Your regular OS usually works just fine, but you can’t help but be a little worried about security.
All those news stories about malware, hacking, data harvesting and other digital nastiness just get to you sometimes.
You find yourself getting anxious while browsing the web, downloading OS updates and even just checking your email. What if you’re inadvertently opening yourself up to danger?
Believe it or not, the cure for your anxiety might just be switching to a privacy-friendly OS.
And Parrot OS claims to be just that.
But what is it, how is it different from other OSes, and is it truly the right choice for you?
Let’s explore Parrot OS and find out.
What Is Parrot OS?
Parrot OS is a Linux distro that’s based on Debian. It’s free, open-source and lightweight, so it can run on just about any computer.
Parrot OS is designed for penetration testers, security researchers, hackers, digital forensics professionals, and IT students.
But anyone interested in digital privacy can still get a lot out of it.
Like other pen-testing OSes, such as Kali Linux, Parrot OS comes with many hacking-related programs. These tools let you test systems for vulnerabilities, simulate attacks and research new exploits.
Unlike similar OSes, though, Parrot OS includes more basic and programming-oriented tools as well.
This expands its audience to include developers and allows all users to perform tasks like web browsing and word processing.
What Can Parrot OS Do?
Kali Linux, the most famous pen-testing OS, is pretty much limited to just that: pen-testing and other hacking purposes.
But Parrot OS aims to be a multipurpose OS that’s suitable for everyday use by hackers, security experts, and similar users.
Hardcore users can download the Security Edition, which comes with everything needed for advanced digital forensics.
But if you’re just interested in staying secure and upholding your privacy, Parrot OS Home Edition has you covered.
Here’s a sampling of what Parrot OS capable of. You can view the full list of included software packages on DistroWatch.
Pen-Testing and Reverse Engineering Tools
These tools are exclusive to Parrot OS Security Edition and aren’t included in the Home Edition.
If you need these tools, you’ll know it. They’re intended for professionals or aspiring professionals who need to analyze cyberattacks and test for vulnerabilities.
These include Armitage, a full-featured cyber attack management program. It helps you visualize attacks, simulate various exploits and reverse-engineer prior hacks.
Parrot OS Security Edition also includes Autopsy, a hard drive recovery, repair, and recreation tool. There are also encryption cracking tools for Bluetooth, WiFi, password hashes and more.
Unlike Kali Linux, Parrot OS doesn’t have default root access. You’ll need to enable it manually when needed — which, for these pen-testing tools, will be often.
It’s a little inconvenient, but it’s far safer than allowing all programs to access all the system files they want. And since Parrot comes with web browsers, the lack of root access will prevent hackers and malware from doing damage to your OS.
You’re not likely to get much (if any) use out of these pen-testing tools if you’re not experienced in cybersecurity.
If you are, though, Parrot Security Edition is a powerful free OS that will suit you perfectly.
Both the Home and Security Editions of Parrot OS include cryptography tools.
Why? Because you never know when you’ll need to encrypt something.
Whether you want to protect a single file or your entire hard drive, Parrot OS comes with the software you need. Tools like GPA and zuluCrypt can protect your emails, documents, programs, photos and more.
Once your files are encrypted, nobody will be able to view them without the decryption key. That means they’re safe from hackers and other data thieves.
Fancy yourself more of an app developer than a malware developer? Feel more at home programming original software than reverse-engineering existing software?
Where Kali Linux and other security-oriented OSes fail you, Parrot OS has you covered.
You get the Atom code editor, an attractive and powerful app for writing all types of code. If it’s not for you, Parrot also comes with the Geany code editor.
XRCed lets you develop widgets in XRC format, while Zeal provides an easy way to read code documentation.
Privacy-Focused Web Browsing Tools
You’re going to need to access the internet at some point, and Parrot OS comes with all the web browsers you need.
Its default web browser is Firefox with the NoScript addon preinstalled.
Privacy Badger and uBlock Origin also come preloaded in Firefox.
Privacy Badger blocks web trackers while uBlock Origin blocks all sorts of ads and “promoted content.”
Parrot OS also comes with Google Chrome if Firefox isn’t your thing.
And for your most private browsing sessions, use Tor — it’s preinstalled, so you don’t have to think twice about it.
Unique to Parrot OS is the Anonsurf program, which anonymizes your entire system using Tor’s IPTables. Similar tools let you change your MAC address and Tor exit nodes on demand.
Privacy-Focused Productivity Tools
Parrot OS comes with a couple of email clients: Thunderbird and Claws Email. Both are open-source and well-regarded among privacy experts.
HexChat, Revolt, and Ricochet IM provide private instant messaging. OnionShare lets you send files securely over the Onion network (the same one used by Tor).
Torrenting capability comes built-in with the lightweight qBittorrent client.
And if you deal in cryptocurrency, you’ll appreciate the included Electrum Bitcoin wallet.
Parrot OS also comes with LibreOffice, an open-source office suite that rivals Microsoft Office. With it, you can create documents, spreadsheets, slideshows and more, without any shifty code running under the hood.
Other programs include an image editor (GIMP), a planner (GNOME Planner) and a photo viewer (Shotwell).
Lightweight and Easy to Run
Ask any Kali Linux user about their OS and they’ll probably mention that it’s a bit sluggish at times. This is especially true on budget hardware and older computers.
Parrot OS, on the other hand, is designed to run on just about any device without issue.
It requires minimal memory and processing power, and startup is always snappy.
That’s partly because Parrot OS uses MATE rather than GNOME as its desktop environment.
Kali’s GNOME environment gives it a slick layout, but that comes at the cost of performance.
Parrot’s customized version of MATE looks good and runs even better. Its low system requirements mean that you’ll get faster boot times and lower RAM consumption.
Should I Use a VPN with Parrot OS?
Although Parrot OS comes with many built-in privacy protections, we still recommend using a VPN with it.
Tor, Privacy Badger, and Anonsurf can only get you so far. Even with them, you’re vulnerable to WiFi attacks that can compromise your passwords and other data.
And while Parrot OS comes with file and drive encryption tools, it’s not able to encrypt your web traffic as-is.
To protect your web activity the same way you protect your files, you’ll need a VPN. It’ll encrypt all of your network activity with the toughest encryption that not even the best pen-testing tools can crack.
You’ll be able to keep your browsing data safe from hackers, network admins, governments, ISPs, and other snoops.
Parrot’s proxy tools can change your IP address, but proxies are easily traced and blocked. A VPN, on the other hand, lets you change your IP address without being detected.
Websites won’t know who you are and your ISP won’t know which websites you’re visiting. Your internet activity will be for your eyes only — the way it should be.
They support Tor and offer super-fast speeds to match the rest of Parrot’s performance.
Both offer command-line Linux apps that work with Parrot OS. ExpressVPN even has a detailed Parrot OS VPN guide.
Summing Up Parrot OS
If you’re sick of popular OSes betraying your privacy but feel overwhelmed by Kali Linux and its ilk, give Parrot OS a try.
It’s not just for experts — it comes with all the basic software you use every day. And it’s all preconfigured to give you the most private and secure experience possible.
Professionals will love Parrot’s suite of pen-testing, programming and cryptography tools.
Throw in Parrot’s included productivity software and you’ve got the perfect all-in-one cybersecurity OS.
Summary: Parrot OS comes with all the latest cybersecurity goodies, from secure web browsers to hacking tools. Beginners and experts alike will love it for both everyday and specialty uses.