• Day Cyberwox

Building a Cybersecurity Homelab

Updated: Jun 18

In Cybersecurity, it could be a daunting task to apply and implement security concepts if there is an unavailability of practical and safe infrastructure to carry out these activities.

I approached this project with that in mind. This homelab walks through the process of configuring, optimizing, and securing an I.T infrastructure. Although this will be at a relatively small scale, you will be able to apply the knowledge gained in a real-world large-scale/enterprise infrastructure.

What is a Homelab?

A Homelab, as the name implies, is an environment in your home that is used to practice and improve your skills in a specific field. This home lab has components and tools similar to large-scale infrastructures. It’s a safe environment to work with these components and learn how they work.


  • Building Host PC

  • Installing VMware Workstation as hypervisor

  • Configuring pfsense firewall for Network Segmentation & Security

  • Configuring Security Onion as an all-in-one IDS, Security Monitoring, and Log Management solution

  • Configuring Kali Linux as an attack machine

  • Configuring a Windows Server as a Domain Controller

  • Configuring Windows desktops

  • Configuring Splunk

  • Configuring Nessus on Kali

  • Ubuntu/Centos/Metasploitable/DVWA/Vulnhub machines: All these are potential Linux machines that can be added to the network for exploitation, detection, or monitoring purposes.


Building The Host PC

For this lab, I'll be using a PC I built a while back specifically for this purpose. The hardware requirements are listed below:

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600X 3.8 GHz 6-Core Processor

RAM: G.Skill Ripjaws V Series 32 GB (2 x 16 GB) DDR4 Memory

STORAGE: Crucial P1 1TB M.2-2280 NVME SSD

GRAPHICS CARD: MSI GeForce GT 710 2 GB Video Card



FULL PC BUILD: PC Part Picker List

Here's a video tutorial for building the PC:

You can also buy a dedicated server or even use an old laptop as long as it is capable of running all the required VMs. Typically 8GB of RAM is okay but I recommend 16GB if you can.

Downloading & Installing VMware Workstation Pro

For the purpose of this lab, I'll be using VMware Workstation 16 Pro as my hypervisor. This license costs about $120 with a student discount but I assure you it is a very worthwhile investment.

Download VMware Workstation Player

Here's a video on how to install VMware Workstation:

VirtualBox is also a free and feature-rich alternative Hypervisor from Oracle. If you cannot afford the VMware license, VirtualBox is equally good.

Download Virtualbox

Configuring pfsense

pfsense will be configured as a firewall to segment our private homelab network and will be only accessible from our Kali Linux machine.

Download the pfsense ISO file from here: Download pfSense Community Edition

Click "Create a New Virtual Machine" on VMware Workstation Homescreen.

Make sure "Typical (recommended)" is selected and click Next.

Click "Browse" and navigate to the folder where your pfsense file is located.

Click Next.

Rename your Virtual Machine. Preferably "pfsense"

Click Next.

20GB disk size is sufficient for this VM.

Ensure that the "Split virtual disk into multiple files" option is selected.

Click Next.

Click "Customize Hardware".

Increase the memory to 2GB.

Add 5 network adapters and correspond them with a VMnet interface as shown below. Then click Finish.

The pfsense machine will power on and start with this screen. Accept all the defaults. pfsense will configure and reboot.

You should end up with a screen similar to this.

Enter option 1

Should VLANS be set up now [y:n]?: n

Enter em0, em1, em2, em3, em4 & em5 respectively for each consecutive question

Do you want to proceed [y:n]?: y

Enter option 2

We'll start with the LAN interface (2)

The ip address is going to be used to access the pfsense WebGUI via the Kali Machine

Use the configuration below for the Lan interface.

Use the configuration below for the OPT1 interface.

Use the configuration below for the OPT2 interface

Leave the OPT3 interface without an IP as it is going to have the span port with traffic that Security Onion will be monitoring.

Use the configuration for the OPT4 interface

This ends the configuration of the pfsense VM. The rest of the configuration will be done via the kali machine through the WebConfigurator.

Configuring Security Onion

This will be the all-in-one IDS, Security Monitoring, and Log Management solution.

Download the Security Onion ISO file from here

Select Typical installation >> Click Next

Installer disc image file >> SO ISO file path >> Click Next

Choose Linux, CentOS 7 64-Bit and click Next.

Specify virtual machine name and click Next.

Specify disk size (minimum 200GB), store as single file, click Next.

Click "Customize Hardware" and do the following:

~ Change memory to 4-32GB

~ Add two Network Adapters and assign them Vmnet 4 & Vmnet 5 respectively

Click "Finish"

Power the virtual machine and click Enter when prompted:

After the initial stages of loading, type "yes" when prompted

~ Set a username & password:

After Security Onion Reboots, proceed with the following:

Enter the username & password

Select "Yes"

Click Enter

Select the EVAL option

Type "AGREE"

Select "Standard"

Set a hostname, and a short description

Click the spacebar to select ens33 as the management interface

Set the addressing to DHCP:

Select "YES" at the next prompt

Select "OK" at the next prompt

Select "Direct" for the next prompt

Select "ens35" as the Monitor Interface

Select "Automatic" for the OS patch schedule"

Accept the default home network ip

Accept all the defaults

Enter an email address and password for the admin account

Select "IP"

Select "Yes" for the NTP server & accept the defaults

Take note of your final settings before proceeding! If possible take a screenshot.

Most important detail is the IP address for web access.

Select "Yes"

SecOnionMgmt/ Analyst Machine

After installing Security Onion, having access to the web interface will be done from an external Ubuntu Desktop simulating a SOC/Security Analyst accessing a SIEM or any other tool from their device.

In order to this, you'll first have to configure an Ubuntu Desktop. This is a very easy process and I'll not be covering it in this write-up but it is covered in the video. Be sure to use all the default settings for the Ubuntu Desktop configuration.

Download Ubuntu Desktop

Install Ubuntu Desktop

After this installation, run the ifconfig command on the Ubuntu Machine and take note of its IP Address.

Head back to your Security Onion instance and run the following command

 sudo so-allow

Enter your password

Type a and wait for the process to complete

Type in the IP Address from the Ubuntu Desktop

This will create a firewall rule on Security Onion that will allow you web access from your Ubuntu Desktop

Navigate to the Security Onion IP Address on your Ubuntu Desktop:

This ends the configuration of the Security Onion VM.

Configuring Kali Linux

Kali Linux will be used as an attack machine to propagate different forms of offensive actions against the Domain Controller and the other machines attached to it.

Download the Kali Linux ISO from here

Since you're downloading the VM file, all you'll need to do is to click on the .vmx file from the Kali Folder you downloaded and it will automatically load up the default Kali image in VMware.

Before powering on the Kali, change the Network Adapter to Vmnet2 and its Memory to 4GB, then power it on and use default credentials as specified.

After powering on, use this command to change the default password to a more secure one of your choice:


The Kali machine is ready for use.

pfsense Interfaces and Rules

Now that the Kali machine is set up, the pfsens WebConfigurator can be accessed in order to make some changes to the pfsense interface and firewall rules.

Navigate to the web browser and search for

Select "Advanced..." at this screen:

Accept the risk and continue:

Sign in to pfsense using default credentials "admin" & "pfsense"

You'll be greeted with a "Wizard/pfSense Setup/" page.

Click Next till you get to Step 2 of 9.

Add as your Primary DNS Server

Add as your Secondary DNS Server

Click Next.

At Step 3 of 9, Choose your Timezone

Click Next.

At Step 4 of 9, untick the last two options

At Step 5 of 9, Click Next

At Step 6 of 9, Set a new Admin Password

Click Next.

At Step 7 of 9, Click Reload


At this point, pfsense Wizard is complete and changes can now be made to the Interfaces.

Click on Interfaces.

Select LAN

For "Description", Change LAN to Kali as this is the Kali interface

Scroll all the way down and Click Save

If you get this error, use this Article to troubleshoot and fix it

Then do this for the rest of the Interfaces as shown below

For OPT3 Be sure to Enable Interface as shown below

Back at Interfaces Assignment select Bridges

Click Add

Select VictimNetwork as the Member Interface

Then select Display Advanced

Under Advanced Configuration for Span Port, select "SPANPORT"

Scroll all the way down and Click Save

Click Firewall >> Rules

Select the Add button with the arrow pointed downward

~ Under "edit Firewall Rule" for Protocol select ANY

~ Scroll all the way down and SAVE

This is the majority of the firewall configuration needed for pfsense.

Configuring Windows Server as a Domain Controller

The goal of this portion of the lab is to set up an Active Directory domain with a Windows 2019 Server as the Domain Controller and 2 Windows 10 machines. This portion of the lab is very easy to set up and I'll be using The Cyber Mentor's youtube guide for an Active Directory Hacking Lab.

Download the Windows 2019 Server Evaluation Copy

Download the Windows 10 Evaluation Copy

~ Important Details for Windows Server Installation

(Please read the below before installing the Windows Server on VMware)

* Install in VMware as usual with defaults

* Do not worry about a product key, simply click Next

* At the end of the installation, be sure to change the Network Adapter to Vmnet3

* Make sure to UNCHECK "Power on this virtual machine after creation".

* After the VM has been installed, click "Edit virtual machine settings" and remove the Floppy drive.

Power on the Virtual Machine and immediately click any key.

Click Next

Click Install Now

Select the Windows Server 2019 standard Evaluation (Desktop Experience)

Accept the License Terms

Click Next

Select the Custom Install