Tails implements basic Tor stream isolation, using functionality described in Tor proposal 171.

Special needs

Tails-specific applications

Tails-specific applications use a dedicated SocksPort, so that they don't help trivial correlating of other kinds of network traffic with Tails:

  • incremental updates
  • htpdate
  • security check
  • WhisperBack

Web Browser

Until the Tor Browser implements clever fine-grained stream isolation (bug #3455 on Tor Project's Trac) it is merely directed to a dedicated SOCKS port.

Destination address/port -based circuit isolation

Do we want to use IsolateDestAddr and/or IsolateDestPort?

Using these settings may help protecting against traffic correlation. However:

  • These settings are likely to have a performance impact on applications that connect to many remote hosts.

  • These settings probably put more load on the network. On the other hand, the Tor people probably are happy with people using it given they have added the option in the first place. We will anyway ask them to review our proposed configuration with network load in mind before we ship it to the masses.

For performance reasons, we will start with not using IsolateDestAddr/IsolateDestPort for the Tor Browser: nowadays, loading a mere web page often requires fetching resources from a dozen or more remote sources. (Also, it looks like the use of IsolateDestAddr in a modern web browser may create very uncommon HTTP behaviour patterns, that could ease fingerprinting.)

Consider Pidgin with several accounts configured for different identities. If you connect with all of the accounts at the same time, they'll all get the same circuit, so the identities can be correlated. While Tails does not formally support using multiple contextual identities at the same time, Pidgin generally opens very few network connections, so the performance impact of using IsolateDestAddr should be small. Given how cheap it is, it looks like it is worth having Pidgin use a (not necessarily dedicated) SocksPort that has IsolateDestAddr and IsolateDestPort enabled.

For the same reason, we actually want to enable IsolateDestAddr and IsolateDestPort for the SocksPort used by most applications, unless we tell them otherwise. It may break POP-before-SMTP in Thunderbird.


A few SOCKS ports are configured in config/chroot local-includes/etc/tor/torrc:

  • default system-wide SocksPort (9050): IsolateDestAddr and IsolateDestPort enabled

  • dedicated SocksPort for other Tails-specific applications (9062): IsolateDestAddr and IsolateDestPort enabled

  • dedicated SocksPort (9063) used by the Upgrader to download IUKs with tails-iuk-get-target-file: we disable isolation flags so there's at least a chance that the circuit used to connect to Mirrorbits is reused for the actual download, thus benefiting from the fact Mirrorbits uses GeoIP to select the mirror.

  • dedicated SocksPort for web browser (still 9050, but on a veth dedicated to web browser's netns): no stream isolation options

  • no specific isolation options for the TransPort (#6378)

Applications are configured to use the right SOCKS port: