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What is so special about kali?

Is there some suite that just run on kali and won't on other distros/mac?

Is it just marketed better to the infosec community?

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    There are some tools that work better on Linux than a Mac (f.e. if you need additional hardware for them). But the main reason for using Kali is that all the tools are there. Me, I'm quite happy with my Slackware with practically the same toolset as Kali. Haven't needed Kali for anything yet. Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 12:36
  • Well, you are trying to compare a Linux distro to MacOS, but other than that, there is nothing special about kali. It just has a ton of pre-bunded tools.
    – schroeder
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 12:37
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    You can do everything on a mac you can do on kali. If you install all the tools kali has. If the tools compile at all on a mac vs. on linux. If you don't mind doing the work of essentially building on your mac what makes Kali its own special distro.
    – user10489
    Commented Aug 7, 2022 at 13:44

2 Answers 2

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Aside from the things Wouter already mentioned in his answer, there are other things, that Kali offers, which "general purpose" operating systems don't:

  • All pentesting tools are tested to work on Kali by the Kali devs.

    While that may not sound like a big deal to you, it is indeed a big deal for professional pentesters. When I start a tool, I can be confident that it works. There are no missing dependencies, which are not available through that distro's package manager, which I will have to compile myself. The configuration will already have been done so that the tool will work on this system. And so on and so forth.

    That doesn't mean you can't get those tools to run on other distros, but that may include compiling stuff from sources, wading through cryptic error messages by make...essentially trying random things until it works.

    MacOS is also notorious for including command line tools or libraries, which are either outdated or have been modified by Apple in some way, so that they don't seamlessly work with code written for Linux. Yes, there are tools like Homebrew, but installing multiple, incompatible versions of command line tools and libraries is usually not a recipe for success.

  • Kali includes patched kernel modules for wireless hardware.

    This is arguably a minor thing, but Wi-Fi pentesting can be a pain in the ass. Getting a random chipset to work in monitor mode, so that it works with airodump-ng can be an exhausting task in Kali, but it's way worse in an OS, that has who knows what installed to manage wireless devices.

    In Kali, I can be confident, that my wireless device will work in monitor mode and that I will be able to capture data from it without having to search why channel hopping isn't working or why I can't inject frames with aireplay-ng.

    Since you asked specifically about MacOS, this may actually be one of the things you can't do on a Mac. However, depending on the chip used, it may also not be possible on Kali either.

  • Developers test their tools on Kali.

    It's one of those chicken-and-egg scenarios. Since most pentesters use Kali, developers of pentest tools test those tools to work on Kali. And since those tools are tested to work on Kali, that's what pentesters will primarily use.


However, I would like to stress the point that Kali is not a requirement to be a pentester, security researcher or similar.

If you have a good reason to use a different OS, and that setup works for you, then by all means, use what works for you. For example, all of my regular corporate stuff (Outlook, Teams, Word, etc.) runs on Windows, so I usually use Windows as host for web-based security assessments, because Burp Suite runs just as well on Windows.

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Objectively, what can you do on kali that you can't do on a mac?

Objectively, nothing. Kali Linux is a Debian-based Linux distribution that comes with a complete toolset, often used in penetration testing, as well as related resources like wordlists. A Mac will most likely run macOS as its operating system. There may be operational differences between these operating systems, yet it can be expected that most tools will be operable on either system.

If required, it would be possible to run a Virtual Machine of the other Operating System on either system as well.

whats so special about kali?

The fact that it has a full pentesting suite pre-installed, along with the most popular resources like wordlists. This is directly usable after install. No extensive configuration is required to set up tools and download resources.

is there some suite that just run on kali and won't on other distros/mac?

No.

is it just marketed better to the infosec community?

It is popular because it can be used directly for pentesting out of the box. There are other distributions available that provide a similar experience, like ParrotOS.

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