Possibly the most secure of all available operating systems available today is Tails, an abbreviation for The Amnesiac Incognito Live System. If you are concerned about privacy of your email messages and also the ability to visit web sites without being tracked, you should become familiar with Tails. Luckily, that is easy to do. It boots on almost any Windows computer from a USB drive, DVD drive, or a SecureDigital card, leaving no trace on the computer it’s running on. And it routes all the user’s traffic over Tor, foiling even malware attacks that might be designed to cause a Tor user’s computer to leak identifying data. Even better, the Windows operating system is not touched when running Tails from the external flash drive, DVD, or memory card. When finished, exit Tails, remove the flash drive/DVD/memory card, and reboot.
For ultimate security, there will be no information left behind on the Windows system.
Tails has all the properties of the ideal private operating system. Even Edward Snowden praised Tails as a means to strengthen vulnerable communication endpoints. And filmmaker Laura Poitras used Tails when communicating with Snowden for months to arrange his unprecedented leak of NSA secrets.
Tails allows the user to use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship by forcing to go through the Tor network. It leaves no trace on the computer you are using unless you ask it explicitly. It also uses state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt your files, emails and instant messaging.
Best of all, Tails is available free of charge although donations are encouraged.
Tails comes with several built-in applications pre-configured with security in mind: web browser, instant messaging client, email client, office suite, image and sound editor, etc. Using Tails on a computer doesn’t alter or depend on the operating system installed on it. So you can use it in the same way on your computer, a friend’s or one at your local library. After shutting down Tails, the computer can start again on its usual operating system.
Tails is configured with special care to not use the computer’s hard-disks, even if there is some swap space on them. The only storage space used by Tails is the RAM, which is automatically erased when the computer shuts down. However, you can save documents to the flash drive or to the memory card with Tails installed on it. Obviously, you cannot save anything to the DVD drive that has Tails installed on it.
With Tails, you won’t leave any trace of the Tails operating system nor of what you did on the computer. That’s why it is called an “amnesic” operating system: it forgets everything. Using Tails allows you to work on sensitive documents on any computer and protect you from data recovery after shutdown. Of course, you can still explicitly save some documents to another USB or external hard-disk and take them away for future use. I use Tails on a flash drive that I keep locked up when it is not in use.
Tails is based on Debian Linux, although modified to not leave anything behind on the computer’s hard drive. It also uses Tor for Internet connections, OpenPGP (pretty-good-privacy) to encrypt and sign your emails and documents, OTR, a cryptographic tool that provides encryption, authentication and deniability for instant messaging, and LUKS, a utility used to encrypt your USB sticks or external hard-disks.
The one drawback is that Tails does cannot be booted on Macintosh computers. However, it will boot on almost any Windows or Linux computer that can be booted from a flash drive or DVD disk. That includes nearly all Windows computer puilt in the past few years.
If you are concerned about privacy and security of your computer, your email messages, and your use of the Internet, you need to investigate Tails.
You can read more and also download Tails at https://tails.boum.org.