Tech

How to get a secure, private and portable operating system with Tails

Carrying a secure operating system in your pocket is possible thanks to developments such as Tails and USB formats in “Live” format and self-starting that we can use in multiple tasks and in all types of equipment.

A great option since its operation is independent of the operating system that the PC has where we connect it, Windows, macOS or Linux, running directly from the external medium without having to install anything on the internal storage unit and thus without affecting the system main installed. And another advantage. Taking into account the very wide adoption of a port such as USB, its potential use includes tens of millions of computers in all types of formats and almost any type of hardware.

Although there are other developments that can be used, if we talk about security and privacy there is one that we especially like: Tails. Updated this November to version 4.24, it is an open source and totally free GNU / Linux distribution, based on the almighty Debian.

In addition to including a package of basic applications installed such as web browser, email client, office tools or multimedia players / editors, its strong point lies in the online privacy protection it offers. Its default browser is Tor Browser and it uses the Tor network by redirecting communications around a distributed network of relays conducted by volunteers from around the world.

All Tails applications are configured to connect through Tor while direct (non-anonymous) connections are blocked. What’s more, includes encryption tools for file or document protection, emails or instant messaging.

How to create a secure operating system

To create these Live USB or bootable pendrives (which are not the same or have the same objective, although in some cases they serve both uses), we have a good number of tools. Many open source and / or free such as the fireproof Rufus or other more specialized WinSetupFromUSB types to include multiple operating systems on the same medium.

The basic idea in these cases is the same. Create a flash storage medium that inserted into a USB port allows us to start it at the start of the computer and before the installed operating system starts up. Or on machines that do not have any system installed. The Tails developers recommend using Etcher, available for Windows, mac and Linux, and we did this practical with it.

We use a PC with Windows 10 (you can also do it from Linux or macOS) and a USB 3.2 pendrive, although it may be a lower one such as USB 2.0. Remember, a higher interface will offer you better performance (important for running an operating system), while a lower interface usually offers compatibility with a greater number of computers and fewer potential errors.

Use any of them, you will have to have at least 8 GB capacity. Save the data it contains because it will be erased when creating the medium with Tails and we start:

  • Download the latest version of Tails. For the example, the USB image for Windows “tails-amd64-4.24.img” with a size of 1.2 GB. You can use direct download or torrent.
  • Download the latest version of Etcher (v.1.7.0) for Windows and install the tool.

  • Follow the instructions, selecting the downloaded Tails image and the pendrive you use.

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And a little more. With a fast unit in a few minutes you will have it ready.

Using Tails

Perhaps the most difficult thing for an ordinary user is to get his PC to start on the USB stick with Tails that we just created. All computers have special keys programmed to access UEFI / BIOS or the computer’s internal boot menu. Are activated pressing the corresponding key during the hardware testing phase what happens when we start the personal computer.

Manufacturers don’t make it easy because each one uses different keys. Of course, they tend to be repeated on all brand computers and in most cases they use the “Function”, “Escape” or “Delete” keys. In this article we offer you a list with access to the main manufacturers of laptops and motherboards. If you work in Windows, on any computer you can access the USB by restarting the computer with the “Shift” key pressed and selecting it from the menu.

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Once loaded and like other Linux distributions, you will see the Grub bootloader where you can select Tails or safe mode. We enter the standard mode, select the keyboard / language to use and the additional configuration of administration password or anonymization of the MAC address. In any case, all these parameters can be configured later.

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Enjoy Tails! A development that has all the basics of a Linux distribution, based on the always stable Debian, Office office suites, graphics, music and video applications, and various utilities, as well as being able to install whatever you want.

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Of course, on a distro super specialized in privacy and anonymity, there is no lack of its own tools, encryption to protect files or documents, emails or instant messaging, use of the TOR network and your browser with the DuckDuckGo search engine by default, and much more.

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If you want a safe and private operating system here you have one of the best. And transportable anywhere in a pocket, connectable by USB in millions of computers, without having to modify anything in the host system (if you don’t want to) and without leaving a trace once you finish.

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