Tails Offers Complete Anonymity on a Stick

Whether you are a journalist, activist, or whistlblower, you might be interested in using Tails for completely private messaging on the web.

Tails stands for "The Amnesic Incognito Live System" and which means that this operating system, which runs off a USB stick, completely forgets everything you do and leaves no trace on the computer you are using. So if you are a journalist communicating with your confidential sources, or a whistleblower sending files to WikiLeaks, you probably want to use Tails, which is exactly what Edward Snowden used to communicate with Glenn Greenwald.

While at Hackmeeting in Bologna last month, which is like TED for hackers, I had the luck of seeing a presentation of Tails by one of the elusive developers behind the project. The screenshot above shows how similar it is to a regular operating system, in fact it's Linux and it has just about eveything you need to operate built-in:

  • Built-in online anonymity
  • Built-in encrypted email and chat
  • Built-in file encryption
  • A full suite of editing software

Tails auotmatically connects to the internet via the Tor network, and all interactions are conducted though it. The operating system only uses RAM memory so it leaves no trace on the host computer and once you quit your session, the USB stick erases itself, that's the Amnesic part. For this reason you can be confident that if the computer you were using gets impounded, there will not be any evidence left on it, so your grandmother won't wind up sharing a cell with Chelsea Manning when they scan the drive on her Dell.

Tails is so effective that not only did the NSA complain about it in a leaked Powepoint presentation, but they have just now classified anyone using the software an "extremist," which must mean it works! The NSA has even classified readers of Linux Journal as extremists, so if you just clicked that last link, welcome to the club! 

For a more detailed explanation of how to install Tails on a USB or DVD drive, see the video above or follow the detailed instructions over at Lifehacker and scroll down to the step-by-step guide.

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