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The top 10 Linux security distros

Linux distros can be used for a lot of things, from games to education, but when it comes to security, there’s a whole mini-universe available.

Not only can you find distros made to protect your privacy, making sure you leave no trace as you move around the web, but also those that help you test your network and system security.

Here are the ten best Linux distros for privacy and security-conscious people.




Kali is developed by Offensive Security, and is considered one of the most popular pen testing distros. It is based on Debian Jessie, available in 32-bit and 64-bit and can be run off a USB or a CD.

You can run it from a disk and try some of its many features. You can either use Gnome as the default desktop, or built your own ISO. A more detailed description can be found on the Kali website.



Similar to Kali, Pentoo is available for both 32-bit and 64-bit computers. It is based on Gentoo Linux, and users can install it as an overlay. It offers many features, broken down in 15 different categories, and come together with a search engine to make things faster. More information can be found here.


Security Onion

Security Onion is designed to detect intrusions and monitor network security. It is based on Xubuntu LTS. It comes together with tools such as Wireshark packet sniffer and Suricata intrusion detection software. For the desktop, it uses XFCE, but its key apps are also available on regular desktop, as well. Security Onion is fairly advanced and should sit well with advanced users.



CANE stands for Computer Aided Investigation Environment, as is based on Ubuntu 14.04. It is available as a Live disk, and uses SystemBack as its installer. One of the key tools includes rbfstab, which can mount plugged devices as a read-only, ideal for forensic examination.



BlackArch can either be installed as a Live image or on top of an existing installation of Arch. It is recommended to use the dd command and create a Live USB, though. This distro is fairly big (4GB), and offers multiple window managers, including Awesome, Openbox and Fluxbox.

BlackArch offers not only forensic tools, but anti-forensic tools, as well, including sswap and ropeadope.


Parrot Security OS

Similar to BlackArch, Parrot Security OS can be used for two things – security and penetration testing. It is based on debian, and comes with the default login for the live session at root:toor. More details can be found here.

This distro is quite rich in features: with the Live image you get the persistence mode, as well as encrypted persistence. Parrot Security OS also features a few anonymity and cryptography tools, too.

Parrot Security OS was designed by the Italian network Frozenbox.


JonDo/Tor Live CD-DVD

If you’re interested in anonymous surfing, this Debian-based distro is your number one choice. This is a proxy, available for Linux, BSD, Windows and Mac. Everything that comes with JonDo is pre-configured for anonymity, including its Pidgin hat client, TorChat, or the TorBrowser.

More details can be found on the JonDo website right here.



This Fedora-based distro wants to achieve security by isolating. It creates an isolated virtual machine through Xen, with the access only to services it needs to perform a specific function. Qubes’ installation is not a simple one – the process is complicated and on some machines, out of the various installation choices, only one will work. Still, if you manage to install it properly, you’ll get an incredibly secure distro.



Tails is another distro created for online anonymity. Its internet apps come pre-configured to keep the user anonymous. It can be run from a USB drive, or even an SD card. It is based on Debian 8.

It uses the Tor network to keep all internet traffic anonymous, and clears all traces of your activity from the disk.

Sead Fadilpašić

Sead is a freelance journalist with more than 15 years of experience in writing various types of content, from blogs, whitepapers, and reviews to ebooks, and many more, across sites including Al Jazeera Balkans, TechRadar Pro, IT Pro Portal, and CryptoNews.