Choosing Your Hacking Platform
Several of you have written asking me questions regarding the best hacking platform. Should you use a USB flash drive, a DVD, a Virtual Machine or a dual boot system?
Here, I will attempt to clarify the differences and give you the advantages and disadvantages of each so that you can choose the right platform for your circumstances.
You can download and burn BackTrack or Kali to a DVD and then install it to your hard drive and run it as a dual boot. Both distributions will ask you whether you want to partition your hard drive or use the entire hard drive. Make certain you partition your hard drive or it will overwrite your Windows OS wiping out your OS and all your data. Not good.
In addition, you can run it as a Live CD. If you use it as a LiveCD , you will need to change your boot up sequence in you BIOS to boot from the CD/DVD first.
- You have the entire OS on a durable medium if your hard drive fails.
- It doesn't take up any hard drive space when using as a LiveCD.
- Running it as a LiveCD is slow.
- You can't save your files etc. to the OS.
You can save your hacking system to a USB flash drive and use the flash drive like an external hard drive that you can boot from. You need software such as unetbootin to create a bootable flash drive that you find here. In addition, there are installation and troubleshooting pointers there.
- Doesn't take up any hard drive space.
- Faster than a LiveCD, but slower than a hard drive install.
- Unlike a LiveCD, you can save files to the flash drive.
- Runs a bit slower than a hard drive install.
- Need to reboot to use your hacking platform.
With a VM system such as VMWare Workstation or Oracle's Virtual Box, you can install your hacking system within Windows 7 or 8 or for that matter any OS. Great as a learning/training/testing environment.
- You can have many OS's running on one piece of hardware, so for instance, you could have BackTrack installed in one VM and a victim system installed in another VM, for practicing your hacks.
- You can set up virtual network.
- Saves money on hardware.
- Multiple VM's can chew up RAM making the overall system run slower. You will need at least 4gb and preferably 8gb for reasonable performance.
- Can't use your internal wireless adapter for wireless hacking.
- Sometimes the complexities of the virtual machine software can inhibit ease of use.
In this configuration, you have the ability to boot to multiple operating systems. So, for instance, you could boot to Windows 7 when doing your work/school activities and then boot to BackTrack when hacking.
- You need fewer system resources than a VM.
- It runs faster than a VM , LiveCD or bootable flash.
- You CAN use your internal wireless adapter for wifi hacking.
- Need to reboot your system to get into your hacking platform.
- Doesn't allow you to set up a network of machines on the same physical machine like you can with a VM for testing and training.
Everyone is a little different, with different needs and resources. I'm hoping this list helps you choose the platform that is best for you. As for me, I prefer to use a VM on VMWare Workstation for testing/educational purposes and a dual boot system for actual hacking and penetration testing.