If you spend a lot of your time online, sooner or later you would come across something that leaves you wondering how come you never heard of it before. That is what happened when I discovered the Tails operating system.
From the review piece I read, Tails is so awesome I wondered why everybody wasn’t using it.
Now, how would you like an operating system that turns you into a ghost? Figuratively of course. The sort of anonymity you would never get with traditional operating systems like Windows, Linux, and MacOS.
Better still, the Tails Operating system is the sort OS you can hide in your wallet and take anywhere with you. Imagine being able to carry your OS around and use on any computer without leaving traces on the host computer?
That is what you get and so much more with Tails operating system.
What is Tails Operating system?
Tails is an open-source operating system launched to the public for the first time in 2014. Though development of the program started in 2009.
TAILS is an acronym for The Amnesic Incognito Live System, a Linux-based program aimed mainly at securing your privacy and anonymity whole using a computer.
The whole operating system is designed to be accessed from a DVD or a USB flash drive. However using a USB flash to boot into TAILS is more common these days since DVD drives are on their way out of computers.
What Tails does
Consider this: anytime you use a computer, you leave traces of what you did (digital footprints) behind you. And if you access websites while using the computer, websites can easily track you using cookies that are getting sophisticated by the day.
These cookies follow you all over the Internet mapping your online habits. Websites use these cookies for ads and marketing purposes. Perfectly innocent. However, spies or criminals can use these same cookies to get a fix on your location or what you are up to.
So if anyone wanted to attack you, hiring an online security expert is a nice way to do it digitally.
With Tails as your operating system though, you are practically a ghost even to the most sophisticated hackers.
With Tails, once you log out, it wipes out any trace of your activities from the host computers. All downloaded files are stored on the USB flash which you’d detach from the computer.
Basically, anytime you log into your system again with the Tails operating system on your flash, it is like booting up a new computer. Everything is blank. Even passwords are not stored in Tails.
Using Tails operating system
Using Tails is rather easy for something that does so much and sounds so complicated on paper. But mastering it might pose a few problems.
First of all, one would need a good USB flash to download the operating system. Because of its nature, it is advisable to download it from the official website not to fall prey to hackers who’d hosted fake Tails OS all over the net.
The file is just under 1.5GB. There is an excellent guide on how to convert the downloaded iso file into a bootable USB flash. If you find that too confusing, softwares like Rufus can help you turn the iso file into a bootable flash drive easily.
After that, just tweaked the the boot sequence in your computer to give your USB flash drive pole position. Changing the boot sequence of a computer is done through the BIOS settings of computers.
Every computer model has different key combinations to get into BIOS. The easiest way to know how to get there is to do a simple Google search for your computer model. Normally, it is done by hitting one of the functions keys repeatedly after you hit the power button.
Brief, hands on review of Tails Operating system
After creating my bootable USB flash with the Tails operating system installed on the flash drive, I inserted the flash in a port and switched on my computer.
I followed the on-screen instructions to install it on my system. This is done only once. Next time you use the flash, you won’t have to go through these installation steps.
The Tails user interface is very minimalistic. There are so few icons the desktop might as well be a blank slate. It was very confusing to somebody like me who is used to working with so many icons and shortcuts.
Anyhow, the first thing I did was to check my location on whoer.net using Tor browser that is pre-installed in Tails. It told me my virtual location was Romania. Nice.
However, browsing with Tails was slow. This could be because of the many security loops you have to go through to hide your location. Apart from that, it wasn’t so bad for a first timer.
About 30 minutes later I decided to exit Tails. It was interesting watching the program erasing all records of everything I did.
With Tails OS, the Internet is smaller but safer
Users of Linux would be familiar with the user interface of Tails OS desktop. It has the look and feel of that OS. The email client (you can’t use regular emails), Claws Mail is encrypted by default just like most services on the operating system.
The encryption means you are limited in terms of places you can securely log into if you want to remain anonymous. For instance, logging into Facebook would immediately reveal your identity to anybody interested in tracking you.
As a matter of fact, all websites you need your account details to log into must be off limits. Or else, the point of using Tails is defeated.
Since Tails erases everything on exit, you’ll need the addresses of your favorite sites written down somewhere. They’d need to be typed in each time you start a new session with the operating system.
This makes the web seem so much more smaller as you just can’t use your bookmarks as in normal operating systems.
However, with all the news about malicious hacker causing havoc worldwide, nothing is too much if you want to secure yourself online. After all, nothing good comes easy. What you are getting is the sort of online cloak that top spies around the world always require to do their jobs effectively.
So if you want safety, invest the time and effort required. And the good part is, it doesn’t even cost much (just the money to download the Tails operating system iso file) to set it up.