Malicious actors upped the ante in 2023.

So-called artificial intelligence systems soared in popularity, supercharging political disinformation programs. Internet shutdowns and slowdowns became firmly entrenched in authoritarian toolkits to censor progressive speech. And the continuing revelations of zero-click attacks drove home the perilous omnipotence of the military-digital complex.

But, we also made plans to call their ante.

We built a state-of-the-art 3-year strategy to make Tails a formidable adversary to these powerful, repressive forces. We made plans to better understand the use of Tails by journalists and activists, and understand and improve the use of Tails in the majority world. All this while introducing new features and improvements to existing features that make Tails even more relevant.

Here's the progress we made in the first year of the plan.

Product development

The Persistent Storage got even better at storing encrypted data.

Tails 5.8 was one of the most important Tails releases in years. In Tails 5.8, we unveiled a brand new Persistent Storage. The new Persistent Storage doesn't require restarting after creation or any time after you activate a new feature. It also made it easier to persist more settings. The icing on the cake: a dashing makeover for the Persistent Storage!

But the new Persistent Storage wasn't all fun and games for Tails users. It was buggy and we worked extra hard to fix the issues our users faced.

We didn't stop there. We also continued to add functionality to the Persistent Storage. Now, it is easier to both do backups of the whole Persistent Storage and delete the data of a each feature.

New button to delete the data of a Persistent Storage feature
Option to clone the current Persistent Storage in Tails Installer

We also introduced better password practices for securing the Persistent Storage. Randomly generated diceware passphrases and an upgraded encryption format make the Persistent Storage exponentially more secure.

Improvements to the Tor Connection make it easier to circumvent censorship.

The Tor Connection Assistant is slicker. We improved the error messaging when connecting automatically to the Tor network and the handling of captive portals.

Connecting to Tor is only part of the story. At times, Tails users may find themselves on slow Tor circuits. And worse, unable to troubleshoot issues. So, we've made it easier to close pesky Tor circuits that we can sometimes land on.

Option to close a circuit in Onion Circuits

Tails remains one of the most secure operating systems in the world.

This year, we released 15 versions of Tails, ensuring users had the latest Tor Browser and Thunderbird. Yes, FIFTEEN!

We also asked Radically Open Security to do a security audit of Tails. Their findings affirmed our cutting-edge security.

PS: Keeping Tails updated is your best defense against online surveillance and censorship!

And we started moving to our new home!

🎉 ✨ ✨ 🎉

We completed a bunch of home improvement projects. So our new home is even more welcoming to folks speaking different languages, we overhauled the language switcher. We just added Catalan translations too. Gràcies per ser aquí!

High footfall areas of the website got a new carpet too. Check out our new Contribute, Support, and Contact us pages.

A huge shout-out to the volunteers who made these possible: @jawlensky for the website redesign and to our Catalan translations team!

Community and organizational health

  • Sprints. Our core team organized 2 sprints this year. Around Easter, we bunkered up in Paris. The agenda was budgeting the year ahead and building a roadmap to financial health. Also on the agenda: French cheese, spicy Indian snacks, and Dixit. Later in the year, we met again in a mix of online and in-person participation. We reflected on our efforts this year and hatched plans for a more sustainable future of the project.

  • Reflections. Aspiring to reach and encourage more diverse populations of Tails users, we also embarked on a path to improving the project's diversity. Our core team started meeting fortnightly to reflect on our workplace norms. We are using this text by the Centre for Community Organizations as our guide to reflection and improvement.

Financial health

Malicious actors are not going to buckle down, but neither are we. This year, Tails was instrumental in several high-risk investigations and struggles for progressive change. Like this damning indictment of the Mexican army's systematic surveillance of feminists in the country.

I, (@bokonon), joined our small team at Tails this year, to lead our fundraising activities. I have been obsessing over how a free software project like ours can continue improving Tails while keeping it free. And one thing is already clear: we will need your help. Often.

While we don't know how many Tails users donate to Tails, our guess is ~1%. Tails is designed for use by people living vulnerable, high-risk lives. Many of whom are likely to not be in a position to contribute. Your donations keep Tails free for everybody else!

We are near the end of our campaign to fund Tails in 2024, but quite a way off our goals.

We might never have the resources that powerful, malicious actors do, but we know one thing: together, we can punch much above our weight. As we go into the holidays, join us in ensuring that the Internet does not become synonymous with surveillance and censorship. Give the gift of privacy today!