The anti-NSA PC: perfectly configure Tails Linux

Protect online privacy with Tails

Surf anonymously and securely, you can do a lot with Windows. Edward Snowden probably knows more than most people. To protect his communications, he used the Tails Linux distribution. CHIP shows how you can easily use hardened Linux from the USB stick.

Even if you don’t want to know what the NSA is monitoring and what systems it has already infiltrated, you shouldn’t give up and surf the Internet as anonymously and securely as possible. That’s also possible with Windows 10 and 11, but the operating system itself isn’t exactly a data protection officer’s dream. Tails, a hardened Linux that Edward Snowden also used, does it better.

Download: Tails

Tails works from USB, but also works from DVD or VM.

Tails works from USB, but also works from DVD or VM.

Image: chip

Hardened Linux Live

Tails is not difficult to use, it is a specially hardened Debian Linux that comes with many useful tools. With Tor Browser, you will find a modified Firefox that uses the Tor network out of the box. Although NSA & Co. also keeps an eye on the anonymization network, it remains in our opinion the best tool for surfing without being detected. The built-in Thunderbird mailer should be familiar to most users, so emails can be securely encrypted.

But the great thing about Tails is that you operate it like a live system. Normally, you pack the software on a USB flash drive and boot your PC from it. The installed Windows remains intact when surfing the net with Tails, not only are you protecting your anonymity, but you are also safe from malware. The live system is an optimal protection shield. There is the option to land in a new environment the next time you start Tails or to save the settings permanently to the stick.

Simple and fast: Tails is a hardened Debian Linux with pre-installed software.

Simple and fast: Tails is a hardened Debian Linux with pre-installed software.

Image: chip

This is what you need for the Tails stick

With our Tails download we give you the right image for the USB stick. The stick must offer at least 8 GB of space. Important: Anything previously stored on the key will be lost when the Tails image is written. You can also run Tails with older laptops or PCs, hardware requirements for operation:
  • CPU: Since Tails 3.0 a 64-bit compatible CPU is usually required, tools like CPU-Z show if your system can do this. Tip: If it’s not really old, then it works.
  • RAM: at least 2 GB
But you don’t have to build a USB key with Tails, there are two alternatives. On the one hand, you can also burn a DVD with the live operating system in a very old way. On the other hand, it’s also a bit more convenient with Tails in a virtual machine. However, the VM option is not as secure as the USB key method. The corresponding ISO images are available on the Tails website. You can use VirtualBox for use in the virtual machine.

Downloads: VirtualBox

Older processors also support 64-bit instructions.

Older processors also support 64-bit instructions.

Image: chip

Check the tails

The creators of Tails recommend checking the download in any case. This is very easy to do through the website. Make sure the latest version of Tails is loaded and click Check Tails. Then select image upload and wait for a while. The verification should spit out a success message with “Verification successful”.
You can check Tails download.

You can check Tails download.

Image: chip

Write Tails on the stick

Windows users get the Etcher tool, install and launch it, and plug in the USB drive for Tails. In Etcher, click on “Flash from file” and select the Tails image. Then it continues via “Select target”, there you enter the USB drive. Again the warning: Installing Tails will erase all data on the USB key. Once done, click on “Flash” and the USB key will be created.

Then you still need to boot your computer from the USB drive. For Windows 10, restart by holding down the SHIFT key and select “Use a device” in the options then “USB storage”. It then takes a while and you end up in a black boot menu. The selected launch option “Tails” is fine and you should land directly in the live system without intervention.

Download: Burner

You can use the Etcher tool to write Tails to a USB key.

You can use the Etcher tool to write Tails to a USB key.

Image: chip

Getting started with Tails

You can change the language on startup, otherwise you end up in a system with English menus and US keyboard layouts and formats. Just set the “Language” item to “German”, Tails automatically adjusts the rest to German settings. Click Start Tails.

You now land on the desktop without an additional login and can start programs via “Applications”. Surfing is done with the Tor browser, Thunderbird is also included, plus the KeePassXC password manager, so the software selection is the right one.

But to get started, you need a network connection. If you are connected to the router with a LAN cable, you are immediately online. WiFi users click on the small arrow in the upper right corner of the desktop. It says “WLAN not connected”. Click on the entry and then on “Select a network”. Now your WiFi should appear and you can connect to it with your password.

Download: Tails

It is best to change the language from the start.

It is best to change the language from the start.

Image: chip

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