Why do hackers prefer Linux over Mac, Windows, and other operating systems?

We have published many tutorials for hackers and security researchers. You may have noticed that most tutorials are based on Linux operating systems. Even the hacking tools out there are based on Linux barring a few which are written for Windows and Mac. The moot question here is that why do hackers prefer Linux over Mac or Windows?

Today we look at the reason why hackers always prefer Linux over Mac, Windows, and other operating systems. You may have your own reasons for choosing Linux but what do hackers really look forward to while working with Linux.

Reason #1: Command line interface vs graphical user interface

Linux was designed around a strong and highly integrated command line interface. Windows and Mac don’t have that. This grants hackers and Linux far greater access and control over their system and awesome customization. This is the reason that most hacking and pentesting tools are built into Linux have greater functionality above and beyond their windows counterparts. In contrast, Windows was built around the graphic user interface (GUI). This restrict user interaction to point-and-click navigation (slower) and application/system menu options for configuration.

Windows has a command line structure, such as command prompt  and Power Shell, however, these don’t give hackers/developers the complete functionality and integration compared with Linux.  This hampers their work as hacking is usually going beyond the well-defined command lines. This is the reason that though hacking tools like Metasploit or nmap are ported for Windows, they don’t have capabilities like Linux.

Compared to Windows, Linux is more granular. That means Linux gives users infinite amount of control over the system. In Windows, you only can control what Microsoft allows you to control. In Linux, everything can be controlled by the terminal in the most miniscule to the most macro level. In addition, Linux makes scripting in any of the scripting languages simple and effective.

Reason #2: Linux is lighter and more portable

This is arguably the best reason for choosing Linux over Mac and Windows. Hackers can easily create customized live boot disks and drives from any Linux distribution that they want. The installation is quick and its light on resources. To memory, I can only think of one program that lets you create Windows live disks and it wasn’t nearly as light or as quick to install. Linux is made even lighter as many distros are specifically customised as light-weight distros. You can read about the top lightweight Linux distros here.

Reason #3: Linux is typically more secure

Ask a pro hacker or security researcher which operating system is the most secure of them all, and perhaps 101 out 100 will unflinchingly swear by Linux. Windows is popular because of its reach among average users and popularity amongst programmers because it is more profitable to write a program for Windows. In more recent years, popularity has grown for UNIX based operating systems such as Mac OS, Android, and Linux. As a result, these platforms have become more profitable targets for attackers. Still, Linux is a great deal more secure than Windows and Mac out of the box.

Reason #4: Linux is pretty much universal

Just about everything runs some form of UNIX (Internet of Things, routers, web-servers, etc.). Doesn’t it make sense that you would target those systems from a device running the same platform? After all, the goal is to make things easier on yourself. You don’t want to worry about compatibility problems.

Reson #5: Linux Is Open Source

Unlike Windows or Mac, Linux is open source. What that means for us is that the source code of the operating system is available to us. As such, we can change and manipulate it as we please. If you are trying to make a system operate in ways it was not intended, being able to manipulate the source code is essential.

Think of it this way. Could you imagine Microsoft giving us a plug-in/MMC or whatever to manipulate or change the kernel of Windows for hacking? Of course NOT!

Reason #6: Linux Is Transparent

To hack effectively, you must know and understand your operating system and to a large extent, the operating system you are attacking. Linux is totally transparent, meaning we can see and manipulate all its working parts.

Not so with Windows. Actually, the opposite is true. Microsoft engineers work hard to make it impossible for users or hackers to find the inner workings of their operating system. On Windows, you are actually working with what Microsoft has given you rather that what you want. Here Linux differs philosophically from Microsoft. Linux was developed as an operating system to give users more control over it rather than make them do what the developers want.

Summary : Linux vs Windows and Mac

You have to understand that hackers and security researcher are here to make money. Hackers hack platforms that are profitable. Windows has been the preferred choice within enterprise environments and with the average consumer. It’s the preferred choice for developers (apple licensing costs and restrictions), which is why Windows is so compatible. Apple has been too expensive for consumers and Linux is frankly not that user-friendly (buggy, lack of GUI, etc.). You don’t have an average Joe just switching on a Linux PC/laptop and doing what he wants.

However, this is changing. With the arrival of Android smartphones, there has been a paradigm shift in user’s preferences.  As more users switch to Mac/iOS and Android/Linux, attackers will shift to targeting these platforms. With Internet of Things predicted to the next game-changer in tech, Linux will emerge as a formidable challenger to Microsoft’s Windows or Apple’s Mac. As of today, most Internet of Things connected devices are powered by Linux and given the transparency and control available in Linux, it will remain so.

Hacking isn’t for the uninitiated. Hacking is an elite profession among the IT field. As such, it requires an extensive and detailed understanding of IT concepts and technologies. At the most fundamental level, Linux is a requirement for hackers and security researchers.