After the Windows 10 security scandal many people realized the potential risks that a computer’s operating system could pose to personal security and privacy. The Tails operating system (OS) looks to change that. While it may be a little too extreme for the average user’s everyday home use, it is an excellent tool for those who frequently use public terminals such as those found at colleges, universities, or public libraries.
Many users may be skeptical after the Windows 10 debacle since it was advertised as a safe and secure operating system. This begs the question: how do users know they can trust Tails? Tails is open source, which means that users can see the source code and verify for themselves and other users that Tails does what it claims it was designed to do. Even if an individual user cannot read or understand the code, the online community certainly can (remember that users found out about the Windows 10 security flaws and that Microsoft OS is not open source), which means that Tails is open to public scrutiny.
Tails is an operating system designed to protect the privacy and anonymity of users. Tails is an acronym for The Amnesiac Incognito Live System (source) and, like its name, suggests it is designed to “forget” all of the information from users in order to protect their security and privacy. Every time a user starts the OS it starts as a blank slate with only the default programs. Tails is designed to boot from USB, SD card, or DVD, the absolute safest method being the use of a non-rewriteable DVD. All of this is to ensure that no malware or surveillance software is used to collect user data. While online Tails routes all possible connections through TOR in order to maintain the user’s online anonymity and security.
Additionally, Tails includes secured email and chat service, password manager and an office suite (not Microsoft Office) as well as a list of other programs users will find useful. Tails truly is a complete OS that is very comparable in features to what is offered on other standard operating systems.
This OS isn’t capable of blocking 100% of data surveillance methods; however, it has been reported that Edward Snowden has used Tails. To their credit, the Tails team is very clear about what the limitations of user security are. Beyond this, Tails is known to have problems running on over a dozen popular machines ranging from Dells to Macs. Some of these problems have been resolved and the Tails team is very transparent about what the limitations on their OS are and what solutions are available. As always users should check to make sure their hardware is compatible before diving in.
Tails requires 4GB of space on a USB, SD card, or DVD, and all of these options currently retail for less than $10.00 CAD. Other than that, the OS is completely free. For those who need security and anonymity I would highly recommend this product. In fact, I may put it on a USB myself for situations where I find myself needing to use a public terminal.
About Kevin Lee
I’ve always been fascinated by the ever evolving interaction between people and technology, specifically within the developments of online communities.