Preserving your privacy and anonymity over the Internet with Tails

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If you want to use the internet while remaining completely anonymous, there are plenty of tools that you can use. Encrypted email programs, an operating system that never stores any files on your hard disk and which wipes all your RAM memory when you’ve finished, and a web browser that uses the Tor network of anonymizing proxies to ensure that your IP address is untraceable.

The bad news is that setting up an environment like this is hard work. The good news is that someone’s done all the hard work for you, so all that’s left is to download it onto a bootable DVD to get started.

The result of all the hard work is something called Tails, or The Amnesic Incognito Live System. It’s a Live Linux distribution, which means that it runs from a DVD and doesn’t need installing. When you’re done using it, just remove the disc from your drive and boot straight back into Windows as normal.

The advantage of Tails over other Linux Live distributions is that everything’s configured for the ultimate in anonymous usage. The web browser automatically uses the Tor system, for example, so your activity is untraceable. It’s easy to send encrypted email too. And when you’re done, reboot into Windows and no one will ever know that you were using Tails.

In addition to the web browser and email client, Tails includes a collection of other useful Linux programs, such as the OpenOffice suite and the Gimp image editor.

Tails is a fairly hefty 900 MB download from https://tails.boum.org/ and you’ll need a blank DVD disc too (it’s too large for a CD-RW). Once booted, you’ll need to wait a couple of minutes for it to set up the Tor connection, after which you’re ready to go anonymous.

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Download Tails

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Tails can be downloaded as an ISO image from https://tails.boum.org/. The website includes a cryptographic signature for those that are paranoid of counterfeit versions. The Tails ISO can be burned to a DVD or installed on either a USB drive or SD card. Best practice is using a method that can’t be altered meaning read only DVD or USB drive to avoid having the Tails operating system tampered with by unwanted parties. Once installed, you can also create copies of Tails. This is the easiest method to get Tails onto a USB drive meaning start with a DVD and create USB versions from that running system.

Booting Tails

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Making copies of Tails

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Tails comes preinstalled with several applications pre-configured with security in mind (web browser, IM client, email, etc). Below are a few screenshots of using Tails with VMware (not recommended as a secure use case). I was surprised to not only find tails resisted various forms of probing, but it also would auto reboot if I attempted to power down and later retrieve a previous session. The default settings are designed to circumvent censorship, keep your identity private and not leave a trace of the session unless you explicitly choose to do so. For more info, check out Tails as well as the other Tor related projects. God bless those guys for their contributions to Internet privacy.

Tails Login

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Tails environment

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