We are pleased to present you the first Tails bimonthly report ever.

This is a first try that may, or may not, be followed by others depending on the feedback we get: if you like reading such news about Tails, don't hesitate telling us!

This report sums up the work that was done on Tails in January and February 2011.

Helping third-parties do security analyses of Tails

We finished writing and published the Tails design document that presents a specification of a Privacy Enhancing Live Distribution (PELD) as well as the Tails actual implementation.

By writing this document we intend to help third-parties do security analyses of any given PELD and specifically of Tails. We also wish to help establish best practices in the field of PELD design and implementation, and thus raise the baseline for all similar projects out there.

Reviews of this document and audits of Tails are most welcome.

Preparing next release

The next Tails release, which will be called 0.7, is based on the newly released Debian Squeeze. It has been feature freezed recently and is now being tested in a wild, unsuspecting world; if it survives, we can bet it will be the best Tails release ever... until 0.8 is out of course.

Protecting against memory recovery

A new, safer way to wipe memory on shutdown was implemented. It is now also used when the boot media is physically removed: in an emergency situation, one can grab her Tails Live USB stick or Live CD and leave while the system will quickly erase her traces from the computer's memory and shut it down.

Making Tails easier to use

We enhanced the onBoard virtual keyboard; patches were obviously submitted upstream.

The Tails user interface was improved in several other ways: hiding some useless GNOME preference menu items, using a background that does not overlap with the bootloader menu, adding a shutdown button to the right of the top GNOME panel (nice idea stolen from Ubuntu).

Other noteworthy enhancements

A fix for a virtual keyboard critical bug was prepared, amongst the ton of usual release preparation work.

TrueCrypt can be optionally installed at boot time; we may not want to include TrueCrypt forever, but we at the very least we want to provide a migration path from TrueCrypt volumes created by good old Incognito to other formats.

The HTTPS Everywhere Iceweasel extension is now installed.

Queries to DNS resolvers on the LAN are now forbidden.

Writing our design document made us think more thoroughly various parts of the Tails configuration and enhance many parts of it. Moreover, we compared it with the Tor Browser Bundle configuration, picked many nice ideas from there, and generally made Tails configuration more similar to the TBB's one, which shall ease peer review and enlarge the anonymity set Tails users are part of. A notable example is the enabling of US English browser spoofing in Iceweasel.

The HTP time synchronization system is now more robust wrt. network failures.

GNOME automatic media mounting and opening was disabled to protect against a class of attacks that was recently put under the spotlights.


Tails was added to a couple spots on the Tor website:

  • https://2019.www.torproject.org/projects/projects.html.en
  • https://2019.www.torproject.org/getinvolved/volunteer.html.en#Projects

We discussed various funding and sponsoring opportunities; we have prepared three projects that shall be submitted under the Tor Project umbrella for the Google Summer of Code and other summer intership programs. One of those.

We have participated in the Debian Derivatives Census initiative (Derivatives/Census): Tails now has a dedicated page (Derivatives/Census/Tails) on the Debian Wiki; in order to better cooperate with Debian, we have followed their guidelines for Debian Derivatives (Derivatives/Guidelines); e.g. we have published a statement about our relationship with upstream.

Website design: a few visible enhancements have been pushed online, but stay tuned, some more is being worked on under the hood! Rumor says our CSS gnomes are preparing something pretty slick.

A glimpse towards the future

Bridges support: we now have a working prototype; it might not make its way into the upcoming 0.7 release though.

Accessibility tools for visually impaired people have been selected and are installed in our development Git branch.

We updated our survey of existing tools for easy install and upgrade of Tails onto USB sticks, with support for an encrypted persistent volume in mind.

More and more upcoming Tails features (including persistence, macchanger, bridge support) need ways to ask the user for input at boot time. We have researched various ways we could implement this.

We have researched how we could harden a bit Tails resistance against exploitation of security issues in bundled software (Mandatory_Access_Control, nx_bit, kernel hardening, compiler hardening options) in a way that would not be a maintenance burden... while being efficient enough to protect against some classes of attacks. We have started efforts to push such hardening features in Debian.

A general plan was thought through to reorganize the Tails user documentation. Once this is done, several entry points will be available to better fit a given user's available time and energy. In the meantime, we now at least have a nice documentation that explains how to install Tails onto a USB stick.