A security-conscious OS

Parrot OS offers a more secure desktop with practical tools for both newbies and veteran users that encourage better security habits.

The Parrot OS home page [1] lists four major concerns: security, software freedom, a lightweight system, and cross-platform portability. To these concerns, it also adds a thorough development stack and the goal “to push newbies into good habits.” Of all these concerns, Parrot is best known for being security conscious. However, it succeeds in all of these concerns to a degree. In particular, by making privacy and security tools part of the standard install, Parrot is probably most successful in pushing all users – not just newbies – into better security habits.

Based on Debian Testing, Parrot OS is a rolling release, with packages updated as soon as they have been tested, although official releases are periodically released as well. It also offers a choice of MATE or KDE Plasma as a desktop environment. Parrot requires 256MB of RAM, making it lightweight by modern standards and suitable for older systems as well as new ones. Its goal of cross-platform portability is seen in the number of downloads available. The Home Edition is for general users (Figure 1), and the Security Edition is for penetration testing and other security work and programming (Figure 2). Both the Home and Security Editions run virtually in Boxes and include images for VMware and VirtualBox. The Security Edition includes variants for IoT and cloud appliances. Parrot OS also offers a Pwnbox version that runs in a web browser and an ARMv7 architecture version. In addition, the installation images for the Home and Security Editions include a Live version. Installation is via the Calamares installer (Figure 3), one of the simplest installation methods available for distributions.

Available Applications

Parrot OS’s most notable feature is its software selection. Only a handful of productivity applications are available, such as LibreOffice and Gimp, in keeping with the basic security principle of installing the minimum software required in order to reduce the opportunities for possible attacks. Beyond these basics, users should install only the software they require. Even the game menu is limited to a 2D chess game – a hint, perhaps, at the intellectual users that Parrot expects to attract.

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