Why Apple?

For a while as a photographer, Apple products were a very good fit for me. Great screen estate on the iMac 27 inch, and ran Lightroom and Photoshop with ease. Yes a good PC can do that too, but more often than not you need a specialist screen and have it calibrated using a overpriced tool.

However, I digress.

What has Apple got to do with pen testing? 

Everyone wants to use Kali. It’s the cool thing to be seen using along with a ton of hacker con stickers on the laptop lid to show everyone you’re a hacker. No disrespect to anyone who does it, but I tend to like to keep my tech in near perfect condition, so for that reason I’m not too fussed, however, everything that hackers do tend to make them look like people who need to be watched closely.

Turn to using a MacBook Pro in a coffee shop and you really could be anyone. Break open an offensive operating system like Kali with a Wi-Fi dongle the size of a basketball players shoe and you’re going to turn heads.

Apple get bad press for their new products all the time, however, there is some treasure to be found if you are willing to look. Take my recently acquired late 2011 Core i5 Macbook Pro 13 inch for instance. A purposely sought out product with a plan in mind. Change the HDD for an SSD and up the RAM to 16Gb. An easy switch to make and one that made this thing one of the fastest computers I’ve ever used and I own a gaming PC.

Hardware upgrades

I bought a Sandisk 256Gb SSD and 16Gb of DDR3 1333Mhz Corsair RAM. Totally extra cost was 200 quid over the 300 i paid for the mac. However, it starts up from cold to desktop in 30.12 seconds. As opposed to 1m 43 seconds with a standard HDD installed. insane!!

I also replaced the DVD drive with a HDD caddy to allow me to still use the 500GB HDD as a data drive for slow moving data.

What about pen testing?

So we have Kali, and all the tools that go with it. What if I said that you can get most of all those tools for the mac too? Using a package manager called Homebrew, you can install tools like Gobuster, Nikto, Wget and all the other useful things you use on a daily basis, the same way you do in Kali.

Operating system updates don’t break your tools, and you also have the added bonus of running Microsoft Office too. Libre Office on Linux is good, but MS Office on a mac just works better than a PC. My opinion of course. Still not had issues with using either Libre of MS Office so the opinion isn’t sold in it yet.

Since I started using a mac for pen testing, I’ve not needed to go to my Kali box for anything. Burp runs great on a mac, and you can do all the necessary web app testing things on a mac that same way you do on the Kali box. Infrastructure testing isn’t affected either as you can still compile exploits, run python scripts, and even develop your own if you want.

Subtle things

If you’re a Windows and Linux user, using a mac will likely be very familiar to you. To be fair the user interface on a mac is more in tune with that of Linux for obvious reasons. However, just having a robust aluminium chassis and a decent screen to work with and not listening to a creaky plastic body of a Asus laptop as you apply pressure to it.

The Mac OS operating system (Sierra 10.12.6) is snappy as anything. Nothing I throw at it makes a dent. The other day I was doing some memory forensics on a 16gb dump using volatility and it wasn’t giving me any bother. The fans spun up a bit but that’s going to happen on anything. Multi tasking is the key part of the mac OS system. We all have a million things open on any test and flicking between them is crucial. I’ve done this on Windows 10 and it’s a joke. I hate using it now.

I have a Core i5 6400, Samsung Pro Evo SSD and 16Gb PC running Windows 10 and it’s not a pleasant experience. It’s Microsoft!! They broke Windows trying to be smart. Stupid user interface for settings windows. Just give me an XP or Win7 interface and leave me in peace MS!! Grrrrr.

Are you a Mac fanboy?

Actually no. I dislike their new found ethos and I’m sure Steve Jobs would be livid at the direction they are heading in. However, I’ll use a tool, system or anything else to the death before I pass judgement on it, and for now, Microsoft feature no longer in my world other than using exploits against it. I still think that Linux offers a lot of flexibility, however, where the roads meet, the Mac just comes out on top and I’ve yet to find something I can’t do on it.

Keep in mind that the Mac OS is optimised to run on the hardware designed by Apple. Windows and Linux have to be made to fit a lot of different hardware configurations. For me the Apple eco system works well and buying an older Macbook pro is going to be an investment as they are like gold dust just now. Not that I’m in it for that. I’ll use this until it’s dead.