Privacy and security-focused Linux distribution Tails, The Amnesic Incognito Live System, has announced a major new release completely overhauling how it connects users to the Tor network.
"After connecting to a local network, a Tor Connection assistant helps you connect to the Tor network," the project maintainers explained in the release notes for the latest version, Tails 4.20.
"This new assistant is most useful for users who are at high risk of physical surveillance, under heavy network censorship, or on a poor Internet connection."
The team claimed its freshly developed wizard, which launches with the option of "easier" automatic connection or "safer" hidden connectivity, offers better protection to users who may need to hide their activity from network operations, makes it easier to connect to Tor bridges, assists with troubleshooting network connectivity issues, and walks first-time users through getting Wi-Fi up and running.
It's far from finished, though. The team is working on a laundry list of improvements, including the option to save Tor bridge details to persistent storage, automatically detect when a Wi-Fi network is not working, and the ability to detect and handle captive-portal login requirements common to commercial Wi-Fi hotspots.
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First released in June 2009 as a successor to the Incognito project but not hitting a stable 1.0 milestone until five years later, Tails aims to preserve users' privacy by routing all traffic through the Tor network – a volunteer-driven encrypted overlay network itself launched back in 2002.
Given a publicity boost by whistleblower Edward Snowden, Tails has proven popular – even if simply downloading it can get you on the NSA's naughty list. Development on the project has never ceased, from fixing security issues to improving memory privacy, the user interface, adding support for booting from USB sticks, and most recently boosting performance.
As well as the new connection wizard, Tails 4.20 includes the ability to host a website accessible only on the Tor network as an "onion service," an updated browser and email client, the latest Tor client, and a shift to Linux 5.10.46 to broaden support for running on newer hardware.
The release also includes a range of bug fixes, though comes with a warning: users looking to upgrade from a Tails 4.14 or earlier installation will need to upgrade manually, or if they've already hit a bug which breaks the update system for automatic upgrading should follow instructions on the release page to manually fix things again.
The new release is available on the Tails site now. ®