With just a few taps, an Android phone can be weaponized into a covert hacking device capable of running tools such as Nmap, Nikto, and Netcat — all without rooting the device.
UserLAnd, created by UserLAnd Technologies, is an Android app that makes installing Linux distributions quick and effortless, without any rooting. With this, it's possible to run an ARM64 Debian operating system alongside the current Android OS. Sometimes referred to as "AARCH64," this ARM architecture is the same used by the Kali Linux Raspberry Pi ARM images, which makes it easy to import Kali's tool repository. And best of all, the UserLAnd team recently added a dedicated Kali filesystem so importing repositories won't be necessary for all users.
All of the created filesystems are easily disposable. While many Kali tools work without issues, UserLAnd is still a new project and may cause some tools (like Nmap) to break or fail when executing certain commands. It's worth mentioning, these issues will likely be resolved in the near future.
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For the technically inclined, UserLAnd utilizes custom scripts and executables that allow it to create the Debian and Ubuntu filesystems. One example of this is PRoot, an open-source software that implements functionalities similar to chroot. PRoot allows you to execute programs with an alternative root directory, no root needed. Normally, a user-space application will communicate directly with the Kernel through system calls. With UserLAnd, PRoot is running in the background, interpreting these system calls, and it will perform and manipulate them when necessary to emulate users and permissions in the filesystem.
We'll start by installing an SSH client, which will be the primary app for interacting with the Debian OS. Then, I'll walk through some OS setup tips and importing the Kali Linux repository to really turn Android into a hacking device. As some readers may know, Kali Linux is based on the Debian operating system, so importing their repository won't cause anything to break or become unreliable.