Tails is a security-focused Linux operating system (OS) designed to provide user privacy and anonymity.
The Tails working formula involves the routing of all outgoing connections through Tor as a filtering process ensures that all non-anonymous connections are barred. The system operates by booting straight from a DVD or USB stick or SD card – this independent function serves to leave no digital footprints of the host computer system, which is important to dark web users.
Features and Applications
Point to note, Tails is supported by the Tor Project and has been recommended by a long list of cybersecurity experts across the tech divide.
In highlight, this OS has been recommended by the Freedom of the Press Foundation in addition to the fact that the world-famous whistleblower Edward Snowden is reported to have used Tails to maintain anonymity through his activities.
Before we dive into the merits and demerits of using the Tails OS, it is critical that we first understand its specific purpose and features that differentiate it from other tools such as the Whonix OS.
Ideally, Tails has a number of built-in and already-configured applications that are designed to provide prospective users with the cyber security they need – including, just to name a few, an internet browser, an instant messaging application, and email app, an office suite, and image/sound editor.
The above tools are geared towards providing the much-needed online privacy and anonymity by enabling the users to access the internet while circumventing online censorship. Apart from the already-mentioned aspects of Tor integration with Tails, the availability of modern cryptographic tools for encryption of files and communication makes it a worthy companion.
Tails has been set to utmost cybersecurity standards to avoid the exploitation of a computer system’s hard disks, which would otherwise compromise the user’s security. Thus, the only storage avenue for the Tails OS is the Random Access Memory (RAM) that is automatically wiped out as soon as the host computer is shut down.
It is by this design that a Tails user will manage to eliminate the possibility of leaving traces behind in case a third party or law enforcement agency attempts to follow the network path for user identification.
Otherwise, a Tails user may choose to explicitly save sensitive files to another external drive for portability.
In context of the Tails assortment of tools for data protection, the OS uses strong cryptographic techniques to encrypt user USD sticks and external hard drives by using LUKS encrypted volumes.
Tails uses HTTPS to encrypt all user communications happening across online platforms via HTTPS Everywhere. The function extends to the encryption of emails and documents using the OpenPGPfeature.
In addition, Tails serves to protect a user’s instant messaging communications using OTR while at the same time enabling the secure erasure of files and disk space using the Nautilus Wipe tool.
Merits and Demerits
Generally, tech experts note that the Tails OS offers quick network access that would be hard-to-find with other peer anonymity and privacy tools in the general market. Its built-in tools and features go a long way to provide a one-stop shop for users.
In addition, the fact that Tails users can generate and store passwords using the OS offers a great advantage for an anonymity tool that’s compatible with almost all available computer hardware.
Nonetheless, installation of Tails may prove difficult for a first-time user, which also extends to the fact that Tails users may encounter challenges when trying to install third-party software.
Second, Tails is not a suitable operating system that can be used as a permanent solution as it is also not suitable for the storage of highly sensitive files.