We started this Chapter with Windows and with Mac, explaining how to harden and secure both of these operating systems as much as practical, then spiced it up with a look at toughening Linux (ok, a bit technical but necessary as the way to a more private and secure Linux OS) BUT... these might not be everyone's cup of tea when it comes to a favored OS..
So in this section of the Chapter we putting on our 'Tails'. If you are a journalist, some requiring an additional level of obscurity, maybe someone who is fed up being spied on or simply more paranoid than most then Tails is probably the OS for you!
What exactly is Tails?
Tails is a Linux district based on Debian. Out of the box it is already fairly private, has a big community for support and is one of the most stable Linux distros out there.
However, Tails does takes things to another level.
When you surf online a few things happen. For instance, your IP gets monitored, cookies are stored on your device and even super cookies follow you around the internet.
Tails is designed to solve these problems! Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and yours truly all (blush) all choose Tails as the district within which to research, communicate and work daily.
One downside on Tails it that it is not installed on your hard disk! It loads from a LiveCD, an SD card or a USB stick. That said, the LiveCD is the most secure option as you can’t leave any trace on the LiveCD. A USB drive could be altered or save data whereas a LiveCD is burned once and can't be altered.
This means you won't have any trace on your actual Notebook or desktop PC, in fact, it doesn’t save anything! And after you have used it and then reboot, you wipe your machine's RAM and it was never there at all, not detectable by law enforcement, border control or anyone who gets ahold of your device.
Now this can be exciting when you are paranoid, but exhausting when using it as an a daily drive. there again, it depends on each individual and what they need to do online.
Tor! Did I mention Tor? We had an earlier section in the Cookbook on VPN technology and how to set it up but VPNs can be a single point of failure! Tor is not perfect, but a very good bet when you want privacy on the internet (well it was built by and for the Us military). Tails is designed to rout all traffic over the Tor network!
Now combine the things I mentioned so far and you see why I am a fan of Tails.
Debian based, leaves zero trace and runs 100% over the Tor network, simple as!
If you have a LiveCD or USB stick with your OS, you could even boot it in your local Internet cafe or on any computer you have handy. Additionally you could use your Windows based machine for gaming, but boot Tails whenever you browse the internet. Tails is touch screen friendly so it'll give you a great experience on Notebooks which have touchscreen functionality.
Tails comes with most of the most needed apps...browser, email, chat etc., etc.,....and Tails comes with a selection of office tools including editing functions as LibreOffice is the preferred/prepacked office suite.
Tails is optimized to minimize metadata, so no worries about disclosing your location and the image editing software, Inkscape, and Gimp for images are good enough to use on your primary operating system. One of the more interesting tools included in Tails is ‘MAT’, the Metadata Anonymization Tool. Load any file type into MAT and it reveals the metadata in that file...amazing! A must have tool for all those who seek anonymity in the cause of freedom by ensuring work isn't tracked or trackable... a topic covered previously (and constantly in the Cookbook).
One of the greatest strength of Tails is its strong implementation of the PGP protocol. In the top bar on your home screen you'll find a notepad icon which (for reasons we don’t fully understand) stands for encryption. From there text can be edited in a notepad feature called Gedit. Another great feature of Tails is the ability to copy, encrypt and/or sign files with your PGP signature by clicking a single button.
In summary, Tails uses state-of-the art technology to encrypt your files and so is perfect is for the paranoid, for journalists and who knows? Perhaps for you!
Here is a link to Tails
And a guide on how to install it
In our next Cookbook section, we'll cover QubesOS, which might seem complicated at first but which can easily become a daily drive for the security conscious among us.
I've used it on my main laptop for years now and love it, so the next section will be written with a degree of personal passion (and insight).
Stay safe, people.