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Building Your Own Penetration Testing Lab

The following are some tips and instructions on how you can build your own lab for web application penetration testing, including deploying intentionally vulnerable applications in a safe environment.

Pen Testing Linux Distributions

While most of the penetration testing tools can be downloaded in isolation and installed in many different operating systems, several popular security-related Linux distributions package hundreds of tools. These distributions make it easy for you to get started and not having to worry about many dependencies, libraries, and compatibility issues you may encounter. The following are the three most popular Linux distributions for ethical hacking (penetration testing):

  • Kali Linux: probably the most popular distribution of the three. This distribution is primarily supported and maintained by Offensive Security and can be downloaded from You can easily install it in bare-metal systems, virtual machines, and even in devices like the Raspberry Pi, Chromebooks, and many others. Note: The folks at Offensive Security have created a free training and book that guides you how to install it in your system. Those resources can be accessed at:

  • Parrot: is another popular Linux distribution used by many pen testers and security researchers. You can also install it in bare-metal and in virtual machines. You can download Parrot from

  • BlackArch Linux: this distribution comes with over 1900 different tools and packages and it is also gaining popularity. You can download BlackArch Linux from:

Vulnerable Servers and Applications

There are several intentionally vulnerable applications and virtual machines that you can deploy in a lab (safe) environment to practice your skills. You can also run some of them in Docker containers.

Go to the Vulnerable Servers Section of this GitHub repository to obtain a list of dozens of vulnerable applications and VMs that can be used to practice your skills.


WebSploit is a virtual machine (VM) created by Omar Santos for different Cybersecurity Ethical Hacking (Web Penetration Testing) training sessions delivered at DEFCON, Live Training in Safari, video on demand LiveLessons, and others.

The purpose of this VM is to have a lightweight (single VM) with a few web application penetration testing tools, as well as vulnerable applications.

Getting Started

  1. Download VirtualBox.
  2. Download the .ova file from and import it in VirtualBox.

The following are the vulnerable applications included in WebSploit:

  • Damn Vulnerable Web Application (DVWA)
  • WebGoat
  • Hackazon
  • OWASP Juice Shop
  • OWASP Mutillidae 2
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