Kali Linux is a special collection of hacking tools built upon a Debian distribution of Linux. Linux is based on Unix, a cross platform language which can work with different architectures.
Many of these tools can be separated out into various categories according to their function with each category is relevant according to the phase of the hacking cycle. An almost comprehensive list of these tools can be seen at Kali Tools
Some of these tools are themselves a collection of other programs. Zenmap for example includes element of Nmap and Nikto. Other tools like Metasploit, Armitage, Beef and Burpsuite are frameworks of different 'sub-programs' which can be called upon when needed.
While Kali Linux is perhaps the most widely used and regarded pentesting framework, there are other Linux distributions that can be use for pentesting. Other popular ones include:-
- Parrot Security OS:
- Samurai Web Testing Framework:
- Pentoo Linux:
- DEFT Linux:
- Network Security Toolkit (NST):
Many of the Linux tools are available in a Windows version. However these tools can only work with a Windows operating system, and White Hat hackers and Digital Forensic investigators can always be guaranteed to be working on Windows based devices.
Reconnaissance of the target (for the ethical hacker this will be the client paying for the pentesting) will reveal information that might be useful to black hat hackers who could use it as a starting point, perhaps through a social engineering attack, for gaining entry into the target system.
Tools used so far for this have included Maltego, Dmitry, Zenmap, Recon-ng and The Harvester.
The next step is vulnerability testing i.e using tools to scan for weaknesses or ways into the target, perhaps through backdoors or open ports. It is at this point, our own ethical standards come into play.
It is illegal to scan sites, servers and organisations for which permission has not been granted. Ethical hackers can only scan for vulnerabilities on servers, sites and machines for which they have been permission as agreed under the Rules of Engagement.