Tails (operating system)

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Tails logo
Tails OS
Written in {{#property:p277}}
OS family Unix-like
Working state Current
Source model Open source
Initial release June 23, 2009; 9 years ago (2009-06-23)
Latest release 2.3 / April 26, 2016; 2 years ago (2016-04-26)[1]
Latest preview 2.4 release candidate 1 / May 26, 2016; 2 years ago (2016-05-26)[2]
Marketing target Personal computers
Platforms IA-32
Kernel type Monolithic (Linux)
Userland GNU
Default user interface GNOME 3
License GPLv3+[3]
Preceded by Incognito
Official website tails.boum.org

Tails or The Amnesic Incognito Live System is a security-focused Debian-based Linux distribution aimed at preserving privacy and anonymity.[4] All its outgoing connections are forced to go through Tor,[5] and non-anonymous connections are blocked. The system is designed to be booted as a live DVD or live USB, and will leave no digital footprint on the machine unless explicitly told to do so. The Tor Project has provided financial support for its development.[6]


Tails was first released on 23 June 2009. It is the next iteration of development on Incognito, a Gentoo-based Linux distribution.[7] The Tor Project has provided financial support for its development.[6] Tails has also received funding from the Debian Project, Mozilla, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation.[8]

Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, and Barton Gellman have each said that Tails was an important tool they used in their work with National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.[9][10][11]

On 3 July 2014, German public television channel Das Erste reported that the NSA's XKeyscore surveillance system contains definitions that match persons who search for Tails using a search engine or visit the Tails website. A comment in XKeyscore's source code calls Tails "a comsec mechanism advocated by extremists on extremist forums".[12][13]

On 28 December 2014, Der Spiegel published slides from an internal NSA presentation dating to June 2012 in which the NSA deemed Tails on its own as a "major threat" to its mission, and when used in conjunction with other privacy tools such as OTR, Cspace, RedPhone, and TrueCrypt was ranked as "catastrophic," leading to a "near-total loss/lack of insight to target communications, presence..."[14][15]

Bundled software


Encryption and privacy

One may choose among a large number of languages when the system is booted.

Release history

Old version
Older version, still supported
Latest version
Latest preview version
Future release
Release history
Version Release date Notes
Old version, no longer supported: 0.2[16] 23 June 2009
  • First public release.
  • The project was called Amnesia.
Old version, no longer supported: 0.5[17] ?
  • First release since the project was renamed to The Amnesic Incognito Live System.
Old version, no longer supported: 1.0[16] 29 April 2014
  • 36th stable release.
Old version, no longer supported: 2.0[18] 26 January 2016
  • Tails 2.0 uses Debian 8 as a base, GNOME Shell Classic Mode, systemd, and has newer software and firmware packages.[18]
Current stable version: 2.3[1] 26 April 2016
  • Support for pasting passwords into GPG's pinentry dialog
  • New versions of Tor Browser, I2P, and Electrum[1]
Future release: 3.0 TBA
  • Will focus on changes in the internals of Tails to make it more secure. That includes sandboxing critical applications and software hardening.[16]
Version Release date Notes

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Tails 2.3 is out". Tails. 2016-04-26. Retrieved 2016-04-30. 
  2. "Call for testing: 2.4~rc1". 2016-05-26. Retrieved 2016-05-31. 
  3. "Tails 0.11 incognito live system released", The H, 30 Apr 2012, retrieved 12 Aug 2012 
  4. Vervloesem, Koen (27 Apr 2011), "The Amnesic Incognito Live System: A live CD for anonymity", LWN.net, retrieved 12 Aug 2012 
  5. "Anonym im Netz" [Anonymous on the Net], TecChannel (in German), 6 Feb 2012, retrieved 12 Aug 2012 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Finances". Tails. 4 Apr 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  7. Gray, James (16 Sep 2011), "The Tails Project's The Amnesic Incognito Live System (Tails)", Linux Journal, retrieved 12 Aug 2012 
  8. "Tails report for May, 2014". Tails. 14 Jun 2014. 
  9. Timm, Trevor (2 Apr 2014). "Help Support the Little-Known Privacy Tool That Has Been Critical to Journalists Reporting on the NSA". Freedom of the Press Foundation. Retrieved 18 Apr 2014. 
  10. Finley, Klint (14 Apr 2014). "Out in the Open: Inside the Operating System Edward Snowden Used to Evade the NSA". WIRED. Retrieved 18 Apr 2014. 
  11. Condliffe, Jamie (15 Apr 2014). "Try the Super-Secure USB Drive OS That Edward Snowden Insists on Using". Gizmodo. Retrieved 15 Apr 2014. 
  12. Jacob Appelbaum, A. Gibson, J. Goetz, V. Kabisch, L. Kampf, L. Ryge (3 Jul 2014). "NSA targets the privacy-conscious". DasErste.de. 
  13. Bruce Schneier (3 Jul 2014). "NSA Targets Privacy Conscious for Surveillance". Schneier on Security. 
  14. SPIEGEL Staff (28 Dec 2014). "Prying Eyes: Inside the NSA's War on Internet Security". Der Spiegel. Retrieved 23 Jan 2015. 
  15. "Presentation from the SIGDEV Conference 2012 explaining which encryption protocols and techniques can be attacked and which not" (PDF). Der Spiegel. 28 Dec 2014. Retrieved 23 Jan 2015. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 "Tails 1.0 is out". Tails. 1 May 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2015. 
  17. "version 0.5". Tails. Retrieved 17 Dec 2014. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 "Tails 2.0 is out". Tails. 2016-01-26. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 

External links