Monthly Archives

March 2020

linux mint for beginners
Linux OS, Tutorials

Linux Mint for Beginners

Today I want to introduce you to one of my all-time favourite Linux desktop distros: Linux Mint. There are a lot of great desktop distros that work fantastic right out of the box, but I think this one edges out the competition. It’s a great option if you are new to working with Linux based systems. You have a lot of customization options available but it’s not overwhelming or easy to break. Let’s get into it!

Quick Overview of Linux Mint

One of the best things about Linux Mint is that will work right away from install. Yes that does include full multimedia support without you needing to install any additional packages. It’s an open-source project (duh!) and freely available to use to the public. Currently number of users ranges in the millions. It’s also community driven, so if you notice any bugs or would like a feature added into a future version let them know!

The Linux Mint system is based on Debian and Ubuntu. It boasts an impressive 30,000 packages! My personal favourite feature is it’s software update manager. You also won’t need to spend much time on security, you don’t need to install anti-spyware or antivirus.

Current Desktop Editions

Right now there are four editions of Linux Mint available, which one you choose depends on your needs. The two most common are Cinnamon and MATE, and then there is also KDE and Xfce. Essentially they are just different versions of the desktop view but there are some important software differences as well. If you’re feeling unsure about which to choose, the developers recommend that you go with the MATE edition as it has more options for hardware specifications.

Personally, I go with the Cinnamon desktop environment and to be honest I find it more user-friendly for newbies. I’ve never had a problem installing anything, it looks great, and it’s easy to use. I should note that it’s pretty easy to switch between desktop environments. So you can always dabble in one and then if you don’t like it you can switch to another. Either Cinnamon or MATE will work great for both individual users and companies.

Installing Linux Mint

First things first, make sure you download the ISO from the official Linux Mint Website. Then, before you go running off all excited to install your new software, verify that ISO! It’s unlikely, but it can happen that unethical humans will intercept your transaction and send you a bogus version of the software. It’s easy to do, you’ll just need to run a sha256sum checksum program. If you’re already running a version of Linux that will be accessible from the command line. If you are on a Windows machine then you can download the program from here.

Once you’ve verified the ISO you will need to burn it to a disk. If you’re on a Linux box this can be done from the terminal with the following command (make sure you are in the same directory that you downloaded the ISO to):

cdrecord -v -dao dev=1,0,0 linuxmint.iso

If you’re on Windows then there are a number of programs that you could use, I’d suggest Nero. Take caution to burn the ISO image to the disk, not the file! If you’ve done it correctly you should see file folders on the disk, not the ISO file.

Once you have that burned installation is very straightforward! Insert the disc into the disc drive and restart the computer, the Linux Mint install wizard should appear on start-up. You’ll need to enter a couple of details, let it do it’s thing, and then you’ll have a beautiful new Linux Mint desktop!

Customizing Linux Mint

To be honest, Linux Mint works great straight out of the box and outside of aesthetic changes I don’t really change much. Changing the desktop background is very simple, right click anywhere on the desktop and then select Change Desktop Background. You can select from the pre-existing library of images or you can upload one of your own by clicking on the plus sign near the bottom of the window.

You can adjust the panel as well, which is the bar along the bottom of the screen that will show your program icons. Right click on the panel and select Panel Settings from the menu that pops up. You are able to change the size of the panel itself, as well as the icons. In addition, you can set the panel to display at all times, or only when you hover your mouse near the bottom of the screen. It all depends on how much screen real estate you typically need.

Beyond that you can add yourself some Applets and Desklets. These are small programs that typically just handle one simple function like a calculator or a calendar, for example. Some people like to have them available and ready to use at all times on the screen.

Installing Additional Software

If you’re a newbie to Linux, the easiest way to install software is to use the Software Manager. You can find this in the main menu. It has a graphical interface as well as a search function, so you can look for ‘Steam’ for example, and install it with the click of a button. Super simple!

If you’re looking to be a little more efficient and want to learn commands or are already familiar with the Terminal then you can do it that way as well. This is also a way that you can install software that may not be available through the Software Manager. The Software Manager is using the APT system in the background, but you can access APT directly from the Terminal. Again, let’s say that you want to install Steam. All you gotta do is open Terminal and type in:

apt install steam

Pretty easy, right? Just take note that because Software Manager uses APT, you have to make sure that is closed first before trying to access it from the command line. You can’t run it in two places at once.

There is also another graphic software installer called Synaptic, which you can use to install software that is not available via the Software Manger if you don’t want to use the Terminal.

Need more help?

One of the best features of Linux Mint is it’s super-engaged user community. If you need support, posting on the forums is a great way to get help. They do have an IRC chat as well, however I find the forums to be a better way to connect with other users. Also keep in mind that the Linux Mint system is built with Ubuntu repositories so most tutorials for Ubuntu will also apply to Linux Mint.

Kali Linux for Beginners
Linux OS

Kali Linux for Beginners (Includes PDF guide)

Hey there, this is not a comprehensive guide to using Kali Linux, the good folks who developed it have put together a great manual in the form of a free EBook (link below) as well as an online training course, also free! I wanted to give a brief overview of Kali Linux below, and help you decide if it’s right for you to dive deeper into.

If you don’t want to go too much into the details, here is a quick bullet point list:

  • Intended as a security auditing tool, not as a general day to day use OS
  • Not for those who are new to Linux-based systems, best used by infosec professionals and those who have prior sysadmin experience with Linux systems
  • Comes with and supports several security packages & repositories, but will require quite a bit of work to run even some fairly standard ones such as Node.js
  • Basically, if you’re looking for something to run day to day or are just looking to learn more about Linux distros in general Kali Linux is not the best choice for your needs.

If you do happen to be looking for more general training on getting started with Linux then I recommend starting here.

What is Kali Linux?

If you didn’t know already, Kali Linux is a security auditing tool that you can use to find vulnerabilities in your machines and networks. Please note that the operative word here is ‘your’. The creators of Kali did not build it so that you could hack into your enemies stuff. It is a tool for good, it is up to you to use it appropriately. Although the developers make images freely available to download, the actual development is not community based for security reasons. So it’s completely safe to use, you don’t need to worry about somebody (ironically) sticking a backdoor into a tool that is designed to find those. That would be the perfect cover though, wouldn’t it? They do however make their development tree freely available, so if you want to customize a package for your specific situation you are welcome to do so.

Some of the nice features that the developers have included are extensive wireless device support, FileSystem Hierarchy Standard compliance, multi-language support, and customization options all the way down to the kernel (wow!).

This Guide is for Beginners, But…

So, here is the thing. If you are a total beginner at Linux in general, I don’t suggest using Kali Linux. It can really mess up your machine and be a massive headache if you don’t already have a pretty good grasp on being a sysadmin. You also will have a hard time using a lot of packages and repositories that are pretty commonplace, such as NodeJS. If you’re goal is to learn how to use a Linux environment or a good desktop installation, there are a ton of better options for you. I’d try Linux Mint or Arch Linux, both of which I will have tutorials on soon. I wrote this one first because…well, I just felt like it.

Kali Linux was designed for security professionals who already have a strong understanding of Linux distros and administering Linux systems, or as a learning tool for the more experienced user. If that does describe you, then carry on reading.

Getting Kali Linux

Depending on what you want to run Kali Linux on there are a few options for downloading an image. They also have options for a ‘live’ image that requires network access (which is perfect for running from a USB) and one that does not and can install completely on it’s own. The latter is the version that the developers suggest that most users download. They also have special builds available to run on VMware and ARM-based devices. All of these different images can be found on the Kali Linux official website Downloads page or the Offensive Security page for Kali Linux. Be absolutely sure you are only getting images from these two sources, and it’s a good idea to verify the SHA256 signature manually as well. If you are unsure of how to do this they provide detailed instructions on the Kali.org website.

Default Credentials for Kali Linux

Please note that this has changed as of the release of Kali Linux 2020.1, the default user is no longer root/toor. Your default user is now a standard user account and the credentials will be kali/kali. Also note that if you are using the Vagrant image, then your default credentials are vagrant/vagrant as per the Vagrant policy. There are a few tools that come standard with any Kali Linux distro such as BeEF-XSS, MySQL, OpenVAS, and Metasploit and they have their own default credentials, which are covered on the Kali.org website.

Training for Kali Linux

I know, you came here because you wanted a quick and dirty guide to getting started with Kali Linux, but as you may have gathered from above this is a fairly advanced Linux distro that isn’t really for novices. If you are an infosec professional then I would urge you to go direct to the source and get trained from the people who made it! There is a free ebook that you can download in PDF format (link below), as well as a free online course. I would start with reading through the book to get a good overview, and then you can jump into the online course which will give you some hands on practice as well as skills testing.

Download the Kali Linux Revealed Ebook PDF
Purchase a hard copy from Amazon

If you really enjoy working with Kali Linux and would like to do so officially on a professional level then you can take the KLCP exam and become a certified pentester for them. The exam is 80 questions and you will have 90 minutes to complete it.

Video Guide for Beginners