Anonymous Linux Distribution TAILS Reaches Release Version 1.0

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

Follow on: Google +

The OS that helped Edward Snowden communicate with journalists is ready for prime time

After five years in development, The Amnesic Incognito Live System (TAILS), a free and secure Linux distribution favoured by Edward Snowden, has reached version 1.0.

TAILS can be run anonymously from a DVD, USB stick or SD card, and was designed to leave no digital footprint on the local machine.

“Tails is a live system that aims to preserve your privacy and anonymity. It helps you to use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship almost anywhere you go and on any computer but leaving no trace unless you ask it to explicitly,” states the TAILS website.

Memory loss

TAILS Logo“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 23 June 2009, when it was called Amnesia. That was almost five years ago. Tails 1.0 marks the 36th stable release since then,” says the development team.

The latest release doesn’t bring major front-end changes, but features plenty of security fixes and software updates. To mark the occasion, TAILS ran a competition to design a new logo, the winner of which you can see pictured left.

Amnesia was based on the Incognito Linux distribution – both have now been merged into the TAILS project, the current iteration of which is built around Debian. The OS adds privacy features such as OpenPGP encryption, and forces all of its outgoing connections to go through the anonymous Tor network. It doesn’t store any data locally, which means users of TAILS are almost impossible to detect.

In addition to a preconfigured Firefox browser, Pidgin instant messaging client and Claws Mail client, TAILS includes open source productivity and multimedia applications like OpenOffice, GIMP and Audacity. It also comes with a virtual keyboard as a measure against hardware keyloggers, which still pose a threat to the OS.

TAILS was used by Edward Snowden to communicate with journalists when he exposed the mass surveillance operations run by the US National Security Agency (NSA). As a result of publicity around TAILS and privacy in general, the OS is becoming a lot more popular – the development team says that in the last 18 months, the approximate number its users has quadrupled.

TAILS version 1.1 is expected on 10 June. It will be based on Debian 7 (Wheezy) and update several of the built-in software packages.

What do you know about Linux? Take our quiz!