WiFi Hacking is arguably the most common way how people get interested in Hacking for the first time. It certainly was the case for my younger, more stupid self when I came on the idea of "testing my own network's WiFi password strength" back in the day when people were still talking to each other in the restaurants instead of staring at their smartphones. I remember installing BackTrack2 and I was lucky because my old ThinkPad's WiFi chipset back then was able to support monitor mode. I was immediately hooked. In this article, I will tell you which WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux is the Best WiFi Adapter for Hacking.
Once you start doing some research on which Kali Linux Wireless Adapter to choose, or which adapter is the Best Wireless Network Adapter for WiFi Hacking, it can become complicated really soon as you start hearing terms like "Monitor Mode", "Compatible Chipsets", "Packet Injection" and other confusing things. I wrote this article to clear this up for you.
I personally have owned most of the listed WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux in this article and talk from personal experience, most of it from professional assignments and tinkering around with them. I will tell you exactly which adapter I think is the Best WiFi Adapter for Hacking and also I will show you the Best Adapter for Kali Linux specifically.
I will tell you exactly what's important when making your choice of buying The Best Wireless Network Adapter for WiFi Hacking.
Disclaimer: This is an Ethical Hacking Guide and you should never try to penetrate a network that you don't have permission to test. Don't try to hack your neighbor's WiFi, he might be a Hacker and logs his traffic, which means you can land in jail. Trying to hack WiFi networks you do not own is a criminal act in most countries.
Table of Contents
- WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux - What to look for?
- The Best WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux
- Where to go from here?
- ✔️ The Best Way to stay Up-to-Date with my Content
WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux - What to look for?
To be able to Hack WiFi, you need a WiFi adapter that is able to support monitor mode as well as packet injection. Finding out which adapters are capable of doing this can be a bit of a frustrating endeavor, as there are so many out there.
Now, it is not always necessary to buy a new adapter, as some laptops come shipped with compatible chipsets, the problem is, however, that you can't use your laptop's internal WiFi adapter for your Virtual Machines. So, if you run Kali Linux inside of a VM on your laptop, that won't help you, and that is the reason why you need an external WiFi adapter for Kali Linux.
So what are some of the criteria for determining the Best WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux? A couple of things: Compatibility, Speed, WiFi Protocol, "Stealthiness", and of course, the opinion of our community!
Bear in mind that some of the listed adapters below are EOL (End of Life) and can be hard to get. This also depends a bit on the country, so checking different country's Amazon sites or eBay might be worthwhile. I have seen older adapters getting re-listed on Amazon regularly from third-party sellers, so I provided you guys with all the Amazon links to get straight to your adapter and check the availability.
For your convenience, I have listed all of the adapters that I have found on Amazon in our Ceos3c Amazon Store. All links in this article are Amazon affiliate links, which gives me a small commission from your purchase and helps me out to keep this blog alive, so I would appreciate this free way of supporting my blog.
I also have recently asked you guys on Twitter what your favorite WiFi Adapter for Hacking is and this was the result:
Keep in mind that Twitter polls only allow a certain number of options, so all of those options are actually on the 802.11N protocol, not including the newer adapters who support the newer 802.11AC.
WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux - Compatible Chipsets
For the longest time, the gold standard for WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux chipsets was Realtek, Ralink, and Atheros. In recent months and years, ALFA has started working with MediaTek, which manufactures the MT76XXU chipset lineup which is fully supported by Kali Linux, so there is a new player in the game for Kali Wireless Adapter.
Some of the supported chipsets that qualify as WiFi adapter for Kali Linux are:
- Realtek RTL8812AU
- Realtek 8187L
- Ralink RT5370N
- Ralink RT3572
- Ralink RT5572
- Ralink RT3070
- Ralink RT307
- Atheros AR9271
If this just sounds like gibberish to you right now, don't worry, we'll clear that up.
The Best WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux
Let me give you a convenient overview of the Best WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux. As you can see, the market is pretty much dominated by ALFA Networks. ALFA has established itself as the go-to option when it comes to WiFi Adapters for Hacking over the past couple of years, which I am happy to see because they do deliver solid and durable products, which becomes especially important when we talk about hacking WiFi networks on the go (for professional reasons only).
You can just click on any Adapter Name in the left column to directly get to the review of the adapter.
|Adapter Name||Chipset||Frequency||Protocol||Where to buy|
|ALFA AWUS036NEH||Ralink RT3070||2.4GHz||802.11N||Amazon|
|TP-LINK TL-WN722N 2.4GHz (V1)||Atheros AR9271||2.4GHz||802.11N||Amazon (DYOR)|
|ALFA AWUS036NH||Ralink RT3070||2.4GHz||802.11N||Amazon (Sometimes)|
|ALFA AWUS036NHA||Atheros AR9271||2.4GHz||802.11N||Amazon|
|Panda PAU09||Ralink RT5572||2.4GHz||802.11N||Amazon|
|ALFA AWUS036ACH||Realtek RTL8812AU||2.4GHz / 5GHz||802.11AC||Amazon|
|ALFA AWUS036H||Realtek 8187L||2.4GHz||802.11b/g||Amazon|
|ALFA AWUS036ACHM||MT7610U||2.4GHz / 5GHz||802.11AC||Amazon|
|ALFA AWUS036ACM||MT7612U||2.4GHz / 5GHz||802.11ac/a/b/g/n||Amazon|
|ALFA AWUS1900||Realtek RTL8814AU||2.4GHz / 5GHz||802.11ac/a/b/g/n||Amazon|
|ALFA AWUS036AC||Realtek RTL8812AU||2.4GHz / 5GHz||802.11ac/a/b/g/n||Amazon|
|ALFA AWUS036ACS||Realtek RTL8811AU||2.4GHz / 5GHz||802.11ac/a/b/g/n||Amazon|
|ALFA AWUS036EAC||Realtek RTL8812AU||2.4GHz / 5GHz||802.11ac/a/b/g/n||Amazon (Sometimes)|
|ALFA AWPCIE-1900U||Realtek RTL8814AU||2.4GHz / 5GHz||802.11ac/a/b/g/n||Amazon (Sometimes)|
All Adapters can also be found in the Ceos3c Amazon Store (amongst many other Hacking Goodies!) for your convenience!
ALFA AWUS036NEH Long Range
I recently picked up the ALFA AWUS036NEH because of its small form factor. It fully supports monitor mode and is able to do packet injection. If you are looking for something portable, this is a good choice. It also has an awesome range for its small size and delivers speeds up to 150Mbps. It is also said this adapter is very capable of penetrating all kinds of wall materials.
The only downside is, it only supports 2.4GHz.
TP-LINK TL-WN722N 2.4GHz (V1)
The TP-LINK TL-WN722N is a great little adapter when it comes to WiFi Hacking, unfortunately, only V1 is capable of running monitor mode, and it's very hard to get. There are many scammers out there labeling the V2 and V3 as V1 because they know this has been a Hacker's favorite for a long time. The only chance to get a legit V1 is probably through eBay. I have seen legit V1 appearing on Amazon at times, but always make sure to check the reviews if it's really V1, people will point that out. My research proves only 3 chipsets that are compatible with V1 of the TP-LINK TL-WN722N wireless network adapter which are:
- ATHEROS AR9271
- RALINK RT3070
- RALINK RT3572
Apparently, the adapter is well supported by a number of Linux OS, and there is no big need of installing drivers when using it on Kali. To sniff packets use the Aircrack-ng suite and do not forget to maintain the adapter in monitor mode. A sure way to learn about the compatible chipsets in use by your TP-LINK TL-WN722N adapter is by running the airmon-ng command. Note that it will also display the driver details.
So far, ALFA remains the best in providing USB Wifi Adapters for WiFi pentesting. With a speed of 150mbps and a frequency of 2.4GHz, ALFA AWUSO36NH is an IEEE802.11b/g/n adapter, which integrates well with other IEEE802.11b/g wireless devices but at a relatively lower speed of 50mbps.
You can opt to configure your ALFA AWUSO36NH wireless adapter in either of the two provided modes, which is infrastructure mode (connecting to wireless AP/ router) or the ad-hoc mode (connecting to 2.4GHz wireless computers).
This adapter employs the use of the Ralink RT3070 chipset and due to its plug-and-play functionality; it is effective on Kali Linux. Often, ALFA AWUSO36NH ships in with 5DBi as well as 7dbi Omni direction and panel antennas respectively. Another stunning feature of this adapter is the 64/128-bit encryption level for wireless data (WEP, WPA, AES, TKIP, and WPA 2). It's a neat adapter when it comes to WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux, but it can be hard to get as it is EOL.
The ALFA AWUSO36NHA is another wireless USB adapter that comes along with the popular Atheros AR9271 chipset.
Usually, it is compatible with several brands of routers including 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n at a frequency wavelength of 2.4GHz. Just like the preceding adapter (ALFA AWUSO36NH), it also supports the WPA, WPA 2, TKIP, AES, and WEP security protocols. Yes, the ALFA AWUSO36NHA USB adapter also has a somewhat screw-on upgradable 5dbi antenna that can be replaced with 9dbi. It supports a speed of up to 150Mbps on 802.11n.
Now, sneaking the list to look at PANDA PAU09 reveals that the adapter is a dual-band one with two frequency wavelengths of 2.4GHz and 5GHz as well as respective dual antennas of 5dbi. Often, the maximum wireless connection speed of the adapter wavers at 300mbps for both frequencies. What is more interesting about PANDA PAUO9 is that it works efficiently with 802.11 ac/b/g/n routers. Have a look at its picture to have a physical capture of the adapter.
All long, the ALFA adapters serve their purpose well but the newly supported long-range ALFA AWUSo36ACH 802.11 ac beats a lot of them when it comes to speed with two frequencies of 2.4GHz at 300Mbps and 5GHz at 867mbps and of course not forgetting about the dual antennas of this network adapter with the two RP-SMA ports. Packet injection in Kali Linux was announced in April 2017. To attain the maximum connection of 867 Mbps you will probably require a 3.0 USB port. Nevertheless, the backward compatibility in 2.0 USB ports is still enabled but limited to 480Mbps.
Many hackers who have been into WiFi Hacking for a long time know and love this adapter, the AWUS036H is a true classic and well sought-after WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux that is hard-to-get nowadays due to its EOL status. This adapter was also my first adapter, and in fact, I still use it on some assignments when I see fit. It rocks the good old Realtek RTL8187L chipset that has proven to be very reliable. The standards are outdated as it only supports 802.11b and g with USB 2.0 support.
On the contrary, this thing has been traveling around the world with me and it has been battle-tested and it still does its job. A very sturdy little companion that I still trust and take with me occasionally.
Also, the speeds compared to newer models that support up to 1900Mbps like the AWUS1900 above are not up to modern standards. You'll look at 11Mbps in 802.11b and 54Mbps in 802.11g. It occasionally becomes available on Amazon but your best bet is probably eBay or third-party vendors who still offer this adapter for sale.
The AWUS036ACHM is one of the first Kali Linux Wireless Adapter that ships with the MediaTek MT7610U chipset. I have no personal experience with this adapter as it is fairly new, but I have heard reports of people saying it is a capable adapter for WiFi hacking and it also is listed in ALFA's list of supported Network Adapters for Kali Linux (Scroll down on their front page to find it). I am definitely going to pick one of those up in the near future and test it thoroughly, on paper, it looks great!
It supports speeds of up to 433 Mbps on 802.11ac and ships with a handy screen clip set, so you can clip it to a window for your weekend War Driving.
The AWUS036ACM is the second adapter that ALFA released with the MediaTek MT7612U as its driver. This chipset is the updated version of the one that was built into the AWUS036ACHM and therefore comes with better performance. Not only has this adapter a small form-factor, but it also comes with a dual-antenna setup and you can directly plug it into your laptop. It supports both 2.4 and 5 GHz and it rocks not one but two 5dBi dipole antennas.
This allows speeds of up to blazing-fast 867Mbps in 802.11ac and still up to 300Mbps on 802.11n. That is pretty impressive considering how small it is, this goes to show how capable MediaTek's chipsets are. The AWUS036ACM is a newer adapter that I haven't personally tested, but my research shows that it does work very well as a WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux and it is also officially listed in ALFA's list for supported Kali Linux Wireless Adapters. This adapter is very high on my wishlist.
If staying undercover and keeping a low profile is one of your priorities, this adapter is not for you. The AWUS1900 is an absolute beast of a WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux as you can see in the image below. It's number 1900 is not chosen by coincidence, it is chosen on purpose, as it points to its mind-boggling speeds of up to 1900Mbps in 802.11ac mode. It also comes with not two, but four very capable 5dBi external Dual-Band dipole antennas.
I've been using this monster on previous assignments and I can confirm that its performance is extraordinary, but due to its size, it's probably not going to be an antenna for your EDC (Everyday Carry). Regardless, if you want performance, this adapter is for you!
The AWUS036AC is the predecessor of the AWUS036ACM and still comes with the older Realtek RTL8812AU chipset. It is another adapter that you can directly plug into your computer and it also rocks dual-antennas. It supports speeds of up to 867Mbps in 802.11ac.
When it comes to making a decision between the AC and the ACM, I would rather choose the newer ACM version, as the AC version can be hard to get nowadays.
Now it gets interesting. The AWUS036ACS is by far the smallest adapter in ALFA's lineup and quickly became my new favorite network adapter for hacking. It's easy to see why. The AWUS036ACS is super small, supports all modern WiFi standards up to 802.11ac where it reaches speeds of up to 433Mbps - impressive for its size!
This thing easily fits in any backpack and is super low-profile, perfect for the conscious hacker. There is not really much more I can say about this. It has everything we want: size, speed, low profile. Of course, it is officially listed in ALFA's network adapter for Kali Linux list and it works flawlessly out of the box. You can't go wrong with this.
The AWUS036EAC has an even smaller form-factor than the AWUS036ACS, and it supports all the modern standards up to 802.11ac with up to 867Mbps speed, which is very impressive considering its size. Unfortunately, it is rarely available in my country (Germany), so I did not have a chance to test it out yet.
Looking at the paper stats, it looks like the perfect fit, supporting all modern standards, great speeds, and a super low profile. If any of you choose to pick up this adapter, I would love to hear your experience with it in the comments below.
It is listed as a supported WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux in ALFA's list as well, my research has also shown that it in fact works out-of-the-box with Kali Linux.
This little thing is more of an honorable mention, as it is probably impracticable for most of you. This is an 802.11ac 4x4:3 MIMO dual-band mini PCIe card with a USB 3.0 interface, which means the AWPCIE-1900U is a WiFi card for your laptop.
That means you can only use this if you choose to install Kali Linux directly on your laptop rather than running it in a VM. Obviously, this is as low profile as it gets, as the card is inside of your computer. It supports all the modern standards up to 802.11ac and it rocks speeds of up to 1300Mbps, which is awesome considering this thing lives inside of your computer.
It can be hard to get, but I have seen it listed on Amazon before.
There are so many WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux covered in this article that I feel like I owe you a good summary and a final word. I do my best on delivering a clear summary for you.
The Winner of Hearts
My personal favorite is and always will be my beloved AWUS036H, simply because it was my first WiFi Adapter for Kali Linux (or BackTrack rather, back in the day). It's for nostalgic reasons only. Unfortunately, it can't compete anymore with newer WiFi Adapter for Hacking because of the lack of support for newer protocols like N and AC as well as the speed it can deliver, and also the lack of 5GHz.
The Best Allrounder
Therefore, I need to choose a new favorite taking all of the things that the AWUS036H lacks into consideration. All things considered, the AWUS036ACS is the clear winner. It delivers speed, a small form-factor as well as good portability and support of all of the newest protocols and frequencies. It's well-priced on top of that.
The Best Performance
When it comes to performance, there is only one clear winner. Do you want to fry your target router with de-auth's at a mind-boggling 1900Mbps? There is only one choice for you: The ALFA AWUS1900 with its four antennas looking ready to attack and take out any poor plastic-coated microchip daring to send out WiFi signals in this beast's direction.
The Community Favorite
Due to our community poll on Twitter, I also want to take in the favorite antenna you guys have voted for, the ALFA AWUS036NEH LR. Although it lacks 5GHz support, it delivers good speeds and has proven itself as a solid device over the past couple of years and it clearly became a Hacker's favorite.
It's a tough decision to choose a WiFi Adapter for Hacking, but I hope I was able to take some of the confusion out for you and that I have provided you with a good summary that makes your decision easier. Let me know in the comments which model you have chosen and what your experiences are. I would love to hear some experiences in regards to the MediaTek adapters!
Where to go from here?
I know that WiFi Hacking is an entry point for many of you into the Ethical Hacking space. I leave a little list of things for you below in case you got curious. I create very thorough guides tailored for beginners on a variety of topics, so make sure to check some of them out.
- The Best Ethical Hacking Books to Learn Hacking
- The Complete Getting Started with Cybersecurity Guide
- How I increased my blog's ad revenue by 454% in just 4 months
- The Top Things to do after installing Kali Linux
- Install Kali Linux in Dual Boot with Windows 10
- The Best Ethical Hacking Tools