A Linux virtual machine is a critical and necessary tool in any aspiring infosec professional. For hackers, this is doubly true; Linux is all but required to use the programs and tools needed to be an effective pentester.
This is one of the primary reasons we sponsor Parrot Security, a Linux distribution built from the ground up for security, performance, and customizability. Parrot is also the operating system of choice for Pwnbox, our in-browser cloud-based virtual machine available on Academy and to our VIP/VIP+ subscribers.
Pwnbox makes pentesting easy and portable, but you may want to setup your own virtual machine on your local computer. To do this, you can download a Parrot ISO and install it to a local hypervisor.
Downloading the Parrot ISO
To get started, you can download a Parrot ISO from the official website, ParrotSec.org. There are several different editions to choose from, but we'll focus on three:
The Home Edition is minimalistic. It's meant to serve as a daily driver and includes the general tools needed for day to day use.
The Security Edition is built for hacking. It comes pre-loaded with all the tools-of-the-trade needed for pentesting and red teaming.
The Hack The Box edition (under Cloud Editions) is a customized version of Parrot, similar to what we use for Pwnbox.
For our purposes, either the Security or Hack The Box editions are recommended.
Once you've chosen the edition you'd like to download, you can do so directly over HTTP via the Download button, or for faster speeds, via torrent.
After the Parrot ISO has been downloaded, you'll need to install it on to a virtual machine using a type-2 hypervisor. For this, there are two primary options: VMware Workstation Player and Oracle Virtual Box.
Creating a Virtual Machine with VMware
VMware Workstation Player is a type-2 hypervisor, meaning that is a software that can be installed to your computer which will allow to create and manage guest virtual machines.
Installing the Hypervisor
The VMware Player installer can be downloaded from the product download page.
Be sure to select the latest version, and then click on the Download Now button. Run the installer and click through the installation prompts. When asked, choose to install the Enhanced Keyboard Driver.
After the installation has finished, restart your computer to finalize the changes.
Creating the VM
Open up VMware Player and click on the Create a New Virtual Machine button. You will be prompted to select an installer image. Click Browse and select the Parrot ISO you downloaded earlier.
Click Next and you will be prompted to enter a name for your virtual machine, as well as the option to select the location where it will be stored. You can leave this as its default value, or select a different location is desired.
After that, you will be asked to specify the maximum disk size. This will be the storage size that the VM can grow to. To be prudent, I wouldn't recommend setting this lower than 50 gigabytes.
Finally, you'll be given the option to Customize Hardware. Here, you can specify the amount of resources to be allocated to the virtual machine. The important resources to pay attention to are the Memory, Processors, and Display.
Parrot is very performant, and doesn't require excessive resources to run well. Nonetheless, I personally recommend allocating at least 4 gigabytes of memory, and 4 processor cores. Under Display, select Accelerate 3D Graphics.
Once you are done, hit the Close button and then click Finish.
Creating a Virtual Machine with VirtualBox
Like VMware Player, VirtualBox is also a type-2 hypervisor than can be used to create and manage virtual machines. It is an open source project owned by Oracle.
Installing the Hypervisor
Download the most recent binary from the VirtualBox downloads page.
Run the installer and click through each of the prompts as they appear.
Once the installation has finished, click the Finish button and launch VirtualBox.
Creating the VM
With VirtualBox running, click on the New button from the action menu. You'll be prompted to choose a name, operating system type, and version of your desired virtual machine, as well as the location it will be stored.
Next, you'll be prompted to select the amount of memory you'll allocate to the VM.
Then, opt to create a virtual hard disk. When prompted to select the disk type, you can leave it as the default option VDI, and choose Dynamically Allocated on the following screen. Lastly, you'll be prompted to choose the size of the disk. Out of prudence, I'd recommend at least 50 gigabytes.
Back in the VirtualBox dashboard, click on your freshly created VM and click on the Settings button in the action menu. Then, click on Storage, select the empty optical device. Under Attributes, click on the CD icon and Choose a disk file, and select the Parrot ISO you downloaded earlier.
Installing Parrot on the VM
Using whichever hypervisor you chose, launch the VM you created. You will be prompted to Try / Install. Click enter, and you will launched into a live Parrot OS instance.
Double click on the Install Parrot icon to launch the Parrot Installer. Click through the installation options and select Erase Disk when prompted. After finishing the prompts, click the Install and confirm with Install Now to begin the installation process.
Once the installation process is complete, your VM will restart, and you will have a fully installed Parrot machine to use.
If you are interested in learning more about virtualization, setting up your own virtual machine, or creating a cloud-based VM for you to use, check out the Setting Up module on Academy.
The module covers:
Setting up Linux and Windows VMs, and VPS