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What we achieved together in 2022

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.

Tails 5.7 is out

New features

Metadata Cleaner

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 of Tails 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.

Changes and updates

  • Update Tor Browser to 11.5.8.

  • Update tor to 0.4.7.11.

  • Remove pdf-redact-tools, which was broken. (#19250)

Fixed problems

We fixed 2 small usability issues in Tor Connection:

  • Explain better how to use the Unsafe Browser to sign in to a local network. (#19168)

  • Remove the (easier) and (safer) comments in the first screen. (#19166)

For more details, read our changelog.

Known issues

Progress bar of Tor Connection getting stuck around 50%

When using a custom Tor obfs4 bridge, the progress bar of Tor Connection sometimes gets stuck halfway through and becomes extremelly slow. (#19173)

To fix this, you can either:

  • Close and reopen Tor Connection to speed up the initial connection.

  • Try a different obfs4 bridge.

    We believe that this issue should not happen with an up-to-date bridge running obfs4proxy version 0.0.12 or later.

See the list of long-standing issues.

Get Tails 5.7

To upgrade your Tails USB stick and keep your persistent storage

  • Automatic upgrades are available from Tails 5.0 or later to 5.7.

    You can reduce the size of the download of future automatic upgrades by doing a manual upgrade to the latest version.

  • If you cannot do an automatic upgrade or if Tails fails to start after an automatic upgrade, please try to do a manual upgrade.

To install Tails on a new USB stick

Follow our installation instructions:

The Persistent Storage on the USB stick will be lost if you install instead of upgrading.

To download only

If you don't need installation or upgrade instructions, you can download Tails 5.7 directly:

What's coming up?

Tails 5.8 is scheduled for December 20.

Have a look at our roadmap to see where we are heading to.

Tails report for September and October 2022

Highlights

Here's a glimpse at what happened in Tails in September and October.

Analyzing results of usability tests

We analyzed the results of the usability tests we did in São Paulo:

Then we prioritized the issues identified there and planned to fix a bunch of them in the next few months.

New features

Our developers brought 3 major new features to beta quality:

  • New Persistent Storage, completely redesigned and vastly more usable

  • Wayland and better Unsafe Browser, for better security in depth and usability

  • QR code scanning for Tor bridges

We will only release these features officially in Tails 5.8 (December 2022), but you can try them already in Tails 5.8~beta1!

Donation campaign

We launched our end-of-year donation campaign.

Donations from passionate people like you are our most valuable source of funding because they guarantee our independence. We are a very small nonprofit and our yearly budget is ridiculously small compared to the value of Tails.

Donate now to fight surveillance and censorship!

Releases

Tails 5.5 was released on October 17, including:

  • Update Thunderbird to 102.3.0.

    Thunderbird 102 is a major update with many changes to the navigation, folder icons, and address book.

    Thunderbird 102 also includes important 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.

  • Always ask to configure a screen locking password when pressing Ctrl+L and no administration pasword was set. (#19090)

Tails 5.6 was released on October 25.

Metrics

Tails has been started more than 698 160 times in September, and 736 378 times in October. This makes 23 517 boots a day on average.

Posted
Test the new Persistent Storage and Wayland support

We are extremelly proud to present you a beta of 2 new major features of Tails: a complete redesign of the Persistent Storage and the migration to Wayland, which brings a better Unsafe Browser.

This beta also includes an easier way to enter Tor bridges in Tails by scanning a QR code.

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.

We will only release these features officially in Tails 5.8 (December 20), but you can try Tails 5.8~beta1 already!

New Persistent Storage

Since January 2021, we have been working on a complete redesign of the Persistent Storage.

The Persistent Storage hasn'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.

We've worked hard since 2021 to implement a new design and completely rewrite the code in Python.

The new Persistent Storage doesn'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's looks so much better!

Wayland and better Unsafe Browser

Tails 5.8~beta1 replaces the deprecated X.Org display system with Wayland.

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

For example, since Tails 4.8, the Unsafe Browser is disabled by default because a security vulnerability in another application in Tails could start an invisible Unsafe Browser, reveal your IP address, and deanonymize you.

Wayland fixes this vulnerability and makes it safe to reenable the Unsafe Browser by default.

Wayland also brings in 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

Enjoy!

QR code scanning for Tor bridges

Tails 5.8~beta1 makes it easier to enter new Tor bridges in Tails by scanning a QR code.

To get a QR code, you can either:

We are aware that the QR codes that are currently provided are too big to be easy to scan. We are working with Tor to make them smaller and easier to scan.

How to test Tails 5.8~beta1?

You can either install Tails 5.8~beta1 on a new USB stick or upgrade your Tails USB stick with an existing Persistent Storage to Tails 5.8~beta1.

Keep in mind that this is a test image. We tested that it is not broken in obvious ways, but it might still contain undiscovered issues.

Please, report any new problem to tails-testers@boum.org (public mailing list).

Get Tails 5.8~beta1

To download 5.8~beta1

Direct download

BitTorrent download

To install Tails on a new USB stick

Follow our installation instructions:

The Persistent Storage on the USB stick will be lost if you install instead of upgrading.

To upgrade your Tails USB stick and keep your persistent storage

  1. Make a backup a your current Persistent Storage in case something goes wrong.

  2. We don't provide automatic an update to 5.8~beta1, but you can do a manual upgrade to 5.8~beta1 and keep your current Persistent Storage.

  3. If you want to stop using 5.8~beta1, you can do a manual upgrade to Tails 5.6.

    Once Tails 5.7 is out on November 22, you will have to do a manual upgrade from Tails 5.8~beta1 to 5.7.

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.

Tails 5.6 is out

Changes and updates

  • Update Tor Browser to 11.5.5.

  • Update the Linux kernel to 5.10.149. This should improve the support for newer hardware: graphics, Wi-Fi, and so on.

Fixed problems

  • When a manual upgrade is required, Tails now always points to the release notes of the latest version, instead of pointing sometimes to a deprecated version. (#17069)

For more details, read our changelog.

Known issues

None specific to this release.

See the list of long-standing issues.

Get Tails 5.6

To upgrade your Tails USB stick and keep your persistent storage

  • Automatic upgrades are available from Tails 5.0 or later to 5.6.

    You can reduce the size of the download of future automatic upgrades by doing a manual upgrade to the latest version.

  • If you cannot do an automatic upgrade or if Tails fails to start after an automatic upgrade, please try to do a manual upgrade.

To install Tails on a new USB stick

Follow our installation instructions:

The Persistent Storage on the USB stick will be lost if you install instead of upgrading.

To download only

If you don't need installation or upgrade instructions, you can download Tails 5.6 directly:

What's coming up?

Tails 5.7 is scheduled for November 22.

Have a look at our roadmap to see where we are heading to.

Tails 5.5 is out

Changes and updates

  • Update Thunderbird to 102.3.0.

    Thunderbird 102 is a major update with many changes to the navigation, folder icons, and address book.

    Thunderbird 102 also includes important 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.

  • Update Tor Browser to 11.5.4.

  • Update the Linux kernel to 5.10.140. This should improve the support for newer hardware: graphics, Wi-Fi, and so on.

  • Make the wget command line utility use a different Tor circuit every time.

Fixed problems

  • Always ask to configure a screen locking password when pressing Ctrl+L and no administration pasword was set. (#19090)

  • Add standard fields to /etc/os-release. (#12372)

Known issues

None specific to this release.

See the list of long-standing issues.

Get Tails 5.5

To upgrade your Tails USB stick and keep your persistent storage

  • Automatic upgrades are available from Tails 5.0 or later to 5.5.

    You can reduce the size of the download of future automatic upgrades by doing a manual upgrade to the latest version.

  • If you cannot do an automatic upgrade or if Tails fails to start after an automatic upgrade, please try to do a manual upgrade.

To install Tails on a new USB stick

Follow our installation instructions:

The Persistent Storage on the USB stick will be lost if you install instead of upgrading.

To download only

If you don't need installation or upgrade instructions, you can download Tails 5.5 directly:

What's coming up?

Tails 5.6 is scheduled for October 25.

Have a look at our roadmap to see where we are heading to.

Tails report for August 2022

Highlights

  • We are hiring a Fundraising Lead. Please help us pass the word!

  • We made lots of progress on a complete rewrite of the Persistent Storage that implements a new design from 2021.

    For example, the new Persistent Storage won't require restarting each time you activate a new feature and will make it easier to persist more settings in the future.

    You can sneak peek at our experimental USB image! Don't use it for security just yet.

  • We did an initial deployment of Mirrorbits to handle our downloads, instead of our current custom scripts. Mirrorbits will make downloads more reliable by freeing us from some manual maintenance work when a mirror goes down, make downloads a bit faster by optimizing based on IP locations, and allow us to do stats on the number of downloads.

    We also bought the domain name tails.net, so this new infra will live under https://download.tails.net/ in some weeks.

  • We travelled to Brazil to meet local activists, train them on Tails, and do usability test of Tor Connection and 18784.

    The many fixes that we did to the installation instructions since we last tested them in December 2021 gave excellent results. All the test participants could install and start Tails pretty easily!

Releases

Metrics

Tails has been started more than 765785 times this month. This makes 24703 boots a day on average.

Posted
Tails 5.4 is out

Changes and updates

  • Harden several aspects of our Linux kernel. (#18302, #18858, and #18886)

  • Disable HTTPS-only mode in the Unsafe Browser to make it easier to sign in to Wi-Fi networks.

  • Update Tor Browser to 11.5.2.

  • Update tor to 0.4.7.10.

  • Update the Linux kernel to 5.10.136. This should improve the support for newer hardware: graphics, Wi-Fi, and so on. It will also fix an important vulnerability (19081)

For more details, read our changelog.

Known issues

None specific to this release.

See the list of long-standing issues.

Get Tails 5.4

To upgrade your Tails USB stick and keep your persistent storage

  • Automatic upgrades are available from Tails 5.0 or later to 5.4.

    You can reduce the size of the download of future automatic upgrades by doing a manual upgrade to the latest version.

  • If you cannot do an automatic upgrade or if Tails fails to start after an automatic upgrade, please try to do a manual upgrade.

To install Tails on a new USB stick

Follow our installation instructions:

The Persistent Storage on the USB stick will be lost if you install instead of upgrading.

To download only

If you don't need installation or upgrade instructions, you can download Tails 5.4 directly:

What's coming up?

Tails 5.5 is scheduled for September 20.

Have a look at our roadmap to see where we are heading to.

Tails report for July 2022

Here are some highlights of what happened in July in Tails-land:

  • The Management and Fundraising Teams worked on the fundraising position job description, which is now live in the website.

  • The new Project Manager's introductory period is over and we're all very happy with the immediate impacts of her work, which already results in better planning, organizing and communicating inside the project (see the job description above as an example). You rock, disoj! :)

  • The UX Team published a new footer in the website (that was in June, actually, but it's worth mentioning!).

Releases

Tails 5.2 was released on July 12 with Thunderbird 91.11.0 and Tor Browser 11.5 (based on an Extended Support Release of Firefox).

Tails 5.3 was released on July 26, based on Debian 11.4 with Linux 5.10.127, and containing Tor Browser 11.5.1 with uBlock fixed and enabled once again (broken since 5.2).

Metrics

Tails has been started more than 766861 times this month. This makes 24737 boots a day on average.

Posted
Tails 5.3.1 is out

This release is an emergency release to fix a security vulnerability in the Linux kernel.

Changes and updates

  • Update the Linux kernel to 5.10.127-2, which fixes CVE-2022-34918, a vulnerability that allows applications in Tails to gain administration privileges.

    For example, if an attacker was able to exploit other unknown security vulnerabilities in Tor Browser, they might then use CVE-2022-34918 to take full control of your Tails and deanonymize you.

    This attack is very unlikely, but could be performed by a strong attacker, such as a government or a hacking firm. We are not aware of this attack being used in the wild.

  • Update Thunderbird to 91.12.0.

Fixed problems

For more details, read our changelog.

Known issues

None specific to this release.

See the list of long-standing issues.

Get Tails 5.3.1

To upgrade your Tails USB stick and keep your persistent storage

  • Automatic upgrades are available from Tails 5.0 or later to 5.3.1.

    You can reduce the size of the download of future automatic upgrades by doing a manual upgrade to the latest version.

  • If you cannot do an automatic upgrade or if Tails fails to start after an automatic upgrade, please try to do a manual upgrade.

To install Tails on a new USB stick

Follow our installation instructions:

The Persistent Storage on the USB stick will be lost if you install instead of upgrading.

To download only

If you don't need installation or upgrade instructions, you can download Tails 5.3.1 directly:

What's coming up?

Tails 5.4 is scheduled for August 23.

Have a look at our roadmap to see where we are heading to.