New anonymous desktop operating system ‘Tails’ goes live

1 May 2014

Tails screenshot via Wikimedia Commons

A new desktop operating system known as Tails has been released in its first version to the general public, promising to make sure a user’s information is not monitored by government agencies or malicious organisations.

An acronym of The Amnesiac Incognito Live System, Tails was recently made popular after one of the world’s most famous whistleblowers of recent years, former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, claimed he had been using the operating system to maintain his anonymity while in conversation with journalists from around the globe.

In its official announcement, the group behind the operating system said that after five years of development, Version 1.0 would finally be available to the public.

“Version 1.0 is often an important milestone that denotes the maturity of a free software project. The first public version of what would become Tails was released on June 23 2009, when it was called Amnesia. That was almost five years ago. Tails 1.0 marks the 36th stable release since then.”

One of its main differences from other standard operating systems is that Tails can only be installed from another media, and cloned onto a device of the user’s choice, such as a USB stick or SD card.

The software is Linux based and once installed will allow users to browse the internet and conduct business completely anonymously from everyone, unless the user has explicitly identified IP addresses that can interact with the software.

Tails has also been designed to work with the encryption and privacy software Tor, which had originally been developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory. Tor works by directing internet traffic through 5,000 relays that volunteers largely operate to conceal a user’s location or usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic