BackTrack is a well-known specialized Linux distribution focusing on security tools for penetration testers and security professionals, but it now offers a lot in terms of forensics…Pros: BackTrack 5 has all the tools you need for testing network security and its nicely presented.
Cons: Documentation is scarce and often outdated & upgrading from previous release isn’t supported
The advantage of BackTrack 5 (BT5) is that it offers a slew of security and forensic tools on a live DVD, ready to use. It’s based on Ubuntu Lucid (10.04 LTS) with Linux kernel 2.6.38 and some patched WiFi drivers to allow injection attacks. You can download the distribution in a GNOME or a KDE version, for 32-bit or 64-bit x86 machines. It’s a live DVD ISO file, which you can burn to a DVD or write to a USB stick. On the desktop of the live session, there’s an installer icon if you want to install BackTrack permanently. For the first time, the project also has an image for ARM, which you can run on your smartphone or tablet to test the security of a wireless network.
BackTrack’s boot menu gives you various options. The default option just starts a live session (a stylish framebuffer console, in which you can start GNOME or KDE with startx), but there’s also a stealth mode which boots the distribution without generating any network traffic: you have to enable networking manually later. This is interesting if you want to hide your presence on the network temporarily. Another nice option is the forensics mode, which doesn’t automatically mount the computer’s drives and also doesn’t use any swap space it finds. When forensically investigating a system, this guarantees that you don’t accidentally wipe out hidden traces.
BackTrack is filled with a collection of more than 300 open source security tools, which you can find organized in different submenus of the “Backtrack” menu: “Information Gathering”, “Vulnerability Assessment”, “Exploitation Tools”, “Privilege Escalation”, “Maintaining Access”, “Reverse Engineering”, “RFID Tools”, “Stress Testing”, “Forensics”, “Reporting Tools”, “Services”, and “Miscellaneous”. Each submenu is further subdivided into subcategories. The developers have added a nice touch to menu items of commandline utilities: when you click on such a menu item, it opens a terminal window with the tool showing its usage, e.g. with the –help option.
BT5′s software collection is really a security professional’s dream. It has all you need to pentest a network, such as the exploit framework Metasploit, the network scanner Nmap, the network analyzer Wireshark, the browser exploitation framework BeEF, the information gathering tool Maltego, and so on. One disadvantage of BT5 is that you can’t upgrade to it from BT4, which is a pity if you have installed and configured a BT4 installation in the past. Moreover, some interesting tools like Pyrit, which uses your GPU’s processing power to accelerate WPA password cracking, and the vulnerability scanner OpenVAS have been dropped in BT5, although they can be installed manually.
The bad thing about BackTrack is the documentation. It’s scarce, fragmentary, and often outdated. Many tips and tutorials we found on the BackTrack website and its wiki were for older versions and didn’t work on BT5, and other documents didn’t spell out which version they were talking about. However, there are also some extremely detailed and very good documents on the website, and obviously documentation is a work in progress, so depending on what you need your mileage may vary.
BackTrack is also more about the tools than about the distribution, so the lack of consistent documentation shouldn’t be such a big problem. Moreover, BT5 is really Ubuntu 10.04 under the hood, so most of the documentation about the latter applies. BackTrack is sponsored by the company Offensive Security, and they offer a “Penetration testing With BackTrack” course if you want to train your penetration testing skills. Upon completion of this course, you are ready to take a security challenge in an unfamiliar lab, and after successful completion you receive the Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) certification.
If you run BackTrack 5 on your laptop, you have all you need to test the security of a network. Of course you still have to know what you’re doing, but at least you have all the relevant tools at your fingertips. If you’re really serious about pentesting don’t leave home without it.