back to article New secure OS will put Tails between NSA's legs

Secure Linux distribution Tails has reached the milestone of a version 1.0 release, after its developers crushed a laundry list of bugs. The Debian-based operating system is a “live OS” - it boots from removable media rather than a hard disk. It also funnels all data through Tor and uses a smattering of cryptography and …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't think this will stop the NSA or GCHQ, it's already been shown that Tor is not infallible.

    If they do have difficulty they will just demand access claiming it is necessary for homeland security.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Depends - it won't stop them if you are a high-value target worthy of directing a lot of resources, hell they will just bug your machine(s) at $100k+ sort of cost in that case.

      What is does do is make data hoovering that bit more difficult and expensive. If enough people used it then they would only be able to investigate high-value targets, sort of like the good old days when human resources (i.e. a spy) had to do the work, or that quaint idea of having proper judicial oversight.

    2. jubtastic1

      For the moment

      By throwing a lot of resources at Tor they can correlate enough traffic to make some sense of it, but the more people use Tor the less effective and more expensive those resources become.

      Whether Tor would even work if everyone was using it is questionable, but assuming it would, making sense of the traffic at that point would become impossible.

    3. Rick Giles
      Big Brother

      A kick in the nutz

      "If they do have difficulty they will just demand access claiming it is necessary for homeland security."

      And then they need a kick in the balls for using that tired old excuse. Twice.

  2. vagabondo

    PGP/GPG encrypted mail

    The problem with this is that it takes two to tango. Unless you can persuade your correspondent to send (a link to) their public key and provide a fingerprint, it doesn't work.

    My experience over the last 15 years has been that other parties (including RBS and Pinsent Masons) absolutely insist on sending sensitive documents via unencrypted email. Most senior managers just laugh at requests to enable secure mail because "if it mattered why doesn't anyone else do it?"

  3. Anonymous Coward

    One problem with Tor

    The weak link is the exit nodes....people presume these are the "good" guys. Yes it's scrambled and goes through loads of relays, but if you own enough relays and own enough exit nodes, it's not beyond the computing powers these guys have to put it all back together.

    Of course they will say...curse those drug dealers and terrorists using this darknet, we can't find them if they use that...snigger.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. vagabondo

      Re: NSA

      And just what rôle does the BIOS code have once the boot loader is running?

  5. Dexter

    Wasn't TOR originally designed by DARPA (i.e. the US Govt)?

    So I'm sure the NSA is well aware of how to track TOR stuff if it wants to.

  6. jubtastic1

    Little Brother

    By Cory Doctorow has a similar OS called paranoid linux, also home router based city wide mesh networks, It's a fictional story about a grassroots attempt to reclaim democracy in a surveillance society, free online, I enjoyed it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I had a friend who was a bit of a conspiracy nut and he stated once that if you built an 8 foot wall around your house, the feds would scream foul because they couldn't see what you were doing. If he hadn't passed of cancer, he surely would have had a stroke if he saw what was going on today. My point, and his, is simply that wouldn't the act of downloading and using this be enough to raise eyebrows and draw attention? Would someone be "put on a list" as soon as they clicked download? I understand that this has huge benefits for say, money transactions, but would the conspiracy nuts on the other side see it that way?

  8. Oh Homer Silver badge

    re: "draw attention"

    The problem now for the NSA is that everyone is taking one measure or another to protect themselves from the NSA's prying eyes, so no single part of that frenzy is likely to draw any more attention than the rest of it.

  9. Tikimon Silver badge

    Which Guy out of thousands...?

    Crackable or not, this is worth doing!

    Let's assume the Feds note everyone who downloads Tor et. al and puts them on the Naughty list. You become one of thousands of people in Guy Fawkes masks. They would have to "remove the mask" from each of us, one by one, finding Nothing Much again and again. Right now it's easy to link us together and everything about us with a few clicks. The harder it gets, the less they will examine any one of us.

    Where's the Fawkes mask icon when you need it?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I used to like TAILS, but two things turned me off of it:

    If you want anything more than a "web appliance". the amnesiac aspect quickly becomes a huge pain.

    The developers are too secretive. Originally they had a forum on their site, but it was aggressively moderated, and then killed off completely. I don't understand their motivation for that, and at the risk of sounding a bit tinfoil, that make me trust them less.

    I've since switched to Whonix, which is just slightly more work to set up, but easier to use and the people behind it seem more helpful.

  11. Lars Silver badge

    Hackers against crackers

    Now that there are both old time true crooks and officially not officially crooks then why not up the ante and use hackers against the stately sponsored crackers. At least It will give me a reason to put Linux on a stick, quite a nice thing to have with you if you have to borrow somebody's PC somewhere for some reason. As for the honest crooks they are probably looking at black and white movies to find out how information was dealt with in old times. Came to think of it, was there not a time when a crook was able to make a deal with the state revealing the crooks. Should that not apply to Snowden too. Probably not, times they are a-changin. Poor Snowden, now he is accused of making it possible for to Putin invade Crimea. Just look at this:

    A brain washed congress man, or what.

  12. RobHib

    Makes sense. boots from removable media rather than a hard disk

    This is very significant. Once we could install an OS on a hard disk then flick a read-only DIL switch and the disk would be hardware write protected.

    Today, we no longer have the option of protecting hard disks by enabling hardware write-protect. This feature of HDs seemed to have disappeared with the appearance of the IDE drive. The question of why write-protect was disabled on HDs has to my mind never been answered. Hardware write protection for the OS is a very significant factor in protecting the OS against alteration and patching etc. thus a very significant security factor.

    It makes considerable sense to develop OSes such as this, that it's not been done previously (in recent times that is) is surprising.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Makes sense.

      I think some OSs have the ability to be set to read only. Something to do with setting the run level and sadly that's about technical an explanation as I can give you. Others here, I have no doubt can explain it. The only one I've read about having this feature is OpenBSD, although I'll make the assumption that other OSs can, as well.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    was it the BBC micro that had the os in ROM? none of this booting up malarkey, switch on and the os is in memory.

    1. JaitcH

      My fingers remember the PDP 8

      @ j arthur rank

      The DEC PDP8 had a row of switches on it's front panel through which you loaded the boot. Most DEC operators had callouses on their fingers from flicking those damn switches!

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019