Review: BackBox 2.01

It’s fair to say that there’s no shortage of penetration testing and forensic analysis toolkits – often characterised as ‘hacking toolkits’ – available today. Since the launch of classics including the Auditor Security Collection, a Knoppix-based distribution that would eventually morph into the popular BackTrack, almost every mainstream distribution has gained its own spin-off forensic kit; but what makes BackBox different?

BackBox 2 boot menu

A relative newcomer to the scene, the first release of BackBox was back in September as a project of the Italian Open Soluzioni web community founded by Raffaele Forte. Now on its second major release, BackBox has grown rapidly and offers plenty of scope for both amateur and professional use.

Based on Canonical’s Ubuntu distribution, itself derived from Debian, the latest build of BackBox isn’t exactly bleeding-edge – it’s still using the 2.6 kernel tree in both the x86 and AMD64 flavours – but it does contain an impressive collection of tools. It’s also surprisingly slick; from its lightweight yet attractive Xfce desktop environment to its multi-language live CD boot menu – which includes a ‘forensic’ mode that works to prevent accidental writes to a host system’s drive that could jeopardise evidence gathering activities – BackBox exudes professionalism in an area that all too often goes for glitz and glamour in an effort to attract the ‘script kiddies.’


BackBox 2.01 desktop
The lightweight Xfce desktop environment gives BackBox a sleek appearance


That’s not to say BackBox is without fault: some of the tools, such as the collaborative documentation web app Dradis, require a daemon to be started before they will operate; if you’re not familiar with the apps you’d be forgiven for overlooking the entries in the ‘Services’ menu, which will leave you staring at error messages wondering where you went wrong.

Despite this, the general experience of using BackBox is pleasurable; there’s a wealth of utilities on hand covering a range of activities – split into Information Gathering, Vulnerability Assessment, Exploitation, Privilege Escalation, Maintaining Access, Documentation & Reporting, Reverse Engineering, Social Engineering, Forensic Analysis, VoIP Analysis, Wireless Analysis and Miscellaneous categories – but it never feels as though anything has been crammed in without aforethought.

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