How to Turn Your Android Phone into a Hacking Device Without Root

With just a few taps, an Android phone can be weaponized into a covert hacking device capable of running tools such as NmapNikto, and Netcat — all without rooting the device.

UserLAnd, created by UserLAnd Technologies, is a completely free 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.

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.

Step 1 – Install the ConnectBot App (Optional)

UserLAnd recently added a built-in SSH functionality, so this step is no longer required. However, third-party SSH clients can still be used if preferred.

ConnectBot is an open-source SSH client designed for Android smartphones, which allows you to securely connect with SSH servers. This will be the primary way of interacting with the new UserLAnd Debian operating system. If you don’t use or have access to Google Play, ConnectBot is available via the F-Droid repository.

Step 2 – Install the UserLAnd App

I’ve already covered what UserLAnd is and does above, so I won’t go over anything else in detail here. The important thing is that you install it, and you can do so using either Google Play or F-Droid.

Step 3 – Create a New Filesystem

When the installation is complete, open UserLAnd, and view the “Apps” tab. Refresh the tab and wait a few minutes for the distributions to populate.

The Kali Linux OS has recently been added to the list of available distributions. Select “Kali” or “Debian” and the UserLAnd app will prompt for credentials. Create a username, password, and VNC password. The “Password” will allow access to the SSH server started when the filesystem is finished installing. The “VNC Password” won’t be used in this tutorial but is required to proceed with the installation.

UserLAnd will then download the necessary executables and scripts from its GitHub repository that are used to create the filesystems. The time it takes to download and extract the required assets will vary based on the Android CPU and internet connection speed. The installation process took up to 20 minutes to complete in some tests, so be patient.

In my first attempt, UserLAnd returned the following “Could not extract filesystem. Something went wrong” error. Removing and reinstalling the UserLAnd application seemed to resolve the issue. If this error persists, open a new GitHub issue.

Step 4 – Interact with the Filesystem

When the installation is complete, head over to the “Sessions” tab, and select the newly created option. UserLAnd will automatically attempt to open ConnectBot and ask “Are you sure you want to continue connecting?” Tap “Yes,” and enter the password created in the previous step.

Step 5 – Update the OS

The first thing to do after installing a new operating system on your Android phone is making sure the system is fully up to date. This can be done by first using su to create a root shell. Next, use the apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade command.

In the case of the above output, there’s only one package that needed updating, but this might not always be true.

Step 6 – Install Essential Software

This new filesystem is extremely bareboned and doesn’t include very much software by default. Below are a few packages recommended for everyday Debian and Kali users. Some packages aren’t required but will make it easier to follow along in future articles where Android is used as the primary hacking device.

  1. screen — Screen is a terminal multiplexer that allows users to run and alternate between several terminal sessions simultaneously. This is one of the most vital packages to install when using UserLAnd. Android phones don’t handle prolonged SSH sessions well and tend to break connections for no apparent reason. Such breakage can cause running commands to fail with no way of reconnecting to the session to view the progress. Use Screen to maintain persistent shell sessions.
  2. net-tools — Net-tools is a suite of tools containing ifconfig, netstat, route, and several other useful networking applications.
  3. netcat — Netcat is a feature-rich UNIX utility designed to be a reliable tool for creating TCP and UDP connections. Netcat can be used to create and interact with simple macOS backdoors.
  4. neofetch — Neofetch (shown in the cover photo of this article) is a cross-platform system information gathering tool. It conveniently displays system specifications alongside the distribution logo. There’s no real function for this package other than showing-off the distribution to coworkers and friends or creating cover photos for WonderHowTo. Neofetch is a little buggy with UserLAnd distros, but you may want to know how I created the cover photo, so I’m including it here.
  5. gnupg — GnuPG (sometimes referred to as gpg) is generally used for encrypting files and securing email communications. Some installer scripts (like Metasploit) use gpg in order to import their software signing keys. It’s possible to manually install Metasploit without gpg, but it will make the process less complicated.
  6. curl — cURL is a command line tool capable of downloading files over HTTP and other popular protocols. This is a useful tool to have for downloading files from the internet.
  7. wget — Like cURL, wget is a command line tool used to download files from the internet. Some developers prefer wget over cURL, so it’s helpful to keep both installed and available.
  8. git — Git is a popular version control software and is commonly used to clone (download) GitHub projects. Git is often recommended by Null Byte users.
  9. nano — Nano is a command line text editor. Nano will make editing files via SSH more convenient. If Vim or Emacs is preferred, download those text-editors instead (or in addition to nano).

The above packages can be installed using the apt-get command.

Note : Try this at your own risk, The Author and this platform is not responsible for anything you do with the techniques shown here

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