Unmasking the Tails Linux Distro

 
 
By Sean M. Kerner  |  Posted 2014-05-02 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Many different Linux distributions are freely available for users. For National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, the Linux distribution of choice is Tails, which hit its 1.0 release April 29. Tails stands for The Amnesic Incognito Live System, a reasonably accurate description of what the Tails Linux distribution is all about. As a Live Linux distribution, Tails can run from a USB stick and does not need to be directly installed onto a physical computer. The promise of Tails is that, as a Live Linux distribution, with a focus on privacy, when a user removes the Tails USB from the computer, there is no trace of it left in system memory. Tails goes much further than just leaving no trace in memory in its goal to be an incognito system. The Tor anonymous network routing technology is integrated into Tails to help hide a user's actual location and IP address on the Internet. For secure email, Tails includes the Claws Mail email client with encryption support. Tails enables users to have secure instant messaging conversations with Pidgin, which is preconfigured with the Off The Record (OTR) plug-in. There is even an option in Tails to enable the desktop to look like a Windows XP desktop to help avoid suspicion from people who might be walking by a Tails user. In this slide show, eWEEK examines key features of the Tails 1.0 release.

 
 
 
  • Unmasking the Tails Linux Distro

    by Sean Michael Kerner
    1 - Unmasking the Tails Linux Distro
  • Tails Users Have Lots of Choices

    The first choice that a Tails user gets to make is whether or not they want to make configuration choices or just run with the default setting.
    2 - Tails Users Have Lots of Choices
  • MAC Address Spoofing Is an Option

    Among the options that users can choose is whether or not they want to have an administrator password. Without a password, a Tails system is locked down and is actually more secure. Users can also choose whether they want to spoof a computer's MAC hardware address on the network.
    3 - MAC Address Spoofing Is an Option
  • Tails Has Windows Camouflage

    As one of its user options, Tails can be configured to look like a Windows XP desktop. According to Tails, "This may be useful in public places to avoid attracting suspicion."
    4 - Tails Has Windows Camouflage
  • Tor Gets Graphical With Vidalia Interface

    The Tor anonymous network system is directly integrated into Tails and made easily usable with the Vidalia control panel and user interface.
    5 - Tor Gets Graphical With Vidalia Interface
  • Iceweasel Forms the Base for Secure Web Browsing

    Tails includes the Tor Browser, powered by the Iceweasel Web browser, which is a rebranded version of Firefox.
    6 - Iceweasel Forms the Base for Secure Web Browsing
  • Torbutton Helps Make Browsing Anonymous

    One of the key additions in the Tor Browser on top of Iceweasel is the Torbutton add-on, which enables Web browsing over the Tor network.
    7 - Torbutton Helps Make Browsing Anonymous
  • HTTPS Everywhere Provides Secure Browsing

    The Tor browser is also configured with the HTTPS Everywhere add-on that automatically helps users log on to the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) versions of Websites.
    8 - HTTPS Everywhere Provides Secure Browsing
  • NoScript Blocks Bad JavaScript

    The NoScript add-on in Tails' Tor browser provides an additional layer of protection, enabling users to allow or block the JavaScript that is running on a given Website.
    9 - NoScript Blocks Bad JavaScript
  • Tails Blocks Ads

    Going a step further, the included Adblock Plus browser add-on can block Website ads, which can also potentially track users.
    10 - Tails Blocks Ads
  • Secure Email Gets Claws

    Sending encrypted email is important for privacy, which is why Tails includes the Claws Mail application, including PGP encryption plug-ins.
    11 - Secure Email Gets Claws
  • KeePassX Provides Password Management

    For password management, the KeePassX application is included in Tails.
    12 - KeePassX Provides Password Management
  • Pidgin Keeps Instant Messaging Off-The-Record

    For Instant Messaging, Tails includes Pidgin, which has been configured with the Off-The Record (OTR) Messaging plug-in to enable private and secure conversations.
    13 - Pidgin Keeps Instant Messaging Off-The-Record
  • Virtual Keyboard Limits Keylogger Risk

    Hardware keyloggers can potentially log all keystrokes from a keyboard, which is why Tails includes a virtual keyboard.
    14 - Virtual Keyboard Limits Keylogger Risk
  • Metadata Is Also Anonymized

    Metadata that can be embedded in files also represents a potential risk to privacy. The Metadata Anonymisation Toolkit (MAT) in Tails aims to reduce that risk.
    15 - Metadata Is Also Anonymized
  • Apache OpenOffice Is the Default Office Suite

    Tails includes that Apache OpenOffice.org 3 office suite for word processing, spreadsheet and presentation-building functionality.
    16 - Apache OpenOffice Is the Default Office Suite
  • Tails Based on Debian Linux With Linux 3.12 Kernel

    Tails leverages the Debian GNU/Linux distribution and is powered by a Linux 3.12 kernel.
    17 - Tails Based on Debian Linux With Linux 3.12 Kernel
  • Memory Wiped When Tails Shuts Down

    No trace of what a user has down is left on the host system when Tails is shut down as system memory is wiped clean.
    18 - Memory Wiped When Tails Shuts Down
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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