Tails (operating system)

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Tails operating system (TAILS OS) is short for The Amnestic Incognito Live System. It is actually a host of computer OS tools-utilities to help the user remain anonymous. It runs on Linux, it is a fork of Debian and uses the GNOME GUI which is familiar to many. It has a free software version of Microsoft Office called Open Office. It is based on Tor, but Tails also mates Tor with a read only DVD called a “live CD” or USB that boots and runs the system under a special secure and anonymous version of Debian Linux operating system called Amnestic.

Tails is basically a “throw away” operating system. One of the things that has been exposed, time and time again is that “…adversaries with global reach…” track computer use in a myriad of ways. With most operating systems, entities can put tracking cookies or markers on a computer, loaded from websites as the user visits them. These then “report back” everywhere the user go on the Internet. This is one way Tor can be circumvented. If your computer is already compromised (we call it “owned”) then nothing else you do can keep you secure. Once the entity has a tracking cookie, spyware, or "hackware" on a computer, the entity can then build a very expansive history of the user's Internet activities. Tails goes a long way to preventing that. The traditional counter-measure is disabling cookies, but that will not work against any decent hacker, since half the time hackers don’t use cookies. While VPN (Virtual Private Network) connections prevent interception of data during the transfer on the Internet, VPNs are only useful in protecting anonymity if the VPN operator is not hacked and is willing to resist government subpeonas. They often are not.[1] For example, one hacker named Cody Krestsinger known online as Recursion was tracked down and jailed through the United Kingdom based HideMyAss VPN service because Krestsinger reportedly defaced an FBI website.

Tails is a “read only” operating system (OS) that works from a DVD (or another external medium, such as a USB Drive), which is very important. Tails is booted from a read-only DVD (throw away media) and only operates in RAM. It does not interact with the computer's hard drive—it is intentionally prevented from doing so. Thus, when the machine is turned off, all of the user's activities disappears. The user must power down, and hopefully keep the computer out of anyone’s hands for at least 2 minutes (120 seconds). There is a tactic available in which “adversaries” attempt to capture a computer quickly and then deep freeze the memory to try to later at the lab pull data (history, passwords other connections) from the RAM memory of the computer. They call it a “Cold Boot Attack.”[2] This is why they will sometimes “rush in” to seize computer equipment. For this reason, Tails tries to protect the user, but they must shut it down, and hopefully keep it out of their hands for 120 seconds while the RAM resets. The Tails Operating System does nearly every thing that is possible to remove any history of ones activities. It actively wipes RAM, and permanently stores nothing.

One reason Tails uses a bootable DVD, is that a user can slip it into his work computer (or another computer), get on the Internet. The user can then access the Internet using Firefox with SSL Everywhere, through Tor anonymous service and every other open source anonymity solution they can think of. When the user “shuts down” the computer, Tails will do every thing it can to wipe memory and it even automatically ejects the DVD. After the anonymous session, the computer can be rebooted to operate normally with its hard drive.

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