legal usage.
Kali Linux System Requirements
Kali has some minimum suggested specifications for hardware. Depending upon the intended use, more may be desired. This guide assumes that the reader will want to install Kali as the only operating system on the computer.
- At least 20GB of disk space; strongly encouraged to have more.
- At least 2GBMB of RAM; more is encouraged especially for graphical environments.
- USB or CD/DVD boot support
- ISO is available from the Kali Linux download page.
Create a Bootable Kali Linux USB Drive
This guide will assume that a USB drive is available to use as the installation media. Take note that the USB drive should be as close to 4/8GB as possible and ALL DATA WILL BE REMOVED!
The author has had issues with larger USB drives but some may still work. Regardless, following the next few steps WILL RESULT IN DATA LOSS ON THE USB DRIVE.
Please be sure to back up all data before proceeding. This bootable Kali Linux USB drive is going to be created from another Linux machine.
Download Kali Linux
The first step is to obtain the Kali Linux ISO image, as this guide is going to use the current newest version of Kali with the XFCE Linux desktop environment.
To download the Kali Linux 2023.3 version, type the following wget command into a terminal.
cd ~/Downloads wget -c https://cdimage.kali.org/kali-2023.3/kali-linux-2023.3-installer-amd64.iso
The two commands above will download the Kali Linux ISO into the current user’s ‘Downloads’ folder.
Create Kali Linux Bootable USB
The next process is to write the ISO to a USB drive to boot the installer. To accomplish this we can use the dd command within Linux. First, the disk name needs to be located with the lsblk command though.
With the name of the USB drive determined as
/dev/sdc, the Kali ISO can be written to the drive with the ‘dd’ tool.
sudo dd if=~/Downloads/kali-linux-2023.3-installer-amd64.iso of=/dev/sdc
Once the ISO is copied over to the USB drive, proceed further to install Kali Linux.
Install Kali Linux 2023.3
1. First, plug the USB drive into the respective computer that Kali should be installed upon and proceed to boot to the USB drive. Upon successful booting to the USB drive, the user will be presented with the following screen and should proceed with the ‘Install’ or ‘Graphical Install’ options.
This guide will be using the ‘Graphical Install’ method.
2. The next couple of screens will ask the user to select locale information such as language, country, and keyboard layout.
Once through the locale information, the installer will prompt for a hostname and domain for this install. Provide the appropriate information for the environment and continue installing it.
3. After setting up the hostname and domain name, you need to create a new user account to use instead of a root account for non-administrative activities.
4. After setting the password, the installer will prompt for time zone data and then pause at the disk partitioning.
If Kali will be the only one operating on the machine, the easiest option is to use ‘Guided – Use Entire Disk’ and then select the storage device you wish to install Kali.
5. The next question will prompt the user to determine the partitioning on the storage device. Most installs can simply put all data on one partition though.
6. The final step asks the user to confirm all changes to be made to the disk on the host machine. Be aware that continuing will ERASE DATA ON THE DISK.
7. Once the partition changes, the installer will run through the process of installing the files. Once it is completed, the system will prompt you to select software that will install a standard desktop environment with the needed tools.
8. After the software installation is complete, the system will ask to install grub. Again this guide assumes that Kali is to be the only operating system on this computer.
Selecting ‘Yes’ on this screen will allow the user to pick the device to write the necessary boot loader information to the hard drive to boot Kali.
9. Once the installer finishes installing GRUB to the disk, it will alert the user to reboot the machine to boot into the newly installed Kali machine.
10. Since this guide installed the XFCE Desktop environment, it will likely default boot into it.
11. Once it is booted, log in as the user ‘tecmint‘ with the password created earlier in the installation process.
At this point, Kali Linux is successfully installed and ready to be used! Upcoming articles will walk through the tools available within Kali and how they can be utilized to test the security posture of hosts and networks. Please feel free to post any comments or questions below.