Kali Linux already comes with a lot of ethical hacking and penetration tools out of the box. There are even more tools available from package repositories, but sifting through hundreds of tools and finding the ones you want to install can be challenging.

We aim to make the task easier in this guide, by showing you how to search for more software and install the tools on your system. If Kali doesn't include some of your favorite tools by default, or you just want to browse the selection of software to see what else might be available, the steps below will help you find useful tools to install.

In this tutorial you will learn:
  • How to search for packages with apt-cache
  • How to search for packages with aptitude
  • GUI software installers
  • How to search for Kali packages online
Searching for packages to install on Kali Linux
Searching for packages to install on Kali Linux
Software Requirements and Linux Command Line Conventions
Category Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used
System Kali Linux
Software apt-cache, aptitude
Other Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the sudo command.
Conventions # - requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of sudo command
$ - requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user

Use apt-cache to search for packages

The APT package manager includes the apt-cache command, which we can use to search for available packages to install.

It's most effective when searching for a short keyword or phrase that you'd think the package name or description will contain. For example, try searching for port scanning utilities with the following command. Make sure you put quotes around your search query if it contains a space.

$ apt-cache search "port scan"
apt-cache search results
apt-cache search results

As you can see in the screenshot above, apt-cache has given us 20 or so packages that can be used as port scanners. This doesn't always work perfectly, so you should take the results with a grain of salt and do a quick online search if you're not sure exactly what a tool can do (if it's not obvious from the package name and short description).

You can get stricter results by appending the --names-only option, which will search for packages by name only.

$ apt-cache search eyewitness --names-only
eyewitness - Rapid web application triage tool
eyewitness-dbgsym - debug symbols for eyewitness

Once you've determined the name of a package you wish to install, just install it with the usual apt install command.

$ sudo apt install package-name

If it ends up not being what you wanted, you can remove or purge the package.

$ sudo apt remove package-name
OR
$ sudo apt purge package-name

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Use aptitude or GUI software installers to search for packages

aptitude is a handy tool that will sort available packages by category. This can make it a little easier to find what you want, but it also contains a search function. It's a bit easier than typing a new command for each search, like we have to do with apt-cache, but aptitude will need to be installed before we can use it.

Type the following commands in terminal to install aptitude.

$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt install aptitude

After it's installed, you can open it right from terminal with this command.

$ aptitude
Main menu of aptitude
Main menu of aptitude

Although it runs inside your terminal with an ncurses interface, you can use it like any GUI program. Click through the "Not Installed Packages" menu to see all the package categories available. Select whichever you want to install.

To search for a package by name, click on Search > Find.

Searching for a package in aptitude
Searching for a package in aptitude

Search results are updated in real time while you type, which makes finding packages very convenient.

GUI software installers

If the command line is really not your thing, it's possible to use GUI software installers on Kali as well. None of them come installed by default, but we've written a separate guide on GUI software installers for Kali Linux. You'll find instructions to search for and install packages via GUI in that tutorial.

Search for Kali packages online

Kali keeps good documentation of its available tools over on the official Kali website. Check out the Kali Linux Penetration Testing Tools page to browse through available software.

The Tools Listing page is particularly useful. You'll not only find the names of packages to install, but helpful descriptions and even command usage examples.

This may be the best method of all, as the site is easy to browse and will give you an introductory lesson into using each tool.

Searching for packages to install on the Kali Linux site, which includes usage examples
Searching for packages to install on the Kali Linux site, which includes usage examples

Closing Thoughts

In this guide, we saw several different methods that can be used to search for and install extra software packages on Kali Linux. There are command line methods, GUI software installers, or even Kali's website that can be leveraged to find these hacking tools.

Although Kali comes with quite a bit of hacking packages out of the box, it can be beneficial to poke around in the repositories for more tools, as there are hundreds that will fly under the radar if you don't look for them. You may also want to check out our guide on adding the bleeding edge repo to Kali so you can get the latest package versions available.

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