Staying secure

Tails 1.3 released, introduces new Bitcoin Wallet

Natali Vlatko
Privacy image via Shutterstock

Tails 1.3, the Amnesic Incognito Live System famously used by Edward Snowden, has just been released and introduces the Electrum Bitcoin Wallet, on top of addressing numerous security concerns.

Tails is described as a system that can protect your privacy and anonymity online, by allowing you to anonymously surf the Internet and overcome censorship. It’s an operating system designed to be used from a DVD or USB stick completely independent of your computer’s original OS, and version 1.3 has brought in a load of new fixes and additions.

Open source privacy protection

Tails 1.3 introduces several changes which the team behind the system recommend users need to upgrade to as soon as possible. Among them, The Tor Browser has additional operating system and data security, which restricts reads and writes to a limited number of folders. Version 4.0.4 of the Tor Browser is installed in Tails 1.3, based on Mozilla Firefox 31.5.0 ESR.

For people interested in prohibiting the surveillance of their Internet connection and learning what sites are visited, Tor Browser has been a popular choice thanks to its bouncing of communications around a distributed network of relays. This prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and can also grant access to blocked websites.

Version 1.3 has also brought in obfs4 pluggable transport, which is now available to connect to Tor bridges. Pluggable transports transform the Tor traffic between the client and the bridge to help disguise Tor traffic from censors, meaning users can successfully camouflage Tor traffic from government agencies. Keyringer has also been added, enabling users to manage and share secrets using the Git and OpenPGP technologies.

Upgrades are listed on the official release notes as follows:

  • The Mac and Linux manual installation processes no longer require the isohybrid command. Removing the isohybrid command simplifies the installation.
  • The tap-to-click and two-finger scrolling trackpad settings are now enabled by default. This should be more intuitive for Mac users.
  • The Ibus Vietnamese input method is now supported.
  • Improved support for OpenPGP smartcards through the installation of GnuPG 2.

A full list of technical changes can be found via the Changelog.

Electrum Bitcoin Wallet

Another noteworthy feature of Tails 1.3 is the introduction of the Electrum Bitcoin Wallet, which is described as lightweight and particularly suited to the context of Tails. While Bitcoin itself is not completely anonymous, Electrum relies on Simplified Payment Verification (SPV) to avoid downloading the full block chain.

Want to get a little more Bitcoin friendly? The Electrum client allows your wallet to be recovered entirely from a passphrase, called seed. With this, you can use your wallet from different devices and avoid losing bitcoins in backup mistakes or hardware failures. You’re also able to sign transactions from an offline working session.

You can learn how to use Electrum via the documentation on its website, however the Tails team recommend that users activate the Bitcoin Client persistence feature to store their bitcoin wallet and preferences across separate working sessions. This is because if you lose your seed, then you lose your entire wallet, which sucks mightily.

The next Tails release is scheduled for April 7th.

Natali Vlatko
An Australian who calls Berlin home, via a two year love affair with Singapore. Natali was an Editorial Assistant for (S&S Media Group).

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