Tails (operating system)

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Tails logo
Tails OS
OS family Unix-like
Working state Current
Source model Open source
Initial release June 23, 2009; 5 years ago (2009-06-23)
Latest release 1.2.2 / 15 December 2014; 2 days ago (2014-12-15)[1]
Marketing target Personal computers
Platforms IA-32
Kernel type Monolithic (Linux)
Userland GNU
Default user interface GNOME 3
License GPLv3+[2]
Preceded by Incognito
Official website tails.boum.org

Tails or The Amnesic Incognito Live System is a security-focused Debian-based Linux distribution aimed at preserving privacy and anonymity.[3] All its outgoing connections are forced to go through Tor,[4] and direct (non-anonymous) connections are blocked. The system is designed to be booted as a live DVD or live USB, and will leave no trace (digital footprint) on the machine unless explicitly told to do so. The Tor Project has provided most of the financial support for its development.[5]


Tails was first released on June 23, 2009. It is the next iteration of development on Incognito, a Gentoo-based Linux distribution.[6] Most of the financial support for its development has been provided by the Tor Project.[5] Tails has also received funding from the Debian Project, Mozilla, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation.[7]

Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, and Barton Gellman have each said that Tails was an important tool they used in their work with National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.[8][9][10]

On July 3, 2014, German public television channel Das Erste reported that the NSA's XKeyscore surveillance system contains definitions that match persons who search for Tails using a search engine or visit the Tails website. A comment in XKeyscore's source code calls Tails "a comsec mechanism advocated by extremists on extremist forums".[11][12]

Bundled software[edit]


Stream isolation
Regular and obfsproxy bridges support
The Vidalia graphical frontend
TorBrowser patches
Torbutton for anonymity and protection against JavaScript
HTTPS Everywhere a Firefox extension which transparently enables SSL-encrypted connections to a great number of major websites
All cookies are treated as session cookies by default; the CS Lite extension provides more fine-grained cookie control for those who need it

Encryption and privacy[edit]

One may choose among a large number of languages when the system is booted.

Release history[edit]

Old version
Older version, still supported
Latest version
Latest preview version
Future release
Release history
Version Release date Notes
Old version, no longer supported: 0.2[13] 23 June 2009
  • Project called Amnesia.
  • First public release.
Old version, no longer supported: 0.5[14] n.d.
  • First release since the project was renamed to The Amnesic Incognito Live System.
Old version, no longer supported: 1.0[13] 29 April 2014
  • 36th stable release.
Old version, no longer supported: 1.1[15] 22 July 2014
  • This release is based on Debian 7.0 'Wheezy'
  • Upgrade thousands of packages
  • Migrate to GNOME 3 'fallback' mode
  • Install LibreOffice instead of OpenOffice.org
  • UEFI boot support, which should make it possible to boot Tails on modern hardware and Apple computers
  • Replace the Windows XP camouflage with a Windows 8 camouflage
  • Bring back VirtualBox guest modules, installed from Wheezy backports, full functionality is only available when using the 32-bit kernel
  • Security fixes, bug fixes, and minor improvements to Debian
Old version, no longer supported: 1.2[16] 16 October 2014
  • Install (most of) the Tor Browser, replacing our previous Iceweasel-based browser. The version installed is from TBB 4.0 and is based on Firefox 31.2.0esr. This fixes the POODLE vulnerability.
  • Upgrade Tor to
  • Confine several important applications with AppArmor.
  • Install Linux 3.16-3 (version 3.16.5-1).
  • Upgrade I2P to 0.9.15, and isolate I2P traffic from the Tor Browser by adding a dedicated I2P Browser. Also, start I2P automatically upon network connection, when the i2p boot option is added.
  • Make it clear that TrueCrypt will be removed in Tails 1.2.1, and document how to open TrueCrypt volumes with cryptsetup.
  • Enable VirtualBox guest additions by default. In particular this enables VirtualBox's display management service.
  • Make the OTR status in Pidgin clearer thanks to the formatting toolbar.
  • Upgrade syslinux to 6.03-pre20, which should fix UEFI boot on some hardware
Current stable version: 1.2.2[1] 15 December 2014
  • Changed the SSL certificate authority expected by Tails Upgrader when checking for new Tails versions
Future release: 2.0 TBA
  • Will focus on sustainability and maintainability. Most of the work put into this release will aim at reducing the workload of creating new versions of Tails through infrastructure improvements and automated testing. The developers' objective is to be able to release same-day security updates.[13]
Future release: 3.0 TBA
  • Will focus on changes in the internals of Tails to make it more secure. That includes sandboxing critical applications and software hardening.[13]
Version Release date Notes

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Tails 1.2.2 is out". Tails. 15 Dec 2014. Retrieved 16 Dec 2014. 
  2. ^ "Tails 0.11 incognito live system released", The H, April 30, 2012, retrieved August 12, 2012 
  3. ^ Vervloesem, Koen (April 27, 2011), "The Amnesic Incognito Live System: A live CD for anonymity", LWN.net, retrieved August 12, 2012 
  4. ^ "Anonym im Netz" [Anonymous on the Net], TecChannel (in German), February 6, 2012, retrieved August 12, 2012 
  5. ^ a b "Finances". Tails. 4 April 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  6. ^ Gray, James (September 16, 2011), "The Tails Project's The Amnesic Incognito Live System (Tails)", Linux Journal, retrieved August 12, 2012 
  7. ^ "Tails report for May, 2014". Tails. June 14, 2014. 
  8. ^ Timm, Trevor (2 April 2014). "Help Support the Little-Known Privacy Tool That Has Been Critical to Journalists Reporting on the NSA". Freedom of the Press Foundation. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  9. ^ Finley, Klint (14 April 2014). "Out in the Open: Inside the Operating System Edward Snowden Used to Evade the NSA". WIRED. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  10. ^ Condliffe, Jamie (15 April 2014). "Try the Super-Secure USB Drive OS That Edward Snowden Insists on Using". Gizmodo. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  11. ^ Jacob Appelbaum, A. Gibson, J. Goetz, V. Kabisch, L. Kampf, L. Ryge (3 July 2014). "NSA targets the privacy-conscious". DasErste.de. 
  12. ^ Bruce Schneier (3 July 2014). "NSA Targets Privacy Conscious for Surveillance". Schneier on Security. 
  13. ^ a b c d "Tails 1.0 is out". Tails. 29 Apr 2014. Retrieved 29 Apr 2014. 
  14. ^ "version 0.5". Tails. Retrieved 17 Dec 2014. 
  15. ^ "Tails 1.1 is out". Tails. 31 Jul 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  16. ^ "Tails 1.2 is out". Tails. 16 Oct 2014. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 

External links[edit]