Tails: An essential distro or an accessory to compliment a tin foil hat for the average user?

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We live in a world of many perceptions.  Some people believe government is your friend, some believe government is watching your every move ready to pounce if you speak out and there’s some that believe the government is in co-hoots with aliens from another planet.  There’s David Icke who in his books will tell you about trans-dimensional lizards that control the planet and their hybrids which have infiltrated high ranking positions of power.   So with all these theories (and many more in-between) there needs to be a distro to step up to the mark and have your back covered.  – I say that with a little glint in my eye.

We have seen news reports of mass surveillance.  I don’t need to repeat to anyone the revelations about GCHQ and all the related articles which have come about as a result.  I have though taken a chance to look at this distro further and ask, are we really at this level of paranoia or fear?  I’ve made no secret of having my computing life in the cloud.  Whilst I may not buy into the hype of Google Glass (please see earlier articles) I do use, enjoy and get value from the many Google services I use.  For example at present time, locally I have used only about 40mb of my SSD whilst every other file is up there on the cloud.  My local files are those which are sync’d with the drive just so that in-case of net outage or no coverage, I can still exercise a modicum of productivity.

I’ll start this review by saying I don’t trust the government in many areas.  I think there is a great difference between what they say, what they think and what they do.  I think that use events to further their goals, but are we being set up (as some would say) for a world where a government controls and monitors every aspect of our lives 1984 style? No.  I don’t think so.  It seems though Hollywood is an integral part of the more extreme conspiracy theorists world view and a seemingly reasonable concern (as in privacy in general) can be stretched out of all proportion akin to a Hollywood blockbuster.

Looking at Tails

For those that don’t know, Tails offers complete privacy (or close to) by way of Tor, its a Debian based distro provided as a bootable image and the idea is you place it on a USB or DVD so that when you turn off the machine, no data is stored locally.  Whilst the distro is aimed at the “mainstream average user” I cannot see any other user having issues configuring or indeed using any other distro (with the correctly installed tools) to do exactly the same thing.

You’ve got OpenOffice, GIMP, Audacity included for your other needs and they don’t need any further explanation.

From the site:

Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location.

To which I ask, since when has a geolocation had an ounce of accuracy? And so what if the sites you visit are noticed by those in power?  I know there are some countries where people are not privy to the freedoms of here in the UK or US but what is the issue here?  If my ISP wants to document and keep every single site I visit then fine, if government wants to look through that list then so be it.  How does this have any impact on me or anyone else?  Why should I care?

Living by a computing life that is almost the antithesis of Tails, have I suffered anything negative experience? No.  Here’s another “selling” point from the homepage of Tails:

connect to services that would be censored 

If we are talking about a torrent site, as the UK ISP’s found when forced by court order to block them, just as quickly proxy alternatives sprung into action rendering the court order pretty worthless.  I suppose for residents of countries who take exception to free speech and opinion then this would be useful, but here in the UK? or the US?

Taking this “fear” to the next level, even Tails with its tweaked apps that facilitate privacy via Tor network, you can still be watched of sorts, because the issue here is the Tor exit nodes.  But thats something which I won’t spend any more time explaining as I’m trying to look at this distro individually as an option for the desktop and this is not a discussion about privacy or encryption.

Whilst the mainstream user may be in mind for this distro, people who use it with no clue as to how it works are taking a leap of faith.  If they are not coders and that paranoid how do they know that Tails has no secret backdoors? The word of others? What if Tails or similar distro has been infiltrated by evil men in black who want people trying to hide their identity to use their distro?

Of course I’m taking things to extremes here, but if the paranoid can do it, why can’t I?

Tails wipes RAM on shut down but I’m sorry, I cannot see RAM having any use to anyone when the power is off the machine.  Data residue? Show me – don’t buy it sorry.  Maybe people get RAM mixed up with EPROM? or, as I’ve found with many people who are not tech interested, they get RAM and HD space mixed up – thinking they are one and the same.

I did get a chuckle from this comment on their homepage:

1 GB of RAM to work smoothly. Tails is known to work with less memory but you might experience strange behaviours

Because with some of the paranoid people I’ve met, “strange behaviours” are a part of everyday life.

I say that those who understand these issues and have concerns will be able to set their own distro to function in much the same way as Tails if they wish.  Mainstream users with a concern can use this, but its hardly cutting edge stuff.  As for me, I’ll continue my computing life as I am and am very happy with ChromeOS and my Chromebook.

When the agents knock at my door or a helicopter starts hovering outside the window – I’ll let you know.

You can get your Tails download at:

https://tails.boum.org/

And tin foil can be found in many stores around the UK.

* Please accept my apologies for the flippant and sarcastic tone in this article – I am simply having problems fathoming the levels to which paranoia has reached these days.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. ~xtian says:

    I keep a USB install of Tails in my wallet for when I’m using someone else’s computer. It’s handy to have just for that.

    1. openbytes says:

      But do you need Tails? You can put most distro’s onto a USB.

      And what steps have you taken to ensure that the code is clean? Word of mouth? Recommendation of others? How do they know? If you have so severe concerns for privacy as to require Tails, you can’t be sure of anything?

      Do you have a debit card? What steps do you take to protect all the information about purchases and locations on that?

      The point is, unless you live in a country where freedom of speech is removed, then there’s little it offers in my view.

      Banking is often cited….I’d ask anyone to highlight a bank fraud where the person lost out when it wasn’t as a result of them voluntarily giving their details to a scammer?

      1. ~xtian says:

        That’s a fair call. I’m a metalhead so I opt for *overkill*.

        1. openbytes says:

          It wasn’t said though as a criticism of yourself, you are free to use whatever you wish and of course there’s no suggestion you harbour any “paranoia” but then the issue I have with the entire debate (outside of what you use) is that it the paranoia has fuelled some really silly people, thats not the fault of Tails, more the fault of average users thinking there are issues when infact there are not.

          As for being a metalhead and you turning your distro to 11 (I hope you get that)…. I am also…. Big Haggard, COF and Vintesorg fan here.

          1. ~xtian says:

            HEH.

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