Kali vs. Black Arch vs. Parrot

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Summary

This is a draft about the differences of the three operating systems

Differences

Description

Black Arch

Black Arch is an Arch Linux-based penetration testing distibution. It is a relatively new project, therefore there will be more bugs, less documentation and more room for improvement overall. The repository contains 2677 tools, which you can install either individually or in groups. Depending on whether you install the Full Iso or Slim Iso, which is a more lightweight version that will save you some storage space, you have multiple windows managers.

Kali Linux

Kali is a Debian-based well-known penetration testing and digital forensics Linux distribution, created for cyber security experts. It has around 600 pre-installed tools.

ParrotOS

ParrotOS is a Debian-based Linux distibution, while the Parrot Security is especially designed for security specialists, offering tools for pentesting, digital forensics and reverse engineering, but also for software engineers. It has a simplistic GUI and is a lightweight distro and comes with even more pre-installed tools than Kali does.

First Impression

Black Arch

First impression is a very sterile and simplistic one. Basically you just see the background, date and time on the bottom, and only by doing a right click, you can access the "blackarch menu" tab, from where you can open terminals in various color schemes and access all of the available tools, as can be seen in the screenshot below.

  • Black Arch homescreen Tools overview

Kali Linux

A big leap from the BlackArch aesthetics. This now looks like an actual homescreen, more like something a human would want to work with, compared to BlackArch, but this obviously comes down to everyone's own preference. There is a dropdown menu from where you access the preinstalled tools, as shown in the screenshot below.

  • Kali Linux homescreen Tools overview

ParrotOS

At the first glance looks very nice and neat, like with Kali you can see a menu on top from where you can access all of the tools for pentesting, programming etc.

  • Parrot Security homescreen Tools overview

User friendliness (for lay people)

Kali and ParrotOS are pretty on par on user friendliness. Both offer the installed pentesting tools directly in the start menu of the OS. Parrot is more colorful and therefore offers more clarity.
BlackArch on the other hand is not very user friendly. The only menu available is found on right-clicking on the desktop and some of the sub menus are completely overfilled, so even on a UHD display not all programms can be displayed; no scrollig available.
On the bash, there's not much difference between the OSes.

Kernel Type

OS Kernel
BlackArch Arch Linux
Kali Debian
ParrotOS Debian

Stability

All three OSes are build upon a very stable and far developed Linux kernel. During our works we weren't able to discern them in any way

Installing

The installation is quite similar with all distributions, however some cause more problems than the others. Black Arch is the fastest, has the least setup to go through: basically you just choose the boot and you are good to go to log in with the default username and password. Afterwards you can create users and change these settings, but the setup itself does NOT require you to.

On the other hand, the Parrot OS takes a while to set up, going through all the setup steps. It might happen, that your setup (especially in a VM) will not work if you click some wrong setting. However, the complexity of the setup corresponds to the result, ParrotOS being really nice and user friendly, while getting a small window in Black Arch with no idea, how to actually use it since there are no buttons.

Kali Linux is also somewhat more complex to set up, but works more effortlessly. You can set up users and passwords right in the setup process, choose a desktop environment of your choice (Xfce, GNOME, KDE Plasma...)

The installation process has been thoroughly documented in the following links:

Packager

OS Default Packager
BlackArch Pacman
Kali APT
ParrotOS APT

Pre-installed Tools

The Parrot Security comes with the following (pentesting) categorizations of pre-installed tools:

  • Information gathering
  • Vulnerability analysis
  • Web application analysis
  • Exploitation tools
  • Maintaining access
  • Post exploitation
  • Password attacks
  • Wireless testing
  • Sniffing & Spoofing
  • Digital forensics
  • Automotive
  • Reverse engineering
  • Reporting tools
  • System services


Kali Linux, in addition to these, has two other main categories:

  • Social engineering tools
  • Database assessment


ParrotOS and Kali Linux have very similar tools, while ParrotOS also has some programming development tools as well.
However, BlackArch's tools are not listed in such a neat way. It's actually impossible to see all the tools available because of the buggy menu - you can only view it by right clicking on the home screen and then, once the list gets too long, the screen is just cut off. Therefore you can't actually view them all this way. According to the documentation as of today (18.05.2021) there are 2677 tools available on BlackArch, whilst there are listed in different categories than ParrotOS or Kali (see screenshot above to view the categories).
Needless to say, you can install any tools on any OS from a repo, this comparison just focuses on the pre-installed tools and the look of them. To "real hackers", who will oftentimes want to write their own tools or scripts, this will not matter. The terminal works the same in all three operation systems, once you can navigate it, it doesn't matter how the tools look like in the UI.

Desktop Environment

OS Desktop Environments
BlackArch XFCE Desktop Environment
Kali GNOME, KDE, XFCE
ParrotOS MATE, KDE, XFCE

Used Hardware

VM Ware virtual Machines with each:

  • 4 vCPU
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 100 GB HDD

Idly used Hardware of the OS

This stats are aggregates by watching htop over at least an hour and executing du -sh in the root directory:

OS RAM/MiB HDD/GiB
BlackArch 333 65
Kali 749 14
ParrotOS 679 12


References