You don’t need to be a journalist, freedom fighter, or living under an oppressive political regime to have the desire for some online privacy. Maybe you are trying to put the contents of your life back into the Pandora’s box you opened when you signed up on Facebook. Maybe you would like a little privacy in your online life.
Linux Tails is an operating system on a bootable USB stick that anyone can use to create a secure and private session on the Internet. You use it by plugging the USB drive into any computer, and then starting or restarting the computer, making sure to boot into the USB drive rather than the native OS on the hard drive. After you are done, you simply power off the PC, pull the USB, and all traces of your session are gone.
One of it’s notable users is Edward Snowden, who used Tails to avoid detection when he was releasing information about illegal NSA surveillance programs and making his escape to Hong Kong, and then Russia.
Tails is an acronym for The Amnesic Incognito Live System. Anyway, the people at Tails describe their operating system this way:
“amnesia, noun: forgetfulness; loss of long-term memory.
“incognito, adjective & adverb: (of a person) having one’s true identity concealed.
“Tails is a live system that aims to preserve your privacy and anonymity. It helps you to use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship almost anywhere you go and on any computer but leaving no trace unless you ask it to explicitly.
Tails comes with several built-in applications pre-configured with security in mind: web browser, instant messaging client, email client, office suite, image and sound editor, etc.”
Tails uses TOR for your Internet connection, and works with the TOR Vidalia browser, which means your entire session is encrypted and your location is obfuscated by routing your traffic through a bunch of proxy relays, . Tails also encrypts local files on the USB drive, and blocks insecure connections. Some of the secure communication tools include OpenPGP, HTTPS Everywhere, Claws Mail, among others.
Tech Republic has a great step-by-step installation guide for Tails on their site, so we are not going to get into that here. All you need are two 4GB USB drives and maybe an hour of your time. So if privacy is becoming more important to you, or perhaps it always was, this is the system for you.