Carrying a secure operating system in your pocket is possible thanks to developments such as Tails and USB formats in “Live” format and self-booting that we can use for multiple tasks and on all types of equipment.
A great option since its operation is independent of the operating system of the PC where we connect it, Windows, macOS or Linux, running directly from the external medium without having to install anything on the internal storage unit and thus without affect the main system installed. And another advantage. Taking into account the very wide adoption of a port such as USB, its potential use includes tens of millions of computers in all types of formats and almost any type of hardware.
Although there are other developments that can be used, if we talk about security and privacy there is one that we especially like: Tails . Updated this November to version 4.24, it is a totally free and open source GNU / Linux distribution, based on the almighty Debian .
In addition to including a package of basic applications installed such as web browser, email client, office tools or multimedia players / editors, its strength lies in the protection of online privacy that it offers. Its default browser is Tor Browser and it uses the Tor network by redirecting communications around a distributed network of relays conducted by volunteers from around the world.
All Tails applications are configured to connect through Tor while direct (non-anonymous) connections are blocked. In addition, includes encryption tools to protect files or documents, emails or instant messages.
How to create a secure operating system
To create these Live USBs or bootable USB sticks (which are not the same or have the same objective, although in some cases they serve both uses), we have a good number of tools. Many open source and / or free such as the fireproof Rufus or other more specialized WinSetupFromUSB types to include multiple operating systems on the same medium.
The basic idea in these cases is the same. Create a flash storage medium that inserted in a USB port allows us to start it at computer startup and before the installed operating system starts up. Or on machines that do not have any system installed. The Tails developers recommend using Etcher , available for Windows, mac and Linux, and with it we carry out this practical.
We use a PC with Windows 10 (you can also do it from Linux or macOS) and a USB 3.2 pendrive, although it may be a lower one such as USB 2.0. Remember, a higher interface will offer you better performance (important for running an operating system), while a lower interface usually offers compatibility with a greater number of computers and fewer potential errors.
Use any of them, it must have at least 8 Gbytes of capacity . Save the data it contains because it will be erased when creating the medium with Tails and we start:
- Download the latest version of Tails . For the example, the USB image for Windows “tails-amd64-4.24.img” with a size of 1.2 GB. You can use direct download or torrent.
- Download the latest version of Etcher (v.1.7.0) for Windows and install the tool.
- Follow the instructions, selecting the downloaded Tails image and the pendrive you use.
And little else. With a fast unit in a few minutes you will have it ready.
Perhaps the most difficult thing for an ordinary user is to get his PC to start up on the USB stick with Tails that we have just created. All computers have special keys programmed to access UEFI / BIOS or the computer’s internal boot menu. They are activated by pressing the corresponding key during the hardware testing phase that happens when we start up the personal computer.
Manufacturers don’t make it easy because each uses different keys . Of course, they tend to be repeated on all brand computers and in most cases use the “Function”, “Escape” or “Delete” keys. If you work in Windows, on any computer you can access the USB by restarting the computer with the “Shift” key pressed and selecting it from the menu.
Once loaded and like other Linux distributions, you will see the Grub bootloader in which you can select Tails or safe mode. We enter the standard mode, select the keyboard / language to use and the additional configuration of administration password or anonymization of the MAC address. In any case, all these parameters can be configured later.
Enjoy Tails! A development that has all the basics of a Linux distribution, based on the always stable Debian, Office office suites, graphics, music and video applications, and various utilities, as well as being able to install whatever you want.
Of course, in a distro super specialized in privacy and anonymity , there is no lack of its own tools, encryption to protect files or documents, emails or instant messaging, use of the TOR network and your browser with the default DuckDuckGo search engine, and a long etc.
If you want a secure and private operating system here is one of the best . And transportable anywhere in a pocket, connectable by USB in millions of computers, without having to modify anything in the host system (if you don’t want to) and without leaving a trace once you finish.