Tails is a “live” system, that is to say, it is meant to be run from a DVD or USB stick independently of the system installed on the computer’s hard disk. It is free software based on Debian GNU/Linux. Tails comes with applications that have been configured with security in mind: web browser, instant messaging client, email client, office suite, image and sound editor and so on.
Use it everywhere, leave no traces
Using Tails does not affect the operating system installed on the computer. You can use it at home, at a friend’s or at the local library. Once you have removed the Tails DVD or USB stick from the computer, it can restart with its usual operating system. Tails is configured so as not to use the computer hard disk or even its swap space. The only space use by Tails is the RAM memory, which is automatically erased when the computer is turned off. So your use of Tails will leave no trace. That is why it is called “amnesic.” This allows you to work on a sensitive file on any computer and prevent the data being recovered after the computer is turned off. And you can of course always save your files on a USB stick or an external hard disk.
Online anonymity with Tor
Tails relies on the Tor networks to protect your online privacy. All software is configured to connect through Tor and direct connections (that do not guarantee your anonymity) are blocked.
Tor is free software that allows you to protect your privacy and guarantee your confidentiality online. It protects you by sending your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all over the world. It prevents anyone who may be monitoring your Internet connection from discovering which sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from discovering where you are.
Best encryption tools
Tails also includes a range of tools for protecting your data by means of strong encryption:
- Encrypt your USB stick or external hard disks with LUKS, the Linux standard for volume encryption.
- Automatically encrypt your communications with websites using HTTPS Everywhere, a Firefox extension developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
- Use OpenPGP, the standard in its field, to encrypt and sign your emails and documents from the Tails email client, text editor or file browser.
- Protect your instant messaging conversations using OTR, a cryptographic tool that provides encryption, authentication and deniability.
- Delete your files safely and clean your disk space using Nautilus Wipe.
This article is freely based on the official Tails documentation. Like the original documentation, it is published under the GPLv3 public license.