Introducing: BlackArch Linux

I've always admired Arch Linux, the spartan and light-weight Linux distro with its rolling release and clever package management system. At the same time, a lot of the security tools I know and love are difficult to compile, and found in few package repositories outside of Kali Linux, the Debian-derived distro that comes packed with pretty much every open-source security and penetration-testing tool that's relevant to today's researchers... and that's part of the problem. It's fun to play with new tools on occasion, but I rarely want or need all that stuff installed at once. Also, while I've spent more than enough time on Debian-family Linux distros thanks to a job managing Ubuntu LTS servers and hand-holding various friends and family through Ubuntu on desktops, it never quite felt like home as much as Arch does.

Enter BlackArch Linux, a package repository for arming your Arch Linux box to the teeth with all our favorite tools. There's also a collection of Live images to play with if that's more your style, but this relatively young project offers an appealing choice to those who prefer Arch. Getting BlackArch up and running is pretty straightforward.

I prefer to start with a basic Arch Linux installation. For the command-line adept and those familiar with Arch, the Arch Installation Guide is a no-nonsense checklist of things you need to do, while the Beginners' Guide offers a bit more hand-holding. I used both when getting back into Arch Linux a while ago. You'll need to partition your drive, format the filesystems, pacstrap it, set up the network, add a user, and some other basic things that are outlined in the guides. Installation difficulty is on par with OpenBSD, but with a little less guidance from a dedicated install script. Don't forget to set up a boot loader!

You'll probably want to customize your Arch Linux install, which may include setting up X11, a Display Manager and a Window Manager or Desktop Environment (handy for using a graphical web browser or GUI-driven tools such as BurpSuite). That's all covered in the Beginners' guide as well. I'm pretty fond of OpenBox with Conky, so I ended up with a pretty minimalist desktop, shown here.

Once you have Arch installed and a comfortable userland configured, you'll want to make sure it's up to date by running "pacman -Syu" and then you should install wget before moving on to installing BlackArch, if you haven't already:

pacman -S wget 

From there, you can simply follow the instructions on the BlackArch Download page. This will just add the repositories to your Arch Linux installation, and doesn't actually install the packages. You can opt to install all the packages at once with:

pacman -S blackarch

But in my opinion, the fact that you can pick and choose which tools to install makes it quite nice for devices like netbooks or other machines that you really don't want bogged down with hundreds of tools you don't need. The BlackArch download page outlines how to peruse their repository for the stuff you want, or installing groups of similar packages, such as "blackarch-scanner" and "blackarch-networking"

In my next post, I'll explain how to configure OpenVAS, and get it up and running on BlackArch. I frequently set this up in my security lab when introducing interns to vulnerability scanning, and it's usually a bit tricky to get running for the first time.

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