1. Tails project
    1. What is the relationship between Tor and Tails?
    2. Why is Tails based on Debian and not on another distribution?
    3. Why isn't Tails based on Ubuntu?
    4. Why does Tails ship the GNOME Desktop?
  2. Hardware compatibility
    1. Does Tails work on 32-bit computers?
    2. Does Tails work on ARM architecture, Raspberry Pi, tablets, smartphones (mobile phones), or Apple M1?
  3. Installation
    1. Do I need a USB stick dedicated to Tails?
    2. Can I install Tails permanently onto my hard disk?
    3. Can I install Tails with UNetbootin, YUMI, Rufus or my other favorite tool?
    4. Should I update Tails using apt upgrade or Synaptic?
    5. Can I buy a preinstalled Tails USB stick or DVD?
  4. Web browser
    1. Why is JavaScript enabled by default in Tor Browser?
    2. Can I install other add-ons in Tor Browser?
    3. Should I manually update add-ons included in Tor Browser?
    4. How to analyse the results of online anonymity tests?
    5. Is Java installed in the Tor Browser?
  5. Persistent Storage
    1. Can I save my custom settings?
    2. How strong is the encryption of the Persistent Storage and LUKS?
    3. Is it possible to recover the passphrase of the Persistent Storage?
  6. Networking
    1. Can I use Tails with a VPN?
    2. Can I choose the country of my exit nodes or further edit the torrc?
    3. How does the DNS resolution work in Tails?
    4. Why does Tails automatically connect to several websites when starting?
    5. Can I help the Tor network by running a relay or a bridge in Tails?
    6. Can I run a Tor onion service on Tails?
    7. Can I use ping in Tails?
  7. Software not included in Tails
    1. Can my favorite software be included in Tails?
    2. Can I download using BitTorrent with Tails?
    3. Can I download videos from websites?
  8. Desktop environment
    1. Why is the time set wrong?
  9. Other security issues
    1. Is it safe to use an older version of Tails?
    2. Why does Tails include old versions of software?
    3. Can I verify the integrity of a Tails USB stick or DVD?
    4. Can I use the memory wipe feature of Tails on another operating system?
    5. Where is the New Identity button?
    6. Does Tails collect information about its users?
    7. Does Tails need an antivirus?

Tails project

What is the relationship between Tor and Tails?

See our explanation about why does Tails use Tor.

Why is Tails based on Debian and not on another distribution?

We are deeply rooted and involved in Debian. The friendships, relationships, and technical expertise we have in Debian have many benefits for Tails, and we are not ready to build the same relationship with Ubuntu, OpenBSD, or any other distribution. See our statement about our relationship with upstream for details.

阅读文章 [为什么有这么多系统衍生自 Debian] (http://upsilon.cc/~zack/blog/posts/2011/09/why_there_are_so_many_debian_derivatives/) by Stefano Zacchiroli.

Why isn't Tails based on Ubuntu?

首先,请阅读上一个问题问题的答案。

  1. 对Tails而言, Ubuntu 的开发周期太快了。
  2. Ubuntu adds features in ways that we find dangerous for privacy. For example Ubuntu One (partly discontinued) and the Amazon ads and data leaks.
  3. Ubuntu is led by a company that takes most of the important decisions and has the power to make them happen.
  4. We usually ship kernels and video drivers from Debian backports. The result is comparable to Ubuntu in terms of support for recent hardware.
  5. We think that the general quality of the maintenance work being done on packages matters from a security perspective. Debian maintainers generally are experts in the fields their packages deal with; while it is generally not the case outside of the limited number of packages Ubuntu officially supports.
  6. We are actively working on improving AppArmor support in Tails; a security framework that is already used in a few Ubuntu applications.
  7. We are also working on adding compiler hardening options to more Debian packages included in Tails; another security feature that Ubuntu already provides.

Why does Tails ship the GNOME Desktop?

We had users ask for LXDE, XFCE, MATE, KDE, and so on, but we are not going to change desktop. According to us, the main drawback of GNOME is that it requires quite a lot of resources to work properly, but it has many advantages. The GNOME Desktop is:

  • Well integrated, especially for new Linux users.
  • Very well translated and documented.
  • Doing relatively good regarding accessibility features.
  • Actively developed.
  • Well maintained in Debian, where it is the default desktop environment.

We invested quite some time in acquiring GNOME knowledge, and switching our desktop environment would require going through that process again.

We are not proposing several desktop environments to choose from because we want to limit the amount of software included in Tails.

Hardware compatibility

See also:

Does Tails work on 32-bit computers?

No. Tails stopped working on 32-bit computer in Tails 3.0 (June 2017). Software built for 64-bit processors can benefit from several improvements that make it harder for attackers to exploit security vulnerabilities.

Before Tails 3.0, we estimated that only 4% of our users still had a 32-bit computer. We decided that the increased security for everybody else was more important than the compatibility with 32-bit computers.

Does Tails work on ARM architecture, Raspberry Pi, tablets, smartphones (mobile phones), or Apple M1?

For the moment, Tails is only available on the x86_64 architecture. The Raspberry Pi, most tablets, and most smartphones (mobile phones) are based on the ARM architecture. Tails does not work on the ARM architecture so far.

For this reason, Tails does not work on Mac models that use the Apple M1 chip.

Look for a tablet with an AMD or Intel processor. Try to verify its compatibility with Debian beforehand, for example make sure that the Wi-Fi interface is supported.

Installation

Do I need a USB stick dedicated to Tails?

Yes. Tails requires a USB stick dedicated to only running Tails.

If it were possible to use the same USB stick with another operating system, for example to store files to use on Windows, a virus in the other operating system could corrupt your Tails.

That's why your Tails USB stick is not recognized in Windows and why we discourage installing other live operating systems on the same USB stick.

To store files in your Tails USB stick, use the encrypted Persistent Storage. To exchange files between Tails and another operating system, use a separate USB stick.

Can I install Tails permanently onto my hard disk?

This is not possible using the recommended installation methods. Tails is designed to be a live system running from a removable media: USB stick or DVD.

This is a conscious decision as this mode of operation is better for what we want to provide to Tails users: amnesia, the fact that Tails leaves no traces on the computer after a session is closed.

Can I install Tails with UNetbootin, YUMI, Rufus or my other favorite tool?

No. Those installation methods are unsupported. They might not work at all, or worse: they might seem to work, but produce a USB stick that does not behave like Tails should. Follow the download and installation documentation instead.

Should I update Tails using apt upgrade or Synaptic?

No. Tails provides upgrades every six weeks, that are thoroughly tested to make sure that no security feature or configuration gets broken. If you upgrade the system yourself using apt or Synaptic, you might break things. Upgrading when you get a notification from Tails Upgrader is enough.

Can I buy a preinstalled Tails USB stick or DVD?

No, we don't sell preinstalled Tails devices.

Selling preinstalled devices would in fact be a pretty bad idea:

  • If burned on a DVD, then this DVD would be outdated on the next release. This means after 6 weeks at most.
  • If installed onto a USB stick, then it would be impossible to verify that the Tails on the USB stick is genuine. Trusting that a Tails USB stick is genuine should be based either on cryptographic verification or on personal trust (if you know someone you trust who can clone a Tails USB stick for you). But once Tails is installed on a USB stick it is not possible to use our cryptographic verification techniques anymore. Being able to trust your Tails USB stick is something that we really care about.

Web browser

Why is JavaScript enabled by default in Tor Browser?

Many websites today require JavaScript to work correctly. As a consequence JavaScript is enabled by default in Tails to avoid confusing many users. But Tor Browser takes care of blocking dangerous JavaScript functionalities.

Tor Browser also includes a security level and the NoScript extension to optionally disable more JavaScript. This might improve security in some cases. However, if you disable JavaScript, then the fingerprint of your Tor Browser differs from most users. This reduces your anonymity.

We think that having JavaScript enabled by default is the best possible compromise between usability and security in this case.

We have plans to allow storing the security level in the Persistent Storage. (#9700)

Can I install other add-ons in Tor Browser?

Installing add-ons in Tor Browser might break the security built in Tails.

Add-ons can do many things within the browser, and even if all the networking goes through Tor, some add-ons might interact badly with the rest of the configuration or leak private information.

  1. They can track and reveal information about your browsing behaviour, browsing history, or system information, either on purpose or by mistake.

  2. They can have bugs and security vulnerabilities that can be remotely exploited by an attacker.

  3. They can have bugs breaking the security offered by other add-ons and break your anonymity.

  4. They can break your anonymity by making your browsing behaviour distinguishable amongst other Tails users.

Unless proven otherwise, no add-on, apart from the ones already included in Tails, have been seriously audited and should be considered safe to use in this context.

Should I manually update add-ons included in Tor Browser?

No. Tails provides upgrades every six weeks, that are thoroughly tested to make sure that no security feature or configuration gets broken. Updating add-ons in Tor Browser might break the security built in Tails.

How to analyse the results of online anonymity tests?

Fingerprinting websites, such as https://coveryourtracks.eff.org/, try to retrieve as much information as possible from your browser to see if it can be used to identify you.

As explained in our documentation about the fingerprint of Tor Browser in Tails, Tails provides anonymity by making it difficult to distinguish a particular user amongst all the users of Tor Browser (either in Tails or on other operating systems).

So, the information retrieved by such fingerprinting websites is not harmful for anonymity in itself, as long as it is the same for all users of Tor Browser.

For example, the user-agent string of Tor Browser includes Windows NT but this value preserves your anonymity even if you run Windows NT. On the other hand, changing this value makes you distinguishable from other users of Tor Browser and, as a consequence, weakens your anonymity.

Furthermore, we verify the result of those websites before each release, see our test suite.

Is Java installed in the Tor Browser?

Tails does not include a Java plugin in its browser because it could break your anonymity.

Persistent Storage

Can I save my custom settings?

… like Tor Browser preferences, Tor configuration, desktop background, mouse and touchpad settings, etc.

By default Tails does not save anything from one session to another. Only the Persistent Storage allows you to reuse data across different Tails sessions. See the list of features of the Persistent Storage.

We are frequently requested to add new features to the Persistent Storage but we are usually busy working on other priorities. See the list of issues about the Persistent Storage.

How strong is the encryption of the Persistent Storage and LUKS?

Tails uses LUKS to encrypt the Persistent Storage. This is the same technique as the one we recommend for creating and using encrypted volumes in general.

LUKS is a very popular standard for disk encryption in Linux. LUKS is the default technique for full-disk encryption proposed by many distributions, including Debian and Ubuntu, when installing a regular system.

The Persistent Storage is created with the default LUKS parameters used by udisks and cryptsetup.

To understand better how the Persistent Storage works, see our design document.

Is it possible to recover the passphrase of the Persistent Storage?

No. The encryption of the Persistent Storage is very strong and it is impossible to recover the passphrase of the Persistent Storage. If the passphrase is weak enough, an attacker can try many possible passphrases and end up guessing your passphrase. Such an attack is called brute-force attack.

Networking

Can I use Tails with a VPN?

Tails does not work with VPNs.

There are three scenarios where a VPN would be involved in Tails:

  • Using a VPN instead of Tor.
  • Using a VPN to connect to Tor (VPN before Tor).
  • Connecting to a VPN using Tor (VPN after Tor).

For more information, see our blueprint on VPN support.

Using a VPN instead of Tor

Unlike Tor, using a VPN does not provide anonymity.

Tor provides anonymity by making it impossible for a single point in the network to know both the origin and destination of a connection.

With VPNs, the administrators of the VPN can know both where you are connecting from and where you are connecting to.

It is fundamental to Tails that all outgoing traffic be forced through Tor. We have no plans to make it possible to use a VPN instead of Tor in the future.

Using a VPN to connect to Tor (VPN before Tor)

In some situations, you might need to use a VPN to connect to Tor. For example, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) might restrict connections to Tor relays.

In these situations, try using Tor bridges to bypass the restrictions imposed by your ISP or local network.

It is currently impossible to use a VPN in Tails to connect to Tor. We might make this possible in the future. (#17843)

Connecting to a VPN using Tor (VPN after Tor)

In some situations, it can be useful to connect to a VPN through Tor:

  • To access services that block connections coming from Tor.
  • To access resources only available inside a VPN, for example, a server at your company or university.

It is currently impossible to connect to a VPN in Tails using Tor. We might make this possible in the future. (#5858)

Can I choose the country of my exit nodes or further edit the torrc?

It is possible to edit the Tor configuration file (torrc) with administration rights but you should not do so as it might break your anonymity.

For example, as mentioned in the Tor Browser FAQ, using ExcludeExitNodes is not recommended because "overriding the exit nodes can mess up your anonymity in ways we don't understand".

How does the DNS resolution work in Tails?

See our design document on this topic.

Why does Tails automatically connect to several websites when starting?

Tor requires the system clock to be well synchronized in order to work properly. When starting Tails, a notification is displayed while the clock is being synchronized.

This synchronization is made by sending HTTPS queries through Tor to several websites and deducing a correct time from their answers. The list of websites that could be queried in this process can be found in /etc/default/htpdate.

See also our design document on this topic.

Can I help the Tor network by running a relay or a bridge in Tails?

It is currently impossible to run a Tor relay or bridge in Tails.

Can I run a Tor onion service on Tails?

It is technically possible to use Tails to provide an onion service but it is complicated and not documented yet.

For example, some people have been working on self-hosted services behind Tails-powered onion services.

Can I use ping in Tails?

It is impossible to use ping in Tails, because ping uses the ICMP protocol while Tor can only transport TCP connections.

Software not included in Tails

Can my favorite software be included in Tails?

First of all, make sure that this software is already available in Debian, as this is a requirement to be included in Tails. Adding to Tails software which is not in Debian imply an additional workload that could compromise the sustainability of the project. On top of that, being in Debian brings many advantages:

  • It is included in the Debian process for security updates and new versions.
  • It is authenticated using OpenPGP signatures.
  • It is under the scrutiny of the Debian community and its many users and derivatives, including Ubuntu.

To check whether a software is in Debian, search for it on https://packages.debian.org/. If it is not yet available in Debian, you should ask its developers why it is not the case yet.

Second, this software might not be useful to accomplish our design goals. Refer to our design documents to understand which are the intended use cases, and the assumptions on which Tails is based.

We also try to limit the amount of software included in Tails, and we only add new software with a very good reason to do so:

  • We try to limit the growth of the images and automatic upgrades.
  • More software implies more security issues.
  • We avoid proposing several options to accomplish the same task.
  • If a package needs to be removed after its inclusion, for example because of security problems, then this might be problematic as users might rely on it.

After considering all this, if you still think that this software is a good candidate to be included in Tails, please explain us your proposal on tails-dev@boum.org.

If a software is not included in Tails, but is included in Debian, you can use the Additional Software feature of the Persistent Storage to install it automatically every time you start Tails.

Here is some of the software we are often asked to include in Tails:

Can I download using BitTorrent with Tails?

Tails does not ship any BitTorrent software and is unlikely to do so in the future.

The problem with using BitTorrent over Tor is double:

Can I download videos from websites?

You can install youtube-dl as an additional package. youtube-dl allows downloading videos from more than 700 websites.

For example, to download a YouTube video, execute the following command in a terminal:

torsocks youtube-dl "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWII85UlzKw"

For more information, refer to the official youtube-dl documentation.

Desktop environment

Why is the time set wrong?

When Tails starts, the system timezone is set to UTC (Greenwich time). So, this time might be a few hours in the future if you are west of the United Kingdom, or in the past if you are east of the UK. The minutes should be accurate.

We do this for anonymity reasons: if some application reveals your actual timezone, it might help identifying who you are.

Having all Tails users set to the same timezone, makes it more difficult to distinguish you amongst all the other Tails users.

We are working on a custom clock applet with configurable timezone. See #6284.

Other security issues

Is it safe to use an older version of Tails?

It is not safe to use an older version of Tails. Only the latest version of Tails should be used.

Because it is not safe to use an older version of Tails, we distribute only the latest version of Tails.

Older versions of Tails have security vulnerabilities and other issues that are fixed in the latest version of Tails.

We understand why you might want to use an older version of Tails. For example, the latest version of Tails might not be compatible with your hardware.

If you are experiencing an issue with the latest version of Tails, you can check our list of known issues to find out if there is a workaround for the issue you are experiencing.

If there is no known workaround for the issue you are experiencing, you might want to make a bug report to let us know about the issue.

Why does Tails include old versions of software?

Tails includes the software versions that are found in Debian stable. Even though the software versions might be old, they receive security fixes through the Debian security team.

Can I verify the integrity of a Tails USB stick or DVD?

It is impossible to verify the integrity of a Tails USB stick or DVD while running Tails from it. It would be like asking to someone whether they are lying: a true liar would always pretend to tell the truth.

If you worry that your Tails might be corrupted, do a manual upgrade from a trusted operating system to upgrade it to a trusted version of Tails.

Can I use the memory wipe feature of Tails on another operating system?

The memory wipe mechanism that Tails uses on shutdown to protect against cold boot attacks should be reusable in other Linux distributions.

If you want to implement this feature outside of Tails, have a look at the corresponding design documentation.

Where is the New Identity button?

There is no New Identity button for Tails as a whole.

The New Identity feature of Tor Browser is limited to the browser.

In the same way as the New Identity button of Tor Browser restarts the browser, you have to restart Tails before using a different identity.

See also our warning about using Tails sessions for only one purpose at a time.

Does Tails collect information about its users?

When Tails starts, two HTTPS requests are made automatically to our website through Tor:

  • A security check is performed to know if security issues have been announced for this version of Tails. The language of the working session is passed along with this request to display the notification in the preferred language of the user.
  • Tails Upgrader checks for newer versions. The version of the running Tails is passed along with this request.

We believe it is important to notify the user of known security issues and newer versions. We calculate statistics based on the security check to know how many times Tails has been started and connected to Tor. Those statistics are published in our monthly reports.

Does Tails need an antivirus?

No, as other Linux systems, Tails doesn't require an antivirus to protect itself from most malwares, such as viruses, trojans, and worms. There are various reasons why Linux operating systems generally don't need antivirus softwares, including the permission design of Linux systems.

See the Wikipedia page on Linux malware for further details.