Tails OS – Powerful OS to Become Invisible On The Web

Today, it’s absolutely normal for you to see an ad on your phone for something that you’ve searched on your desktop. The degree of digital tracking going on here is borderline nefarious. Most of this tracking is done for the purpose of understanding us better, to serve us better ads. Advertisement is necessary for the web to remain free, financially. But still, someone else having so much information about you. Watching you, tracking your every move on the web can be terrifying. Then there are things like hacking, identity theft, online harassment, cyberstalking, invasion of privacy, cyber frauds, scams, malware ransomware, and many other things, which force us to be vigilant.

While you can use things like a VPN, or a security browser extension, there is an ultimate cybersecurity solution that will put you, pretty much off the grid. Even Edward Snowden himself used this operating system to protect himself during his whistleblowing operations. Introducing “The Amnesic Incognito Live System” or “TAILS“.

What You Should Know About Tails OS

TAILS OS is an operating system built for the express purpose of staying anonymous on the web. It is a portable system that comes with advanced features like TOR to leave zero footprints on the web. So let’s have a look at this privacy-centric OS and how awesome it is at keeping you anonymous on the world wide web.

Tails OS: Powerful OS to Become Invisible On The Web

TAILS OS is a Debian based Linux distro and features a modified GNOME desktop environment. The interface here is very simple. While TAILS is a special-purpose operating system, you don’t need to learn anything extra to use it. In fact, everything is straightforward in TAILS. TAILS OS comes with many advanced security features. TOR being the main. All the internet traffic on TAILS is routed through the TOR circuit.

Stay Anonymous While Browsing the Internet

What exactly is TOR you ask? Traditionally, on your normal computer and smartphones, when you open a website, your Internet service provider (ISP), connects your computer to that website. Here, your ISP and the website you connect to know who you are in terms of your IP address, and might have access to information such as your approximate location.

Virtual Private Networks are a popular solution to tackle this issue. These VPNs act as a middleman between you and the websites you visit and they also hide you from your ISP and the websites you visit a certain extent by hiding your real IP address. But now, the VPN you are using has access to that data. You’ve just hidden your data from some people, only to expose it to some other people.

Tails OS: Powerful OS to Become Invisible On The Web

TOR on the other hand is something else entirely. First of all, it’s not one entity. It’s not a company. Rather it’s a community of privacy-conscious people. With tor, you don’t connect to the websites directly. Instead, you connect to a random tor node, which connects to another random tor node, which in turn connects to another tor node, which finally connects to the website you want. There is no possible way for the website to get your location or track you because as far as that website is concerned, it’s the last tor node that is visiting the website.

Your Internet Provider cannot track you because they can only see you connecting to some IP somewhere. They don’t know the full story. This becomes particularly useful when you’re using public wifis, where even the wifi owner can potentially see what you’re doing on the internet. And all the data sent on TOR is always encrypted, so it’s gibberish to anybody trying to listen to your data stream.

TAILS OS uses the TOR browser.

This is an ultra-secure browser that does not allow any website to store cookies or trackers on your computer. This is enforced with extreme prejudice so websites cannot track you in any way whatsoever.

Tails OS: Powerful OS to Become Invisible On The Web

The next feature is AMNESIA. TAILS is an OS that you run entirely out of a USB stick. You do not install anything to the hard disk, nor do TAILS OS save any data across reboots. Once you shut down a TAILS system, any data in that system is gone permanently. You can see how this, coupled with TOR, creates a completely anonymous and stealth gateway to the world wide web. Nobody knows your IP, your location, there’s no digital footprint, and your digital identity, if any, is completely gone when you turn off your computer. This makes TAILS OS the best way to use public computers and machines that are not yours.

Now, you might absolutely need to keep some files on this system or install additional applications. You can do this. TAILS OS offers selective persistence storage that is securely encrypted. Only the things you handpick will be stored on the system. Everything else will be amnesic. TAILS OS comes with a number of privacy enhancing alternatives for day-to-day applications we use. We already talked about the tor browser.

Tails OS: Powerful OS to Become Invisible On The Web

What Tools Do You get with Tails OS?

For emails, we have Thunderbird with enigmail. This makes your emails much secure by encrypting them. You can also share files with Onionshare over tor. This allows you to share files completely anonymously. You also get LibreOffice for your everyday office needs.

TAILS OS has a strict TOR for everything protocol. Any application that needs to connect to the internet must do so over the TOR network only. TAILS OS does not allow any application to bypass that and connect to the internet directly. This makes sure that even any additional applications that you might install, will not leak any data about you. TAILS uses only open-source software only and it itself is open source. So you can trust it to protect you.

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How to Install Tails OS

TAILS OS is optimized to run on a wide variety of hardware, that too completely from a USB stick. TAILS OS is a live operating system, which means you run it directly from a DVD or USB. Everything that this OS needs from a computer is in the RAM space. The performance here is good. The system is very responsive and feels very nimble. The system boots up pretty fast too. Plugin the Pendrive and hit the power button. The computer will boot into a TAILS live session. It runs fine on laptops and even lower-end hardware.

Then, plug in your Pendrive, right-click on the downloaded file, open with disk image writer, select the Pendrive, and go. Your TAILS bootable Pendrive will be ready in few minutes. Then plug in that Pendrive to a turned-off computer and press the power button. The computer will boot into a TAILS session. In some cases, you might need to select the Pendrive during boot. You need to hit either F12 or some other key immediately after pressing the power button to go into boot device selection. The key will be device-specific, so google how to enter boot device selection on your particular computer model.

Download TAILS from the official website

You can use TAILS OS like this with any computer. TAILS will not touch the hard disk. The computer will be unaffected by anything you do on TAILS. You can boot back into your previous OS by restarting the computer with the USB stick pulled out.

How and when should you use TAILS

First of all, TAILS is not meant to replace your main operating system. You cannot use it as your main system. It’s a specialized operating system whose primary objective is to protect your identity online. That’s it. TAILS OS is not for gaming, not for media production, not for office use, and definitely not for everyday home use. Use it as an additional security module.

  • Do you use a public computer? Use it with TAILS as public computers tend to be more vulnerable. The admin of the computer and other users might access your data if you use it normally. There might be keyloggers or other personal data harvesters. Booting into TAILS disables all that stuff.
  • If you use public WiFis? It’s a good idea to use TAILS instead of your default system as the owner of the wifi can snoop on your device. They can know which websites you connect to, even see exactly what data you’re sending and receiving if it’s not encrypted.
  • Are you working with sensitive information? TAILS also enables you to bypass government censorships and firewalls that restrict or monitor your internet traffic. This makes TAILS very suitable for journalists and people like Edward Snowden.

Also, I want to make it clear that using TAILS OS cannot make you absolutely invisible. For example, if you log in to a website using your credentials, it doesn’t make a difference if you’re using TAILS or not. The website WILL know it’s you. It might not know your real location or track you over the internet, but you are exposed there. TAILS makes you invisible, but the possibility of you exposing yourself knowingly or unknowingly is real. Use caution, use sound judgment, and above all, don’t use TAILS for anything illegal.

Tails OS: Powerful OS to Become Invisible On The Web

Frequently Asked Questions

How secure is your normal operating system? Should You replace it with TAILS and use it all the time?

The state of the world wide web, the amount of user data collected by websites, it’s not ideal. Major websites collect and process an insane amount of data about you. While this is mostly done for the purposes of ads and to provide better service to the user, that data can easily be misused.

So should you use TAILS all the time?

No, you don’t need to use TAILS all the time. You cannot use TAILS all the time, at least you’ll not be able to get the same experience and convenience. For example, you cannot use navigation systems on TAILS as your real location is never made available to the navigation providers. A good number of websites need you to login to use their services, using TAILS OS, and then logging in can defeat the whole anonymity thing.

Wrap Up

Most websites today use cookies to work properly. As we already saw, cookies, trackers, and all persistent data are eliminated on TAILS by default, so some websites might not work properly. Most of the data collected by search engines, social networks, and major web services, never get accessed by a person. Only computers process that data and since the number of people using these is in billions, these websites take adequate actions to protect user privacy.

Linux based operating systems are extremely privacy oriented. They are all open source and there are very high standards here to protect the user data. Non-Linux operating systems, well, they are not open source, they are not as secure as Linux and they themselves might collect user data.

Overall, my personal recommendation is, to use TAILS when you’re using public computers, or using public wifis. You can also use TAILS when you’re dealing with sensitive information. TAILS is really ingenious and robust in protecting your privacy. TOR and AMNESIA together provide you with a gateway to the internet that is completely incognito. You can bypass censorship by the government, you can avoid tracking, you can browse the web with peace of mind, knowing that you are secure online.

Tails OS: Powerful OS to Become Invisible On The Web

So now you can “Become Invisible On The Web With This Ultimate Privacy OS” – I believe you have found them as reminders and helpful.

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