Kali Linux is a Debian-derived Linux distribution designed for digital forensics and penetration testing. It is maintained and funded by Offensive Security Ltd.
Mati Aharoni (muts), is the lead Kali developer, trainer and founder of Offensive Security. As a security consultant he faced specific problems when he was conducting penetration testing for his clients. In his own words,
“The idea for a Live Linux distribution which contains a bunch of security tools was born out of necessity many years ago, when I faced a perplexing dilemma on a security engagement. I was not allowed to bring any hardware to the engagement—and what’s more, I was only allowed to use onsite computers on the condition that I would not touch their hard disks or modify them in any way. (I actually was allowed to bring a laptop onsite, however it would be taken on exit).
After thinking long and hard, I figured that these seemingly impossible work conditions could be met by adding a few tools to an existing bootable Live Linux CD (Knoppix 2.0, to those familiar with ancient history). Once created, I would be able to bring in the CD to the engagement, boot an onsite computer with the CD, and work directly out of RAM. At the end of the engagement, I would be able to destroy the CD without too much heart-ache. And so I started a Linux Security based Distribution, ten years ago!”
So Mati created the WHAX, a Slax-based Linux distribution containing many security tools in it. The earlier versions of WHAX were called Whoppix as they were based on Knoppix.
Around the same time Max Moser developed Security Auditor Collection, a Linux Live CD, also based on Knoppix which included over 300 tools organized in a user-friendly hierarchy.
The overlap in purpose and collection of tools of both WHAX & Auditor led to the merger in February 5, 2006 birthing BackTrack. The first release of BackTrack happened in May 26th. BackTrack remained the undisputed heavyweight champion of penetration testing for the next six years with several releases. BackTrack 5 R3 released on August 13, 2012.
BackTrack arranged tools into 12 categories:
- Information gathering
- Vulnerability assessment
- Exploitation tools
- Privilege escalation
- Maintaining access
- Reverse engineering
- RFID tools
- Stress testing
- Reporting tools
As the team started to ponder over the “wish list goals” of BackTrack 6, it became evident that the best way to achieve all those goals is by starting afresh, using new technologies and processes. BackTrack was an Ubuntu-derivative. With much deliberation and argument the team decided on Debian which was a smart move, as Debian is very stable. Also to be FHS compliant, the /pentest directory under which all the tools were there, had been taken away.
Mati Aharoni and Devon Kearns(dookie) of Offensive Security rewrote BackTrack. The third developer Raphaël Hertzog(bux) joined them as Debian expert. On March 13, 2013 Kali Linux was officially announced. One distinguishing fact was that it was aimed on many platforms such ARM along with traditional x86 and AMD64 instruction sets.
The three core developers of Kali Linux hence are,
- Mati Aharoni (muts) is the lead Kali developer, trainer and founder of Offensive Security. With over 10 years of experience as a professional penetration tester, Mati has uncovered several major security flaws and is actively involved in the offensive security arena.
- Devon Kearns (dookie) is an Offensive Security instructor, Kali Linux developer, the administrator of the Exploit Database, co-creator of the Metasploit Unleashed project, exploitation fanatic, and co-author of Metasploit: The Penetration Tester’s Guide.
- Raphaël Hertzog (buxy) is an experienced Debian developer and consultant, author of the well known Debian Administrator’s Handbook. He’s the packaging wizard in the team and manages our continuously growing development infrastructure.
Kali Linux is preinstalled with over 600 penetration testing tools. The Kali Linux 1.0.6 release added a Top 10 Security Tools menu making the most frequently used tools easily accessible.
On August 11, 2015 Kali Linux 2.0 code named sana got released with many drastic changes both at the code and the interface level. Head over to Kali.org for all the details. The following video nicely summarizes the evolution and major features of Kali Linux 2.0.
The Logo and The Tagline
The logo remained the same as that of the BackTrack distribution with Dragon symbolizing powerful, resourceful and aggressive. The the thing I love the most is the tag line “The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear“.
The name Kali Linux
The Kali Linux site says so,
“Hindu Goddess of time and change? Philippine martial art? Cool word in Swahili? None of the above. “Kali” is simply the name we came up with for our new distribution. Why change the name in the first place? With all these significant changes in our distribution, we felt that we needed to convey this in the project name. “BackTrack 6” didn’t do justice to our efforts in the past year, and wouldn’t convey our new message to our users. What’s the new message? We’ll let you find out for yourself.”
However, as we’re celebrating Durgashtami here in India, I would like to seek the blessings of Goddess Kali, the fierce aspect of Goddess Durga and the epiphany of empowerment.