Corporations have built a hall of one-way mirrors: from the inside, you can see only apps, web pages, ads, and yourself reflected by social media. But in the shadows behind the glass, trackers quietly take notes on nearly everything you do. These trackers are not omniscient, but they are widespread and indiscriminate. The data they collect and derive is not perfect, but it is nevertheless extremely sensitive.
A data-snorting company can just make low bids to ensure it never wins while pocketing your data for nothing. This is a flaw in the implied deal where you trade data for benefits.
You can limit what you give away by blocking tracking cookies. Unfortunately, you can still be tracked by other techniques. These include web beacons, browser fingerprinting and behavioural data such as mouse movements, pauses and clicks, or sweeps and taps.
Tor, the original anti-surveillance browser, is based on an old, heavily modified version of Firefox.
Most other browsers are now, like Chrome, based on Google’s open source Chromium. Once enough web developers started coding for Chrome instead of for open standards, it became arduous and expensive to sustain alternative browser engines. Chromium-based browsers now include Opera, Vivaldi, Brave, the Epic Privacy Browser and next year’s new Microsoft Edge.
TAILS is an acronym for “The Amnesic Incognito Live System.”
TAILS is a highly-secure operating system (and a host of cool applications) designed to be booted off of a DVD or USB thumb drive. This not only makes TAILS easy to transport, but also ensures that TAILS can be booted and instantly useful from nearly any PC, Mac, or Chromebook. TAILS is built on Linux, a name you might recognize because it’s a popular, free, and open-source operating system that’s been available since 1991. TAILS, in particular, runs on a variant of Linux known as “Debian,” which became available in 1996.
Third and most importantly, when setup correctly, TAILS helps ensure that all of your communications — email, web browsing, chat, and more — are encrypted, made anonymous, and then routed in such a way that it’s extremely difficult to detect or trace them.
Its unique approach to offering such well-regarded security is the creative use of two virtual machines (or VMs) running in tandem on one host computer. One of these VMs is known as the Gateway while the other is known as the Workstation.
Compared to TAILS, Whonix only provides a few free, open-source applications and those need to be set up fairly extensively. The list includes:
The TOR browser, for safe web browsing
Firefox, for less secure web browsing
Icedove, for emailing, secured by the Enigmail extension to encrypt and authenticate emails using a well-know and secure protocol called “OpenPGP”
HexChat, for internet chats
VLC, to open and view every kind of video file that’s ever existed