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 1.3.2 / March 31, 2015; 27 days ago (2015-03-31)[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]

On December 28, 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.
Old version, no longer supported: 1.1[17] 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: 1.2[18] 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.
Current stable version: 1.3[19] 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.
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 1.3.2 is out". Tails. 31 Mar 2015. Retrieved 1 Apr 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. 29 Apr 2014. Retrieved 29 Apr 2014. 
  16. ^ "version 0.5". Tails. Retrieved 17 Dec 2014. 
  17. ^ "Tails 1.1 is out". Tails. 31 Jul 2014. Retrieved 8 Aug 2014. 
  18. ^ "Tails 1.2 is out". Tails. 16 Oct 2014. Retrieved 17 Oct 2014. 
  19. ^ "Tails 1.3 is out". Tails. 24 Feb 2015. Retrieved 26 Feb 2015. 

External links[edit]