Tails 2.0 is Here…Download Now
Why are you even clicking on this article, go get Tails 2.0 downloaded now!
Okay, but seriously (well, I was serious in the first sentence), you may be wondering why I’m talking about Tails–the Tor-based operating system–on the Dark Android Blog. Isn’t this supposed to only be about Android? Mainly it is, but sometimes things happen in the desktop/laptop world that bear that affect the overall goal of the Dark Android Project, which is to regain anonymity and privacy (or what I call: DAPS). And Tails 2.0 certainly falls under that. Consider it the desktop/laptop compliment to your Dark Android device.
So if you don’t actually happen to know what Tails is, for starters it’s an acronym for: The Amnesic Incognito Live System. It’s a Debian-based Linux distribution that usually is run on a USB flash drive (or some other external drive). It’s fully featured from chat clients, to the Tor browser itself built-in, along with some office software…pretty much all the necessities in one operating system that (somewhat) uniquely runs everything through Tor. While it may not technically be the most secure and private OS out there, it’s certainly the easiest to install and get up and running. And that’s what has always made it so attractive to me is that I can recommend it to anyone and it’s pretty much privacy and anonymity out of the gate.
And while Tails has been around for six years now, it is finally up to Version 2.0. With Tails 2.0 comes a full upgrade to Debian 8, Tor Browser 5.5, and it uses the GNOME shell as a standard. Under the hood is a lot more “sandboxing” of individual software, and that’s one of the more exciting developments within it. Bottom line, if you use Tails already, this is a necessary upgrade, and a good one, at that. If you’ve never used Tails before, give it a shot, as it is the easiest implementation of an operating system with system-wide use of Tor, and other privacy, anonymity, and security features already in place. “One and done”, largely when using Tails.
The link at the bottom of the page does an excellent job of walking even the most novice user through the process of installing Tails 2.0, no matter what kind of computer you’re using right now.
The only oddity, is that when going through the recommended installation steps, if you’re using a Windows PC, it tells you that you have to use two USB drives to complete the installation (at the end of the installation, you’ll be left with one Tails drive). And while the recommended way to install Tails 2.0 onto another drive is by doing so from a Tails installation that you already have (or that a trusted friend does), so it’s not unheard of for them to want you to install it from a secondary drive, all of this could be bypassed on a Windows PC (with a loss of some security, admittedly) by just downloading the ISO of Tails 2.0 and using Rufus or some other disk image writer. Again, the creators of Tails don’t recommend that, but it is a way to do it.
Before I get into the “ethic” around using Tails, I do want to talk about one minor complaint that I have with Tails 2.0 over previous versions. Previous version of Tails allowed for a “chameleon” setting which, while you were using Tails, would make the user interface of Tails look like you were using Windows XP. The idea behind it was that if you were in a setting where people were looking over your shoulder often, you would just look like you were using the “ol’ company Windows machine”. Due to Tails 2.0 shifting over to GNOME, this wasn’t feasible to develop into the new version, and I understand that. But it is a neat little feature that will be missed. I’ll grant, though, that having the feature may be pointless overall since many work environments are switching away from Microsoft in general, as I understand it.
Anyway, on to why you should use Tails 2.0. In a Dark Android setup, of course you’d already have a tablet or some Android device that is “tricked-out” with various encryption, anonymity, and privacy software (from say, The Guardian Project). And you’d likely have a physical keyboard that you could connect to that Android device to be able to get some serious work done if necessary. But perhaps you just want to be able to use (almost) any computer at any time, wherever you happen to be, without having to carry around your Dark Android device, or without having to use it. This is where Tails comes in.
Since Tails runs off of a USB drive (of at least 4GB of space, though I recommend using one with much more space), you can just plug it into (almost) any computer and away you go with a very secure, anonymous, and private desktop environment to get done what you need to get done. Of course, just like with a Dark Android device, I recommend that while you use it you “pretend” that you are a completely different person. You are not you. Imagine you’re the Green Ranger. Or Captain Kirk. Doesn’t matter, just get it in your head that when you’re using Tails, you are somebody else (read my section on “Attitude” on the Dark Android main page here to learn more on that).
This could be done from your own desktop/laptop, as well. While my primary “work” machine is a Windows PC, I regularly just boot into Tails whenever I’m feeling particularly saucy or have a need to do something on “the Dark Web” (DUNNNHHH!!!!). I’ve even seen people use solely use Tails as there operating system. Nothing wrong with that either, it is–and with Version 2.0, even more so–a pretty full featured operating system that you can get a lot of stuff done on. But keep in mind that Tails has two different modes of operation:
- Standard Mode: Whenever you run Tails like this, every time you boot into it, it hasn’t saved any of your settings from the previous use of it. If you like running Tails this way, you could also install Tails 2.0 onto a DVD disc, and use it through a disc drive when needed. Very handy.
- Persistent Mode: You’ll want a much larger USB drive than 4GB to do this, but this will allow you to store settings, files, data, etc. onto a Tails-installed drive. This is handy if you use Tails often, or if you want to use it as your sole operating system.
So consider what you want to use Tails for, and act accordingly. Also, at the below link you can donate to the developers of Tails, and I implore you to do so. Hacktivists, activists, and anarchists around the world rely upon Tails, often with their lives, and the fact that the development team stays so on top of it to keep it up-to-date and secure is absolutely worth your support.
And perhaps installing and using Tails 2.0 will be your first step into becoming a hacktivist, yourself. If so, welcome to the cabal. And as I say on my tech podcast, Sovryn Tech: “Anonymize all the things!”