I wrote about Kali Linux 2017.3 not long ago, and I looked at the Raspberry Pi 2 and 3 version. Now there is a new Kali release available (2018.1), and it includes a version specifically for the Raspberry Pi Zero W! Yippie! This is great news for computer and network security professionals, because, as I have said many times before, I believe that Kali is the absolute best Linux distribution for security and penetration testing, and having that available on a computer that you can stick in your shirt pocket is just awesome!
As with most Raspberry Pi installation images, the download is a compressed (xz) snapshot, not an ISO image. To install it you need to uncompress it and then copy it directly to a microSD card. This can be accomplished in one CLI command line:
As always, /dev/sdX in this command should be replaced with whatever the device name for your SD card might be.
When this command is complete, you can insert the microSD card in a Pi Zero W and boot it, and you're done! Well, sort of done: it boots, and it runs, and it's beautiful and very, very impressive, but it is a console-only (CLI) boot, and the Zero W Wi-Fi is not yet working, so there is still more work to be done to make it really useful, but hey, it works! That's already grounds for celebration!
Whether you choose to install the GUI desktop or not, at this point you still have just a minimal Kali Linux system running. If you want to actually use it for security and penetration testing purposes, you're going to have to install some other Kali packages. The obvious starting point is probably the "Top Ten" metapackage, which includes the most commonly used tools.
apt-get install kali-linux-top10
When you install this, it will bring in a lot of other utilities that these tools require -- I just did it, and selecting this one metapackage actually installed 253 packages! Once this is done, you have a pretty good start on getting a reasonably loaded system.
One of the really brilliant things about Kali Linux is that they have put together a lot of different metapackages which allow you to easily install groups of tools and utilities with a minimum of fuss. There are groups defined for things like forensic analysis, password cracking, web application analysis and penetration testing, wireless networking and more. You can find more information about this on the Kali Linux Metapackages webpage.
The bottom line on all of this is that the Kali Linux Raspberry Pi Zero W distribution is really impressive. If you are experienced enough to use it from the CLI, without the overhead of the graphical desktop, you are probably going to be very pleased with it. This is likely to be a very common use case, because security professionals are generally used to accessing systems via ssh and working on the CLI anyway.
If you need a graphical desktop, it is available and it works well. Performance is considerably less than stellar, but a little patience goes a long way. But I will say this: in my previous post about Kali Linux 2017.3, I said that it was a good alternative to the standard Raspbian/PIXEL distribution. I honestly can't say that about the Pi Zero version, the performance of the Xfce4 desktop is just too sluggish. If you want it for penetrations testing, forensic analysis, or any other kind of security-related use, and you want the extremely small size and low cost of the Pi Zero W, then it is a great choice.
One more short note. I have (of course) also installed the Kali 2018.1 release on one of my laptops. Installation was very simple, and went exactly as I described in the previous post about Kali 2017.3. The major changes in this release are a kernel update to 4.14.12 and lots of package updates. You can find more details in the release announcement. Of course, if you already have Kali Linux installed, you don't have to reinstall to get this latest version, you just need to get all the latest updates:
apt update && apt full-upgrade
If everyone did work of the quality that Kali Linux has, life would be a lot easier!
The latest release of this excellent security, forensic, and penetration testing Linux distribution is everything I have come to expect from the software and more, with both PC (32 and 64 bit) and Raspberry Pi images.