In this day and age when having a constant Internet connection has become akin to having air to breathe, we don’t realize how important the Internet has become until we don’t have access to it. On a recent trip, the hotel where I was staying was having wireless trouble and I was unable to establish a connection to access the Internet. In the hotel lobby was a hard-wired public computer, but I was reluctant to use it to log onto an account I needed to store an article I had written. I was also out of cellphone range of my carrier, so tethering wasn’t an option. It was at that time I wished I had a DVD or USB drive to have used on the public computer in order to not store any information where prying eyes could see it.
Have you ever noticed that it is always after the fact when you discover a solution to a problem and rarely before it happens? Or am I the only one who sits out in their garage trying to come up with an idea that would emulate the successes of garage pioneers like Apple, HP, and many others? I digress. In my searching around the Internet I discovered a software program called Tails, which meets the requirements of having the ability to surf the Internet without fear of leaving anything behind.
What I found is a Debian-based Linux version of a program called Tails. This is a free download available to anyone and it provides the user with the following:
- Tails uses Tor to provide an anonymity network that can help to protect your online privacy. Tor is a free program that can help to defend against any type of network surveillance, and it also provides security.
- Tails doesn’t use the operating system that is installed on the computer that you use. Tails is installed on a DVD or USB drive, which actually boots the computer system and loads the operating system. No information is stored on the hard disk and all information only uses RAM.
- Tails does allow you, if you so choose, to store information or documents onto the USB stick. These files and documents can then be used later as you see fit or deleted off of the USB drive.
- Tails also uses what the company describes as “State-of-the-art cryptographic tools” to further protect your sensitive data and information from prying eyes.
To get your free copy of Tails, just drop by the link below and download the .iso image onto your computer. You can then burn the image to a DVD that will create the Tails operating system to replace your operating system at boot. Depending on how your computer is configured, you may have to go into the BIOS and change the order of boot. I changed the boot order on my system from the hard disk to the DVD drive in order to get the system to boot from DVD. On the Tails website, the company has provided information for both Windows and OS X users to assist you in properly creating the image.
After the image is burned to disk and the BIOS have been properly set to boot from DVD, everything else on the Tails DVD is fairly straightforward. Once you restart your computer, you will be presented with the following desktop screen:
For those of you who have used Linux before, you will immediately notice that the desktop uses Gnome. If you are new to Linux, I would highly recommend that you read the documentation that Tails provides on its website since there is an expectation that you are familiar with Linux.
Tails uses the browser Iceweasel, which is a variant of Mozilla Firefox — a browser with which you may be familiar. If you haven’t used Firefox in the past, the Tails website offers an excellent mini-tutorial that I would also recommend you read.
The Tails website also has easy-to-use instructions for you to clone the Tails operating system from the DVD over to USB drive. I followed the directions as the company described and the process worked flawlessly. I was able to boot from the USB drive without an issue after I changed the BIOS boot order.
So how good is Tails?
I found Tails easy to use and configure. I was able to setup my Internet connection without any problem and connected immediately. The Iceweasel browser is also easy to use and does work like Firefox. Here’s one note that you need to be aware of (some who have used TOR will already know this): Connecting to a TOR and surfing can be slow at times. Other than that, everything else seemed to work very well.
I did have one observation that I believe will help you in using Tails. I did follow the Tails website instructions and made a USB boot drive from the DVD I had created from the .iso image. What I found was that the USB drive was more responsive than using the DVD. Therefore, I believe using a USB drive is recommended, plus it’s more convenient to carry with you than a DVD disk.
Do you have favorite software that you like using to surf the Internet without leaving a trail of crumbs? Let us know what you recommend.
CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Ulleskelf