Kali Linux 2020.1 was released today by the Kali Linux team at Offensive Security with a new Kali Single Installer image for all desktop environments and a previously announced move to a non-root default user.
The ethical hacking distribution's first release of this decade also comes with changes to its NetHunter pentesting platform that now can be used with unrooted Android devices.
Also, Kali Linux 2020.1 adds seveeral new tools since 2019.4 was released, including cloud-enum, emailharvester, phpggc, sherlock, and splinter to name just a few.
Kali's new image installer
Kali's move to a single installer image was prompted by a closer look the development team took at the images that were the most downloaded.
This inspired the devs to provides only an installer image, a live image, and a network installer image for all available desktop environments including Xfce, GNOME, KDE, MATE or LXDE.
The single installer can be used to install the OS offline and will allow you to select the desktop environment during the installation process.
You will also be able to select what tools will get installed to provide a way to customize the toolset you'll have at your disposal as soon as you reach Kali's desktop.
"We understand that Kali comes with more tools than some people use, or they have their own select tools they use," the Kali Linux team said.
"Now they can install Kali without any metapackages, giving them a bare Kali installation, so they can individually select what tools they want (rather than groups)."
Kali's network installer is the smallest one of the three new installer images containing just the base system and it requires an Internet connection to install the OS.
Just as the single installer image, it will allow you to choose the desktop environment during installation and the tools you want to be installed.
The live image has to be downloaded separately by those who want to use Kali in live mode. However, it also comes with an installer designed to help you install Kali provided that you have a network connection.
Now defaults to a non-root user
While previously Kali would be installed with root as the default user, since 2020.1 the default user is kali, an unprivileged standard user.
As we previously reported when the Kali Linux team announced this change, this change has been inspired by the growing number of Kali users that are using the distro as their main OS due to its general stability.
"While we don’t encourage people to run Kali as their day to day operating system, over the last few years more and more users have started to do so (even if they are not using it to do penetration testing full time), including some members of the Kali development team," Kali team lead Jim O’Gorman said at the time.
"When people do so, they obviously don’t run as default root user. With this usage over time, there is the obvious conclusion that default root user is no longer necessary and Kali will be better off moving to a more traditional security model."
Kali's dev team also based this move on the fact that a lot of the security tools the distro bundles no longer require root access to provide the user with full access to all their features. Some of these apps even went as far as featuring defaults that prevent their usage as the root user.
"Dropping this default root policy will thus simplify maintenance of Kali and will avoid problems for end-users," O’Gorman added.
Kali Linux 2020.1 has also added a NetHunter edition that no longer requires users to root their phones to run it. Kali's NetHunter is a ROM overlay providing a penetration testing platform for Android devices.
NetHunter Rootless can now be installed on any unrooted Android phone with stock firmware with the help of Termux.
However, as it should be expected, the rootless edition of NetHunter comes with some limitations, including the "lack of db support in Metasploit and no root permissions," as well as no support for WiFi injection and HID attacks.
More changes in Kali 2020.1
The latest Kali release also comes with a new GNOME theme with light and dark themes, new tools and menu icons, and refreshed graphics for the installer.
As we also previously reported, Kali Linux also added an 'Undercover' mode with the 2019.4 release to help quickly switch the way their Kali desktop looks to mimic a Windows 10 one.
This is done by applying a custom Kali theme that looks like the Windows 10 default one, making possible to trick someone looking at your desktop in passing that you're using a Windows desktop.
"That way, you can work a bit more incognito," Kali's devs said. "After you are done and in a more private place, run the script again and you switch back to your Kali theme."
As the Kali Linux team says, the 2020.1 release "now starts to feel even more like Windows to help blend in" with the addition of a few more icons to the bottom taskbar.
"The window headerbars have been improved, now showing the app's icon and title on the left side, and opening a terminal will show you an 'undercovered' MS-DOS like prompt," the devs explain.
"The panel has also seen some improvements with new applications and widgets, such as the new search and workspaces icons, that make the theme even look identical to Windows. And they do work!! Pretty awesome, isn't it?"