Tails: One more distro for the privacy-conscious

Tails stands for The Amnesiac Incognito Live System -- a new Linux distribution for users who want to leave no trail on the Internet.

A couple of weeks ago I posted some information about the Department of Defense releasing its Lightweight Portable Security (LPS) Linux distribution aimed at giving remote workers a more secure way to access government networks -- but also available to the public for anyone's use who wants a little extra security.

I found another very similar distro called Tails, which is aimed more at general users who want to shield themselves, or at least their web activities, from prying eyes. The funny name is an acronym for The Amnesiac Incognito Live System, and it is "designed to be used from a CD or a USB stick independently of the computer's original operating system. It is Free Software and based on Debian GNU/Linux."

Tails relies on the Tor anonymizer to handle all your Internet activities:

Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location.

You can read all about it on the informative Tails website and download version 0.7.2 if you decide to take it out for a spin.


Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and...


Can we get some details Selena? Do you use this OS? What do you think of it? Is the TOR on by default, or do you have to turn it on? Here's a little bit that readers may want to know: The best way to install Tails on a USB drive from windows is using a little program called LiLi: LiLi works with a large variety of distros and makes your life easy. Now you have no excuse about the time it takes to set-up Linux. Fire up LiLi and you could be booting in to an alternate universe in minutes!


Spitfire, I followed the link to the TAILS website. It explains how the system works. Then, it has a link to a page that tells how easy it is to circumvent the security features of the Op Sys. Makes me wonder if it is truly worth using. I"m going to try it out, but only as a VM at first. Paul


This is as safe and sound as tor is, basically. Tor can be defeated, but only by someone with a rough idea of your whereabouts in the first place, who actively seeks to watch you and who has a budget and a lot of time on their hands. Seeing as this is intended for a quick "in and out" kind of use, I'd have to assume this is actually safer and more stealthy than the developers are willing to claim.

Editor's Picks