Undercover Mode in Kali Linux: An Essential Tool for Pentesters

How to Disguise Kali Linux as Microsoft Windows 10 using Undercover Mode.

Kali Linux is a well-known, open-source Linux distribution that’s widely used by cybersecurity experts and ethical hackers. It comes packed with a plethora of tools to help security experts test the vulnerability of a network or system, perform various ethical hacking tasks, and forensically analyze the system for any anomalies. Among its varied tools and unique features, one stands out for its practical and somewhat theatrical utility: Undercover Mode.

What is Undercover Mode?

Undercover Mode is a fascinating and distinctive feature of Kali Linux. It was first introduced in Kali Linux 2019.4 and has since been a part of the default Kali Linux package. The primary purpose of Undercover Mode is to allow your Kali Linux system to blend in visually with typical corporate environments by mimicking the look of a Windows operating system, specifically Windows 10. When activated, it alters the layout, design, and functionality of your desktop to make it appear as though you’re using a Windows operating system.

The switch to a Windows-style interface is impressively thorough. It transforms the taskbar, windows, and even the start menu to resemble their counterparts in Windows 10. The effect is superficial, of course – underneath the Windows-like surface, Kali Linux and its full suite of tools are still running.

Why Does Undercover Mode Exist?

Undercover Mode was designed with a specific scenario in mind: a cybersecurity professional working in a public place or a client’s office, who doesn’t want to draw attention to the fact that they’re using a specialized Linux distribution known for penetration testing and ethical hacking. The presence of such an operating system could raise eyebrows and potentially cause unnecessary concern or misunderstanding among those less familiar with cybersecurity practices.

By transforming the appearance of the Kali Linux interface to that of a Windows operating system, Undercover Mode allows the user to operate in stealth mode, avoiding unwanted attention. It offers the perfect disguise, permitting cybersecurity professionals to work unobtrusively in public places or within security-conscious client environments.

How To Activate Undercover Mode

Open the terminal by clicking on the terminal icon or using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Alt + T. Then, simply type in the following command and press Enter:


Instantly, your Kali Linux desktop will transform and take on the appearance of a Windows 10 system.

How To Deactivate Undercover Mode

When you’re ready to return to the traditional Kali Linux appearance, just open the terminal again (it will look like a Windows command prompt in Undercover Mode) and type in the same command as before:


Press Enter, and your desktop will revert to its regular Kali Linux appearance.

Benefits and Practical Uses of Undercover Model

Undercover Mode offers a unique combination of benefits, ranging from maintaining a low profile during security operations to avoiding unnecessary distractions or panic in public or shared workspaces. Its primary benefits are stealth and camouflage, enabling users to conduct security audits, threat hunting, or penetration testing without drawing attention to their work.

An example of a situation where Undercover Mode might be beneficial is when a cybersecurity professional is hired to conduct a penetration test in an organization. To test the system’s resilience effectively, they may need to work from within the organization’s office, using the internal network. If employees notice them working on Kali Linux, it may cause anxiety or prompt them to alter their behavior, skewing the test results. Undercover Mode, in such a situation, would allow the professional to perform their tasks under the guise of a regular Windows user, causing minimal disruption while providing the most authentic testing conditions.

In conclusion, Undercover Mode is a unique and practical tool within the Kali Linux suite that adds an extra layer of stealth for cybersecurity professionals. By disguising a potent cybersecurity platform as a standard office OS, it allows for discreet operations, fostering trust and calm in environments where its presence could otherwise be a cause for concern.

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