Parrot Security OS | Review from an openSUSE User

ParrotOS review title.png

As part of a BigDaddyLinux Community challenge Parrot Security OS was selected to install and give it a test drive around the block. Parrot OS can be compared partially to Kali Linux in such that they are both Debian Based distributions that are targeted to those in the security and digital forensics profession. The difference with Parrot OS is that it is also has a “Home Edition” build for the casual user but keeps Security and privacy in mind. Unlike Kali, you can run Parrot as a daily driver.

This is a review of Parrot Security OS from the eyes of a biased openSUSE User. I am very happy where I am doing my “Linux-ing” but I like to explore and see how other developers, designers and artists scratch their “Linux itch.”

Installation

From the beginning, Parrot OS gives you  more options than I have seen when setting it up. I had to pause and really look at them all before I continued.

I decided to go for the more classic Debian Installer, one that just brings happiness to my heart. Not to digress here… but I’m going to… years ago I enjoyed playing with Linux on HP-Unix systems some years go… HP PARISC, that was fun…

I wouldn’t consider the Debian installer not a “user friendly” interface. It is a bit “Old School” looking but everything is very clearly spelled out. Just pause to read and you are tip-top.

Next you’ll configure the keyboard and wait for it to load additional components.

Your root password is requested and confirmed on two different “screens”.

This is followed by your Name and Username on two different screens.

On the two following screens you will input your user password one initial and the second to confirm.

Personally, I think this could be done more efficiently if all the User information was done on the same screen. This isn’t a big deal but just as a point of improvement to the installer process.

The timezone selection is based on the language you select previously.

ParrotOS-13-Timezone

The next portion of the installer is setting up your disk partitions. I really appreciate the options here. Although I didn’t have anything previously on this virtual drive, I appreciate that it will guide you through and the process is clearly communicated.

I selected to use a separate /home partition because…. that is the only way to set up a drive if you care about your data…

I appreciate the partitioning overview before finishing the process. If you have a more complex disk setup, here is where you could make further adjustments. Simply fantastic.

You have one last shot at bailing out of the installation here. Once you hit yes, you will be prompted to install the bootloader to disk.

When you select to install the bootloader, you can specify the drive or partition, then the installation is complete.

Although it consists of many pages of of steps, the Debian installer is fantastic. It gives you the flexibility to shape your system exactly how you need it.

First Run

Right out of the gate, Parrot OS feels fast and the theme they have applied to MATE is fantastic. No complaints on the presentation whatsoever. The generally dark theme makes this a winner for me.

I do like the wallpaper they use for the login screen and would almost prefer that for the default wallpaper of the MATE desktop environment but that abstract parrot on the background is, visually, very interesting and has a pleasant contrast to the desktop color scheme.

Once the system settles you are asked to set your keyboard layout. This is a bit of a first for me to see in the Desktop Environment initial run. I would think that would be set in the installation process. Not a problem, just curious that it would be asked. The system will also prompt you if you would like to check for updates.

Once it has completed checking, a terminal will pop up that you will have to confirm the actions and the updates will commence.

Curiously, I had to specify again where Grub was to live on the disks after the update. After the reboot, there were no issues so I don’t see this as a problem.

I was a bit impatient with the updates, at no fault of the servers or Parrot OS. It was a “me” problem and I jumped back to the terminal to see how many packages were yet to install. I was expecting something like Zypper where you are explicitly told the package number out of the total number of packages.

openSUSE Leap Zypper Update
Zypper display of status during updates

I am unsure why they have a menu at the top and at the bottom. Feels like a decision made by the “Department of Redundancy Department” I couldn’t tell which one I liked better. I used them both, so maybe the idea is to give the user time to figure out what they prefer and remove the unnecessary bits.

ParrotOS-33-Top Menu

I do appreciate that the Tor Browser was included and didn’t require any fiddling to set up. I did go through the configuration portion but it didn’t really have to do anything because I don’t live in a country where Tor is censored.

I browsed around a bit and frankly I don’t know much about the technical aspects of Tor, I can’t really speak to this. I know it is a web browser that prevents people from learning your location or browsing habits by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays. To my understanding it will make it harder to be tracked but exactly how it uses relays to accomplish this, I do not know.

If Tor isn’t your thing, there is Firefox which comes equipped with Privacy Badger and uBlock Origin add-ons installed and enabled by default.

ParrotOS-32-Firefox

I am a fan of the Control Center on ParretOS. I played with a few of the tools but the tool I really wanted to mess with was the MATE Tweaks. I could fix the button location and I also saw that it had the ability to change the panel to Gnome2 or Fedora. Once I switched it to Fedora, the Gnome2 didn’t return it to what it was previously. The second menu on the bottom disappeared. A reboot didn’t bring it back either.

I didn’t test everything but the things I did test all seemed to work out well. Since the “Home Edition” seemed pretty decent, I am now interested in trying the Security Edition and see how that goes for me. Maybe I can learn a thing or three.

What I Like

Overall Theme is nice, the interface is crisp and has a kind of raw, efficient feel to it. That is often the impression I get form using any MATE desktop. A tribute to the work of all the developers involved in MATE.

I like the fact that Parrot OS includes the Tor Browser by default. This is the first distribution I have tried that has it ready to use by default.

The default application selection is perfectly fine with me. It seems like there are a few extra things there but I am pretty indifferent when it comes to the base installation set if it is something I am going to tailor to my needs anyway. It is pretty obvious that Parrot OS is not targeted at the new-to-Linux crowd so I expect a list of applications accordingly.

What I don’t Like

Using MATE tweaks, I changed from Gnome2 to Fedora. I couldn’t get the layout back to the Default Parrot OS look. Not a big deal as the Fedora layout was what I prefer anyway. I just don’t like that I can’t go back to the default. This is a minor issue.

This is not a Parrot OS specific issue, but I have decided, when using Parrot, that I prefer APT much less than Zypper. This is not saying APT isn’t good, it is just saying that I prefer the output I get from Zypper from doing installations or upgrades vs how APT does it.

Below are side by side comparisons. This is just preference, but I prefer how Zypper tells you what package out of how many it is working on in such a way that it is clear to understand at a glance where it is at in the process. ParrotOS on the Left, openSUSE on the Right.

Final Thoughts

If I were to do “data forensics” as a kind of a “side hustle” I would begin that journey using Parrot Security OS as the testing platform. Although I didn’t download the “Security Edition” I appreciate how they took the time to tailor a desktop for security which I am quite certain has been tested by the security edition tools. Just based on the level of thought and polish in the Home Edition, I am indeed going to be playing with Parrot OS further to conduct tests on my own personal network and learn the tools.

In the end, I had a pretty good time with Parrot OS, aside for a few papercut issues with the interface which I am sure I could smooth out understanding how to tweak the MATE desktop better, so that’s on me. I am going to play with the “Security Edition” and see if I can find areas of concern on my home network, you know, for fun.

Further Reading

http://bigdaddylinux.com/

https://www.debian.org/ports/hppa/

https://www.torproject.org/

https://www.eff.org/privacybadger

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