Earlier this week, the Tails Project released the newest version of their security-focused Linux distro, Tails 4.2. They advised users to upgrade as soon as possible, as the latest release fixes multiple security vulnerabilities found in the previous version, Tails 4.1.1.
What is Tails?
Expanded as “The Amnesic Incognito Live System”, it is a Debian GNU/Linux-based distro that focuses on delivering online privacy to users who require a portable operating system. The distro accomplishes much of this by guarding users’ anonymity by forcing all Internet connections through the Tor (The Onion Router) network to help them circumvent censorship. It is amnesic by design amnesic, living in RAM, and not writing to any other drives unless strictly specified.
First released in June 2009, the next iteration on the Gentoo-based Linux distro Incognito, Tails garnered some notoriety back in 2013 when documentary film director/producer Laura Poitras, journalists Glenn Greenwald, and Barton Gellman disclosed that they used it. They pointed out that they are using it along with the email encryption software PGP in their communications with American whistle-blower Edward Snowden that leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA). At the same time, Snowden was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and subcontractor.
The Tails 4.2 release is both a feature and bug-fix release.
The release fixes a litany of security issues affecting multiple components, including the Tor browser, Thunderbird, the Linux kernel, Cyrus SASL, and Python ECDSA.
On the features side of the release, the automatically upgraded feature is enhanced. In the past, users a few months behind in updates sometimes had to perform two or three automatic upgrades in a row to get to the current version. The new version 4.2 fixes that. Now all Tail users can upgrade from all previous versions to the latest version.
Also changed were automatic upgrades. Automatic upgrades now use less memory and feature optimized download sizes making it quicker to get updates.
The Tails development team reports that Tail 4.3 will be a bug fix only update scheduled for release next month on February 11.
Tails 4.2 is not a ‘go-to’ distro for the average Linux user. Instead, it’s best suited for users who require and care about online anonymity such as whistleblowers, activists, stalking victims, and even Silk Road drug dealers.
The Whonix Project, another Debian GNU/Linux–based security-focused Linux distro, does a great job in identifying potential users of the distro, “Tails is better suited for high-risk users who face aggressive, targeted surveillance.”
Tails 4.2 is only for 64-bit processors and is available for download from the Tails website.