If a tool is hard to use, it is less secure.

When digital security tools are too complicated to use, people make mistakes that compromise their security or simply give up and fall back on more dangerous practices.

Because journalists and whistleblowers use Tails to expose abuse of power and activists use Tails to defend human rights and our planet, the more people use Tails, the better we are all protected.

In 2022, we focused on making it easier to install Tails and improving many existing features, instead of adding new features. Here are some highlights.

Our work is only possible thanks to the donations of our many supporters. In 2020–2022, donations from passionate people like you represented 76% of our income. This is the best proof of the value of our work and our biggest motivation.

Thanks!

Better tools

Persistent Storage

The biggest change is still to come as we will release a complete redesign of the Persistent Storage in Tails 5.8 (December 20). You can already test the new Persistent Storage in Tails 5.8~beta1.

The Persistent Storage hadn't changed much since its first release in 2012 because the code was hard to modify and improve. But, we learned from users that the Persistent Storage could do a lot more for you if it had more features and was easier to use.

The new Persistent Storage won't require restarting after creating it or each time you activate a new feature.

It will also make it easier for us to persist more settings in the future.

And finally, it looks so much better!

PGP tools

We know that lots of our users depend on PGP tools to protect their communications. But, we also know that PGP tools are notoriously hard to use.

We made 2 big changes to PGP tools in Tails:

  • We added Kleopatra, a swiss army knife for all things PGP.

    Kleopatra replaced the OpenPGP Applet and the Password and Keys utility, also known as Seahorse, which were not actively developed anymore and had many issues.

  • We updated Thunderbird to 102, which includes major usability improvements to the OpenPGP feature.

    When composing an email, you can now see whether it will be encrypted or not. If encryption is impossible, a key assistant helps you solve key issues.

    Thunderbird composer
window with encryption turned on and notification about a missing key and how
to resolve the issue.

Tor Connection assistant

We conducted usability tests of the Tor Connection assistant in France and Brazil with people who were new to Tails to identify issues in complicated cases: when connecting to Tor is blocked by censorship or a captive portal.

We fixed 28 usability issues identified during these tests. For example:

  • The Tor Connection assistant now automatically fixes the computer clock if you choose to connect to Tor automatically. This makes it much easier for people in Asia to circumvent censorship.

  • We made it easier to open the Unsafe Browser to sign in to a network. This makes it much easier to use Tails on public networks in airports, libraries, and so on.

  • In Tails 5.8 (December 20), you will be able to scan a QR code from your phone to enter a Tor bridge:

Unsafe Browser and Wayland

Tails 5.8 will also make the Unsafe Browser both safer and easier to use by migrating it to the Wayland display technology.

Wayland brings more security in-depth to Tails by making it harder for a compromised application in Tails to compromise or misuse another application.

Wayland also fixes other features that were not working yet in the Unsafe Browser:

  • Sound
  • Uploads and downloads
  • Alternative input methods for Chinese and other non-Latin languages
  • Accessibility features like the screen reader and virtual keyboard

Metadata cleaning

We added Metadata Cleaner, a new tool to clean metadata from your files.

When we switched to MAT 0.8.0 in Tails 4.0, MAT lost its graphical interface and was only accessible from the contextual menu of the Files browser. It became especially hard for new users to learn how to clean their files. Metadata Cleaner fixes this by providing a simple and easily discoverable graphic interface to remove metadata.

Metadata Cleaner works on the same file formats and is as secure as MAT because Metadata Cleaner also uses MAT in the background to do the actual cleaning.

Backups

We added a utility to make a backup of the Persistent Storage to another Tails USB stick.

It's pretty basic. We still want to do something better in #7049, but we didn't want to wait more because we know that backups are a big issue for our users.

Easier installation

Installation instructions

During usability tests in Mexico and Brazil, we realized that our installation process was already pretty easy to follow, but that some people were getting lost while navigating between the different pages.

We simplified our instructions by making them into a single page.

We added animations and more exciting visuals.

Finally, we fixed no less than 30 other smaller usability issues in the instructions!

Tails.net and more reliable downloads

After 13 years of relying on the domain name of our historical hosting provider, boum.org, we finally acquired a simple, beautiful, and trustworthy domain name of our own:

🎉 ✨ tails.net ✨ 🎉

It will take us some time to migrate all our services to this new name.

As a start, we deployed https://download.tails.net/. This new service uses Mirrorbits, a more reliable way of redirecting downloads to one of our mirrors. It prevents many broken downloads and automates some tedious work.

Team life

New team members

Our team grew and welcomed 2 new full-time workers:

  • @disoj joined us as our Project Manager in April.

    She will help our team grow, mature, and ultimately serve our users better. It's the first time that we hired for a managerial position, so it's a very big and positive change.

  • @groente, a long-term Sysadmin consultant, joined us full-time in July.

    He will help us deploy better infrastructure to make our work more efficient while keeping all our machines (and thus your Tails) secure.

Organizational redesign

Behind the curtains, Tails operates as a small team that values transparency, autonomy, and horizontal decision-making. We have always worked fully remotely and now have team members in 10 different countries.

All this can be challening sometimes :)

This year, we redesigned, clarified, and documented our internal organizing a lot. In particular, it is now clearer who is responsible, and legitimate, to make which decisions. This will make Tails a more pleasant and efficient working place, so we can focus more of our energy on improving our tools.

We never let you down!

To always keep you safe, a significant part of our work consists in releasing Tails every 4 weeks, updating to new version of Tor Browser and the Tor client, migrating to new technologies in GNOME or Debian, etc.

We released:

  • 14 releases, never skipping a single update of Tor Browser.

  • Tails 5.0 based on Debian Bullseye, with important technical migrations.

  • 2 emerency releases to fix critical vulnerabilities in the Tor client and the Linux kernel.

All this work has been made possible by donations from users like you. If you like these changes and want more, donate now to fund our work in 2023.