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; 6 years ago (2009-06-23)
Latest release 1.5 / August 11, 2015; 20 days ago (2015-08-11)[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 financial support for its development.[5]


Tails was first released on 23 June 2009. It is the next iteration of development on Incognito, a Gentoo-based Linux distribution.[6] The Tor Project has provided financial support for its development.[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 3 July 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]

On 28 December 2014, Der Spiegel published slides from an internal NSA presentation dating to June 2012 in which the NSA deemed Tails on its own as a "major threat" to its mission, and when used in conjunction with other privacy tools such as OTR, Cspace, RedPhone, and TrueCrypt was ranked as "catastrophic," leading to a "near-total loss/lack of insight to target communications, presence..."[13][14]

Bundled software[edit]


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[15] 23 June 2009
  • First public release.
  • The project was called Amnesia.
Old version, no longer supported: 0.5[16] ?
  • First release since the project was renamed to The Amnesic Incognito Live System.
Old version, no longer supported: 1.0[15] 29 April 2014
  • 36th stable release.
  • Upgraded the web browser to 24.5.0esr-0+tails1~bpo60+1 (Firefox 24.5.0esr + Iceweasel patches + Torbrowser patches).
  • Upgraded Tor to
  • Disabled inbound I2P connections.
  • Fixed link to the system requirements documentation page in the Tails Upgrader, error shown when too little RAM is available.
  • Upgrade I2P to 0.9.12-2~deb6u+1.
  • Imported TorBrowser profile.
  • Imported new custom version of Tor Launcher (based on upstream Tor Launcher
  • Improved how Tor Launcher handles incomplete translation.
  • Remove the bridge settings prompt.
  • Always show bridge help button.
  • Integrate the new Tails logo into various places (The website, boot splash, and the "About Trails" dialog.
Old version, no longer supported: 1.0.1[17] 10 June 2014
  • Upgraded the web browser to 24.6.0esr-0+tails1~bpo60+1 (Firefox 24.6.0esr + Iceweasel patches + Torbrowser patches).
  • Installed Linux 3.14 from Debian unstable.
  • Installed openssl from Squeeze LTS.
  • Installed GnuTLS from Squeeze LTS.
  • Upgraded Tor to
  • Upgraded I2P to 0.9.13-1~deb6u+1.
Old version, no longer supported: 1.1[18] 22 July 2014
  • This release was based on Debian 7.0 'Wheezy'.
  • Upgraded thousands of packages.
  • Migrated to GNOME 3 'fallback' mode.
  • Installed LibreOffice instead of OpenOffice.org.
  • Added UEFI boot support, which made it possible to boot Tails on modern hardware and Apple computers.
  • Replaced the Windows XP camouflage with a Windows 8 camouflage.
  • Brought back VirtualBox guest modules, installed from Wheezy backports, full functionality was only available when using the 32-bit kernel.
  • Security fixes, bug fixes, and minor improvements to Debian.
Old version, no longer supported: 1.1.1[19] 2 September 2014
  • Upgraded the web browser to 24.8.0esr-0+tails1~bpo70+1 (Firefox 24.8.0esr + Iceweasel patches + Torbrowser patches).
  • Added an I2P boot parameter.
  • I2P was upgraded to, and stricter firewall rules are applied to it, among other security enhancements.
  • Upgraded Tor to
  • Prevent dhclient from sending the hostname over the network.
  • Override the hostname provided by the DHCP server.
  • Don't ship OpenJDK 6: I2P prefers v7, and we don't need both.
  • Prevent Tails Installer from updating the system partition properties on MBR partitions.
  • Upgraded Torbutton to
  • Installed gnome-user-guide.
  • Installed cups-pk-helper.
  • Updated the SquashFS sort file, which should speed up boot from DVD
  • Compress the SquashFS more aggressively, which should make the Tails ISO image smaller.
Old version, no longer supported: 1.1.2[20] ?
  • Upgraded the web browser to 24.8.0esr-0+tails3~bpo70+1.
  • Installed Linux 3.16-1
  • Numerous other software upgrades that fix security issues: GnuPG, APT, DBus, Bash, and packages built from the bind9 and libav source packages
Old version, no longer supported: 1.2[21] 16 October 2014
  • Installed (most of) the Tor Browser, replacing the previous Iceweasel-based browser. The version installed was from TBB 4.0 and was based on Firefox 31.2.0esr. This fixed the POODLE vulnerability.
  • Upgraded Tor to
  • Confined several important applications with AppArmor.
  • Installed Linux 3.16-3 (version 3.16.5-1).
  • Upgraded I2P to 0.9.15, and isolated I2P traffic from the Tor Browser by adding a dedicated I2P Browser. Also, started I2P automatically upon network connection, when the i2p boot option was added.
  • Made it clear that TrueCrypt would be removed in Tails 1.2.1, and documented how to open TrueCrypt volumes with cryptsetup.
  • Enabled VirtualBox guest additions by default. In particular this enabled VirtualBox's display management service.
  • Made the OTR status in Pidgin clearer thanks to the formatting toolbar.
  • Upgraded syslinux to 6.03-pre20, which fixed UEFI boot on some hardware.
Old version, no longer supported: 1.2.1[22] 15 December 2014
  • Upgraded Linux to 3.16.7-1.
  • Installed Tor Browser 4.0.2 (based on Firefox 31.3.0esr).
  • Restored mouse scrolling in KVM/Spice.
  • Suppressed excessive (and leaky!) Torbutton logging.
  • Don't break the Unsafe and I2P Browsers after installing incremental upgrades.
  • External links in various applications should open properly in the Tor Browser.
  • Fixed clearsigning of text including non-ASCII characters in gpgApplet
  • Upgraded I2P to 0.9.17-1~deb7u+1.
  • Maked GnuPG configuration closer to the best practices.
  • Removed TrueCrypt support and document how to open TrueCrypt volumes using cryptsetup.
Old version, no longer supported: 1.2.2[23] 15 December 2014
  • Changed the SSL certificate authority expected by Tails Upgrader when checking for new Tails versions on https://tails.boum.org/.
Old version, no longer supported: 1.2.3[24] 15 January 2015
  • Upgraded Linux to 3.16.7-ckt2-1.
  • Upgraded Tor Browser to 4.0.3 (based on Firefox 31.4.0esr).
  • Improved MAC spoofing fail-safe mechanisms, which includes preventing one more way the MAC address could be leaked.
  • Disabled upgrade checking in the Unsafe Browser.
  • Fixed startup of the Unsafe Browser in some locales.
  • Repaired the desktop screenshot feature.
  • Do not suspend to RAM when closing the lid on battery power.
  • Properly update the Tails Installer's status when plugging in a USB drive after it has started.
Old version, no longer supported: 1.3[25] 24 February 2015
  • Installed bitcoin wallet Electrum.
  • Added additional operating system and data security to The Tor Browser.
  • Made the obfs4 pluggable transport available to connect to Tor bridges.
  • Installed Keyringer (manage and share secrets using OpenPGP and Git).
  • The Mac and Linux manual installation processes no longer require the isohybrid command.
  • Made the tap-to-click and two-finger scrolling trackpad settings enabled by default.
  • Added support for the Ibus Vietnamese input method.
  • Improved support for OpenPGP smartcards.
Old version, no longer supported: 1.3.1[26] 23 March 2015
  • Tails had transitioned to a new OpenPGP signing key.
  • Tor Launcher improved usability of Internet connections that are censored, filtered, or proxied.
Old version, no longer supported: 1.3.2[27] 31 March 2015
  • The Florence virtual keyboard could be used with touchpads again.
  • Tails Installer did not list devices that were too small to be supported.
Old version, no longer supported: 1.4[28] 12 May 2015
  • Tor Browser 4.5 now has a security slider that you can use to disable browser features, such as JavaScript, as a trade-off between security and usability.
  • OpenPGP Applet now has a shortcut to the gedit text editor.
  • Installed Paperkey (print a backup of your OpenPGP secret keys on paper).
  • In Tor Browser 4.5, all content, from the main website as well as the third-party websites, goes through the same Tor circuits. And these circuits are not reused when visiting a different website.
  • Disconnect.me is the new default search engine.
  • Installed fonts-linuxlibertine (better support for Vietnamese in LibreOffice).
  • Disable security warnings when connecting to POP3 and IMAP ports that are mostly used for StartTLS nowadays.
  • Installated printer-driver-gutenprint (support for more printers)
  • Upgraded Tor to
  • Upgraded I2P to 0.9.19 that has several fixes and improvements for floodfill performance.
  • Removed the obsolete #i2p-help IRC channel from Pidgin.
  • Removed the command line email client mutt and msmtp.
  • Fixed making the browser theme of the Windows 8 camouflage compatible with the Unsafe Browser and the I2P Browser.
  • Fixed removing the Tor Network Settings... from the Torbutton menu.
  • Better support for Chromebook C720-2800 through the upgrade of syslinux.
  • Fixed the localization of Tails Upgrader.
  • Fixed the OpenPGP key servers configured in Seahorse.
  • Prevented Tor Browser from crashing when Orca is enabled.
Current stable version: 1.5[29] 11 Aug 2015
  • New Feature: Disable access to the local network in the Tor Browser. You should now use the Unsafe Browser to access the local network.
  • Install Tor Browser 5.0 (based on Firefox 38esr).
  • Install a 32-bit GRUB EFI boot loader. Tails should now start on some tablets with Intel Bay Trail processors among others.
  • Let the user know when Tails Installer has rejected a device because it is too small.
  • Our AppArmor setup has been audited and improved in various ways which should harden the system.
  • The network should now be properly disabled when MAC address spoofing fails.
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.[15]
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.[15]
Version Release date Notes

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tails 1.5 is out". Tails. 11 August 2015. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  2. ^ "Tails 0.11 incognito live system released", The H, 30 Apr 2012, retrieved 12 Aug 2012 
  3. ^ Vervloesem, Koen (27 Apr 2011), "The Amnesic Incognito Live System: A live CD for anonymity", LWN.net, retrieved 12 Aug 2012 
  4. ^ "Anonym im Netz" [Anonymous on the Net], TecChannel (in German), 6 Feb 2012, retrieved 12 Aug 2012 
  5. ^ a b "Finances". Tails. 4 Apr 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  6. ^ Gray, James (16 Sep 2011), "The Tails Project's The Amnesic Incognito Live System (Tails)", Linux Journal, retrieved 12 Aug 2012 
  7. ^ "Tails report for May, 2014". Tails. 14 Jun 2014. 
  8. ^ Timm, Trevor (2 Apr 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 Apr 2014. 
  9. ^ Finley, Klint (14 Apr 2014). "Out in the Open: Inside the Operating System Edward Snowden Used to Evade the NSA". WIRED. Retrieved 18 Apr 2014. 
  10. ^ Condliffe, Jamie (15 Apr 2014). "Try the Super-Secure USB Drive OS That Edward Snowden Insists on Using". Gizmodo. Retrieved 15 Apr 2014. 
  11. ^ Jacob Appelbaum, A. Gibson, J. Goetz, V. Kabisch, L. Kampf, L. Ryge (3 Jul 2014). "NSA targets the privacy-conscious". DasErste.de. 
  12. ^ Bruce Schneier (3 Jul 2014). "NSA Targets Privacy Conscious for Surveillance". Schneier on Security. 
  13. ^ SPIEGEL Staff (28 Dec 2014). "Prying Eyes: Inside the NSA's War on Internet Security". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 23 Jan 2015. 
  14. ^ "Presentation from the SIGDEV Conference 2012 explaining which encryption protocols and techniques can be attacked and which not" (PDF). Der Spiegel. 28 Dec 2014. Retrieved 23 Jan 2015. 
  15. ^ a b c d "Tails 1.0 is out". Tails. 1 May 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  16. ^ "version 0.5". Tails. Retrieved 17 Dec 2014. 
  17. ^ "Tails 1.0.1 is out". Tails. 10 Jun 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  18. ^ "Tails 1.1 is out". Tails. 31 Jul 2014. Retrieved 8 Aug 2014. 
  19. ^ "Tails 1.1.1 is out". Tails. 2 Sep 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  20. ^ "Tails 1.1.2 is out". Tails. 26 Sep 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  21. ^ "Tails 1.2 is out". Tails. 16 Oct 2014. Retrieved 17 Oct 2014. 
  22. ^ "Tails 1.2.1 is out". Tails. 16 Dec 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  23. ^ "Tails 1.2.2 is out". Tails. 16 Dec 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  24. ^ "Tails 1.2.3 is out". Tails. 23 Jan 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  25. ^ "Tails 1.3 is out". Tails. 24 Feb 2015. Retrieved 26 Feb 2015. 
  26. ^ "Tails 1.3.1 is out". Tails. 23 Mar 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  27. ^ "Tails 1.3.2 is out". Tails. 31 Mar 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  28. ^ "Tails 1.4 is out". Tails. 12 May 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  29. ^ "Tails 1.5 is out". Tails. 11 Aug 2015. Retrieved 11 Aug 2015. 

External links[edit]