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Cons: Documentation is scarce and often outdated & upgrading from previous release isn’t supported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.