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On the 23rd of June, 2009, things were set in motion that changed the face of netsec forever.
After the suspension of the Gentoo-based, privacy-focused Linux distro Incognito in 2008, the kool kids of privacy worldwide were in dire need of a replacement. This return of the messiah came in the form of TAILS OS, or The Amnesic Incognito Live System.
The Debian-based Tails is, as suggested by the name, designed to be run live via a boot medium such as a USB stick or DVD. Inserting your boot medium and loading Tails will introduce you to a clean, minimalist desktop, based on Debian's GNOME interface. All traffic is automatically forced through Tor, and if you want to chat to your friends, the Pidgin Jabber client comes preconfigured with OTR. Thunderbird, Electrum, OnionShare and GnuPGP are a few other privacy tools that Tails comes preloaded with, among others.
Of course, the star of the show is Tails' persistence feature. Obviously, as an amnesic OS, once you pull your boot medium from your device, everything is wiped, irrecoverable, gone. So if you're a privacy geek who actually wants your files to stick around, you can configure a persistent volume to store your files, your bookmarks on Tor Browser, your PGP keys, anything you want. It'll still be as if you were never there on the host device, but plugging in your boot medium to any computer with compatible hardware and entering your password will let you pick up right back where you left off.
And it's not like Tails is a small, niche software used by only the nerdiest of basement-dwellers and paranoid creeps. In the early stages of its life, it received funding from the Tor Project, the Open Technology Fund, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and Mozilla. Even Edward Snowden acknowledges Tails as a vital part of contacting the journalists necessary for him to blow the whistle on the National Security Agency.
In the end, security is always in the hands of the user. But the Tails Project can supply the necessary tools for even a beginner to learn how to be safe on the web.