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Tails is one of the best Tor alternatives available out there. It is a live operating system which could be started from any computer using a USB drive, DVD or a SD card. It has in-built. Tails is a favorite companion tool of Tor. — Roger Dingledine, co-founder of the Tor Project One of the most robust ways of using the Tor network is through a dedicated operating system that enforces strong privacy- and security-protective defaults. That operating system is Tails. — Electronic Frontier Foundation. The Tails team is happy to publish Tails 4.5, the first version of Tails to support Secure Boot. This release also fixes many security vulnerabilities. You should upgrade as soon as possible.

Even though we do our best to offer you good tools to protect yourprivacy while using a computer, there is no magic or perfect solution to sucha complex problem. Understanding well the limits of such tools is a crucialstep to, first, decide whether Tails is the right tool for you, and second,make a good use of it.

If the computer has been compromised by someone having physical accessto it and who installed untrusted pieces of hardware (like akeylogger), then it might be unsafe to use Tails.

When starting your computer on Tails, it cannot be compromised by a virus in your usual operatingsystem, but:

  • Tails should be installed from a trusted system. Otherwise it mightbe corrupted during installation.

  • Plugging your Tails USB stick in acompromised operating system might corrupt your Tails installation,and destroy the protection that Tails provides. Only use yourTails USB stick to start Tails.

See the corresponding FAQ.

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It is also impossible for Tails to protect against attacks made throughthe BIOS or other firmware embedded in the computer. These arenot managed or provided by the operating system directly, and no operating system can protect againstsuch attacks.

See for example, this attack on BIOS byLegbaCore.

Tor is about hiding your location, not about encrypting your communication.

  • Tails relies on the Tor anonymity network to protect your privacy online: all software is configured to connect to the Internet through Tor if an application tries to connect to the Internet.
  • Also, Tails and Subgraph OS are Linux-based distributions with built-in Tor support. In the past, Hornet was also an anonymity network that provided higher network speeds compared to Tor.

Instead of taking a direct route from source to destination, communicationsusing the Tor network take a random pathway through several Tor relays thatcover your tracks. So no observer at any single point can tell where the datacame from or where it's going.

The last relay on this circuit, called the exit node, is the one thatestablishes the actual connection to the destination server. As Tor does not,and by design cannot, encrypt the traffic between an exit node and thedestination server, any exit node is in a position to capture any trafficpassing through it. See Tor FAQ: Can exit nodes eavesdrop oncommunications?.

For example, in 2007, a security researcher intercepted thousands of privateemail messages sent by foreign embassies and human rights groups around theworld by spying on the connections coming out of an exit node he was running.See Wired: Rogue Nodes Turn Tor Anonymizer Into Eavesdropper'sParadise.

To protect yourself from such attacks you should use end-to-end encryption.

Tails includes many tools to help you using strong encryption whilebrowsing, sending email or chatting, as presented on our aboutpage.

Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or your local network administratorcan see that you're connecting to a Tor relay, and not a normal web server forexample. Using Tor bridges in certainconditions can help you hide the factthat you are using Tor.

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The destination server that you are contacting through Tor can know whether yourcommunication comes from a Tor exit node by consulting the publiclyavailable list of exit nodes that might contact it. For example using the TorBulk Exit List tool fromthe Tor Project.

So using Tails doesn't make you look like any random Internet user.The anonymity provided by Tor and Tails works by trying to make all of theirusers look the same so it's not possible to identify who is who amongst them.

See also Can I hide the fact that I am using Tails?

A man-in-the-middle attack (MitM) is a form of active eavesdropping in which theattacker makes independent connections with the victims and relays messagesbetween them, making them believe that they are talking directly to each otherover a private connection, when in fact the entire conversation is controlled bythe attacker.

While using Tor, man-in-the-middle attacks can still happen between the exitnode and the destination server. The exit node itself can also act as aman-in-the-middle. For an example of such an attack see MW-Blog: TOR exit-nodedoing MITMattacks.

Again, to protect yourself from such attacks you should use end-to-endencryption and while doing so taking extra care at verifying the serverauthenticity.

Usually, this is automatically done through SSL certificates checked by yourbrowser against a given set of recognized certificate authorities).If you get a security exception message such as this one you might be the victim ofa man-in-the-middle attack and should not bypass the warning unless you have anothertrusted way of checking the certificate's fingerprint with the people runningthe service.

But on top of that the certificate authorities model of trust on the Internet issusceptible to various methods of compromise.

For example, on March 15, 2011,Comodo, one of the major SSL certificates authorities, reported that a user accountwith an affiliate registration authority had been compromised. It was then usedto create a new user account that issued nine certificate signing requests forseven domains:,,, certificates),,, and global trustee.See Comodo: The Recent RACompromise.

Later in 2011, DigiNotar, a Dutch SSL certificate company, incorrectly issuedcertificates to a malicious party or parties. Later on, it came to light thatthey were apparently compromised months before, perhaps as far back as May of 2009,or even earlier. Rogue certificates were issued for domains such as,,, and many more. See The TorProject: The DigiNotar Debacle, and what you should do aboutit.

This still leaves open the possibility of a man-in-the-middle attack even whenyour browser is trusting an HTTPS connection.

On one hand, by providing anonymity, Tor makes it more difficult to perform aman-in-the-middle attack targeted at one specific person with the blessingof a rogue SSL certificate. But on the other end, Tor makes it easier for peopleor organizations running exit nodes to perform large scale MitM attempts, orattacks targeted at a specific server, and especially those among its userswho happen to use Tor.

Quoted from Wikipedia: Man-in-the-middle attack, Wikipedia: Comodo Group#Certificate hacking and TorProject: Detecting Certificate Authority compromises and web browsercollusion.

Tor is designed for low-latency communications: the time for a requestto go from your computer to the destination server and back is generallyless than 1 second. Such a low latency makes it possible to use Tor forweb browsing and instant messaging.


As a consequence of Tor being designed for low-latency communications, anattacker could in theory correlate the timing and shape of the trafficentering and exiting the Tor network todeanonymize Tor users.Such attacks are called end-to-end correlation attacks, because theyrequire observing both ends of a Tor circuit at the same time.

For example, an ISP and a website could potentially collaborate todeanonymize a Tor user by observing that the same particular network trafficpattern enters the Tor network at the ISP and then reaches thewebsite shortly afterward.

End-to-end correlation attacks have been studied in many research papersbut we are not aware of any actual use to deanonymize Tor users.In the past, law enforcement agencies preferred exploitingvulnerabilities in Tor Browser and Tails to deanonymize users instead ofperforming end-to-end correlation attacks.

Tails protects better than Tor Browser from such softwarevulnerabilities but does not protect better from end-to-end correlationattacks.

See also:

  • Tor Project: One cell is enough to break Tor'sanonymityfor an overview of the academic research on end-to-end correlation attacks.
  • Ars Technica: Firefox 0-day in the wild is being used to attack Torusersabout a software vulnerability in Tor Browser being exploited in 2016.
  • Vice: Facebook Helped the FBI Hack a ChildPredatorabout a software vulnerability in Tails being exploited in 2017.

The documents that you might save on storage devices are not encrypted bydefault, except in the Persistent Storage, which is entirely encrypted.But Tails provides you with tools to encrypt your documents, such asGnuPG, or encrypt your storage devices, such as LUKS.

It is also likely that the files you might create will contain evidence that they were created using Tails.

If you need to access the local hard-disks of the computer you are using, beconscious that you might then leave traces of your activities with Tails on it.

Numerous files formats store hidden data or metadata inside of the files. Wordprocessing or PDF files could store the name of the author, the date and time ofcreation of the file, and sometimes even parts of the editing history of thefile, depending on the file format and the software used.

Please note also, that the Subject: as well as the rest of the header lines of yourOpenPGP encrypted email messages are not encrypted. This is not a bug of Tails orthe OpenPGP protocol;it's due to backwards compatibility with the original SMTP protocol. Unfortunately noRFC standard exists yet for Subject: line encryption.

Image file formats, like TIFF of JPEG, probably take the prize for most hidden data.These files, created by digital cameras or mobile phones, contain a metadataformat called EXIF which can include the date, time and sometimes the GPScoordinates when the picture was taken, the brand and serial number of the device which tookit, as well as a thumbnail of the original image. Image processing software tendsto keep this metadata intact. The internet is full of cropped or blurred images inwhich the included EXIF thumbnail still shows the original picture.

Tails doesn't clear the metadata of your files for you. Yet. Still it's inTails' design goal to help you do that. For example, Tails already comes withthe Metadata anonymisation toolkit.

For example, don't use the same Tails session to both check your work email andanonymously publish a document. That is, unless you're OK with an adversary being able to correlate those tasks.

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Adversaries could relate different tasks done in a Tails session by:

  • Analyzing your Tor circuits

    Tails and the Tor Browser naturally connect to different websites via different circuits in the Tor network.But if you connect to the same website several times in one session,like logging into two accounts on the same social media website, Tails and the Tor Browseruse the same circuit. This website could then link those activities by notingthat they come from the same Tor circuit.

    To ensure you use new Tor circuits for Internet traffic:

    • If you only use the Tor Browser to connect to the Internet, you can click its New Identity button to create a new circuit.
    • If you use multiple applications, you can restart Tails.

    For more about how Tor does or does not preserve anonymity, see the Tor Project's support pages.

  • Gaining access to your Persistent Storage

    You can prevent the information in your Persistent Storage from being linkedto other activities by switching between several USB sticks that run Tails.That way the Persistent Storage of, say, your activist email in Thunderbird can be kept separatefrom your use of Tails for work.

    We also recommend this step if you worry about someone gaining physical accessto your computer or USB sticks. This is particularly a concern if you have touse Tails on an insecure or public computer, becauseTails can't protect against compromised hardware.

Tor allows you to be anonymous online; Tails allows you to leave no trace on thecomputer you're using. But again, neither or both are magic spells for computersecurity.

If you use weak passwords, they can be guessed by brute-force attacks with orwithout Tails in the same way. To know if your passwords are weak and learn goodpractices to create better password, you can read Wikipedia: Weak Passwords.

Tor Project Tails

Tails, as well as all the software it includes, are continuously being developedand may contain programming errors or security holes.