The name Edward Snowden will be remembered as one of the biggest whistleblowers in recent history, if not the most important one. People know more about Edward Snowden than they know about close relatives, but it seems that little has been revealed until now about his methods and how he managed to remain undetected. It all has to do with Linux, of course.
Edward Snowden didn’t simply copy some files and then hand them to the press. He actually took some steps to ensure that he would not get caught before pulling it off. One of the methods was to use PGP for all communications via email, but that is just the icing on the cake.
According to a wired.com report, Edward Snowden and his collaborators, Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, used a Linux distribution called Tails, which actually stands for The Amnesic Incognito Live System. It’s not one of the most famous distros and not many users have heard of it, but it is designed to leave the smallest footprint possible, either online or locally.
The Tails Linux distribution is based on Debian and uses Tor technologies to keep the users hidden from prying eyes as much as possible. Locally, the operating system leaves no trace because you don’t need to install it. It’s a Live OS, which means that you can run it from a USB stick or CD.
Nothing has been left to chance. For example, the browser is not a default one that you can find and download from anywhere. It’s actually based on Firefox ESR (extended support release) and it is custom built with patches from Iceweasel and Tor Browser. It also uses a number of dedicated Firefox extensions that work in concert to further secure the OS.
To make things even more interesting, the developers of the operating system are not known to the public. It’s possible to get in touch with them on some mailing lists, but no one actually knows their names. Most developers out there take great pride in their work, but for Tails it is exactly the opposite.
Edward Snowden made use of the Tails Linux distribution for his dealings and it seems to have helped. It’s also true that he might have gotten away even using a normal operating system, but the fact that he chose Tails says a lot about the quality of the OS.
If you want to give it a go, you can download the latest version from Softpedia.