I have heard of BackTrack, never used it, don't see the point. It doesn't use something that can read my mind and install the packages I am thinking about, it just uses apt-get. The other thing is, I had never even heard of BackTrack until I looked at some youtube videos of 'how to hack stuff', hack being pejorative. I forgot about it until today, when I read this article.

My question is, is there actually a reason to use BackTrack as opposed to, say, Debian? From where I'm standing it just looks like a sort of trendy thing teenagers do in order to relieve the boredom of living in suburbs and whatnot. What's more, it seems like people who try BackTrack complain that they can't get the most basic things to work 'out of the box'.

Are the repositories actually different? Or does it just 'look cool' in youtube videos and lifehacker articles?


The primary advantage of Backtrack is that someone else did all the work a recent broad-selection of tools into a single distribution, and it makes them all available by default without you having to install them or search for them.

You could certainly acquire the source and compile/backport/install everything present on the Backtrack disk onto any generic distribution.

BackTrack as opposed to, say, Debian?

There are several tools included in Backtrack that are not included in the Debian repositories, but many of the tools are available. Debian excludes some packages because it has a pretty strict philosophy of Free Software.

Debian, and some other general purpose distributions have a slow release/update cycle. When it comes to security testing, you frequently need to stay extremely up-to-date. New exploits are being found, meaning you need newly released tools to detect them.

Are the repositories actually different?

Recent versions of Backtrack are based off Ubuntu, but there are many tweaks and changes to packages to make them more useful to a security professional.

Backtrack Linux FAQ: Why can't I just add the Backtrack repositories to my Ubuntu install or the Ubuntu repositories to my Backtrack install?

We highly recommend against this action because Backtrack tools are built with many custom features, libraries and kernel. We have no way of knowing how they will perform on a non Backtrack distribution, plus you will very quickly break your install. Also if you chose to add the ubuntu repositories to your Backtrack install, you will most certainly break your entire Backtrack install very quickly.

What's more, it seems like people who try BackTrack complain that they can't get the most basic things to work 'out of the box'.

It isn't designed to be a new-user distribution. It is designed for security professionals. These are the type of people who you would expect to have done some research to make sure they have hardware that is going to be directly supported under Linux without having to jump through an of the more annoying hoops (ndiswrapper/firmware downloads) to get the equipment running.

If you are planning on doing anything with WiFi then selecting the right card is extremely important. There is a relatively small percentage of WiFi interfaces that will provide all functionality you might want.


The basic things you mention are those that the developers decided are not essential to the main BackTrack uses - penetration testing, forensics, investigation, security review etc.

What it does do is offer an exceedingly powerful suite of tools in one package which can run as a LiveCD (whether CD or USB stick) which allows you to have confidence that your tools are clean and that you aren't taking away data from the client unnecessarily (often the security of the information you discover is the most sensitive point)

It isn't meant to be a daily distro - and despite being a long term Linux/Unix user I still wouldn't use BackTrack for anything other than security work.


backtrack isn't designed to be used to "hack" into things, well not soley anyway. It provides a whole ton of interesting tools that can be used from a live cd for forensic work or investigations.

A side effect of this is yes, it has a bunch of hack-kiddie friendly tools on it, but what it provides you over debian is that debian isn't designed to do the same job that backtrack does, so you cant really compare them.

Think of it as a toolbelt on a cd, rather than a distro for your machine. Also, youtube is best taken with a heap of salt :-)


BackTrack 5 R2 contains patched stock kernel 3.2.6 wireless drivers with several injection patches applied. source

If you don't need these, you can easily create a custom live distro with the packages you need.

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