Anonymity or privacy remains a fundamental factor to consider every time you jump on the internet. Increasingly, users want to be sure they have total control of what they share and who can spy on them. This concept begs a comparison between browsers, and in this article, I will dive into a Whonix vs Tails comparison.
But I would attempt to consider them separately before analyzing how similar or how different these two are.
What do I Need to Know About Whonix?
Without much ado, let’s start this Whonix vs Tails article by a dive in Whonix.
Whonix is software that is designed to help users use applications in total anonymity. Its goal is to preserve the user’s privacy. This software is compatible with macOS, Windows, and Linux, but it comes as a preinstalled software on Qubes OS (Qubes-Whonix).
How does Whonix work?
Whonix is very efficient because it utilizes the Tor network, which is one of my favorite software for enhancing anonymous internet communication. Whonix forces all connections to pass through Tor
To protect a user’s anonymity on the Internet all connections are forced through several security mechanisms including the Tor network. This is in some ways an equivalent of using the Tor browser, just that it is much more than that.
What is Tor?
While we have previously written about the Tor browser, I must explain that Tor is a free, open-source software for enabling anonymity.
It runs on the effort of thousands of volunteers who run computer servers with the sole aim of keeping you anonymous on the internet. Data is passed along numerous relays (Tor servers) with the final relay passing the data to the destination (website) the user intended. This simply makes the information difficult to trace, and that is exactly why Whonix uses Tor.
How does Whonix differ from Tor Browser?
With this description, you may be confused into thinking Whonix and Thor are the very same thing. But this isn’t the case. Whonix would go the extra mile of offering protection even when viruses compromise the Tor security.
In the case where Tor is a browser, Whonix is an entire operating system, that could be installed on almost any other OS. Whonix Os would come with a browser, an IRC client, and the office suite pre-configured.
Is Whonix different from a VPN?
The short answer is NO, it is not a VPN. The one huge difference is that VPNs can be legally compelled to reveal some of your privacy to authorities. VPNs are mostly faster than Tor, but can not be categorized as anonymity networks.
The anonymity provided by Whomix is by design and not policy, so a single point of the system doesn’t know about the user identity.
While using Whonix, you would not have to set up a VPN.
What Advantages Does Whonix Have?
Finally before switching over to tails, here are a few reasons you would want to use Whonix.
Firstly, it is efficient in wading off vector attacks.
It is also very efficient in preventing IP leaks. Because of its technical design, IP leaks that would apply to some other software may not be applicable in Whonix in most cases.
For some context, you must note that it is very hard for many software to hide IP addresses. SO users may think their IP is hidden when it is in fact not.
Whonix goes beyond masking IP addresses and would foil threats like time attacks, data collection techniques as well as deanonymization of keystrokes.
What do I Need to Know About Tails?
Since this is a Whonix vs Tails article, I would take a dive now into the TAILS OS.
TAILS a.k.a The Amnesic Incognito Live System is a portable operating system. Its sole purpose is to help users stay anonymous while navigating the internet. This is in fact, the real incognito.
One of the several features that keep users off-grid even while browsing is TOR. Just like I pointed out earlier, it helps users navigate without leaving a trace. This way, they avoid tracking and preying eyes.
How Does TAILS work?
TAILS would turn your computer into a secure machine temporarily. All you would have to do is shut down your computer and start it up from the TAILS USB stick. It would not matter the OS you are running and would work on most computers not older than 10 years.
The TAIL OS would take about 30 minutes to download and can be installed on USB sticks of 8GB and above.
The TAIL OS would run independent of your computer’s OS, it wouldn’t use the hard disk, and you would not need to worry about viruses. The exception to complete protection would be if you install TAILS from a system with viruses.
What is TAILS Amnesia Feature?
One of TAILS biggest features is Amnesia. This feature means that whenever the system restarts, every activity that was carried out on it is wiped away, and it presents a fresh empty slate.
On other OS, almost any action a user makes would leave some sort of trace. It will be easy to figure out:
- Files that were opened or deleted
- Visited websites even in incognito mode
- Devices and Wi-Fi used
- Passwords stored on the computer even those on password managers
With TAILS everything is run from the computer memory and not the hard disk. The memory is totally wiped out at restart.
What is TAILS Encrypted Persistent Storage?
We just talked of the Amnesia feature. There is a manual override to it. TAILS allows users to keep some files and config settings in encrypted Persistent Storage on the USB stick. This means by choice. users can preserve docs, bookmarks, emails, and some software.
This feature is optional, and if total security is what you need, you do not have to use it.
What is TAILS Digital Security Toolbox
The Digital Security Toolbox is a set of applications that helps users in working on sensitive docs. These apps come ready to use and are set to safe defaults so that mistakes would be avoided.
What Advantages Do TAILS Have?
It has an easy-to-use nice user Interface and would be able to boot from USB on any kind of machine regardless of age. Its Amnesia feature makes it very secure as every data is cleared once it is turned off.
It also gives a quick and nice IP address hiding option.
Whonix vs Tails: System Requirements
RAM – 4 GB
Disk Space – 32 GB
Processor – 64-bit Intel with Intel VT-x / AMD processor AMV-V
RAM – 2GB
DVD or USB stick of 8GB minimum
Processor – 64-bit x86-64 compatible processor
Whonix vs Tails: Installation and setup
For both installations and setups, they are pretty easy, it would only depend on the user (Advanced or Beginner) and what features they expect to use.
For TAILS, all the user needs to do is download the ISO file. They would have to flash the ISO file to a USB drive using third-party software like BalenaEtcher.
In the case of Whinox, it is slightly more complicated. The user would need to deploy 2 virtual machines. One of them would be the Whonix Gateway or the Gateway to the Tor network.
Final Thoughts on Whonix vs Tails
For most internet users, it is not uncommon to have seen adverts on your phone for things you may have searched for on other devices. In fact, the term for this is remarketing. In the modern world, this is the level of connectivity we can expect.
While we can argue that ads are essential to both producers and consumers, we must understand that the level of personal information used in generating ads can become harmful if put in the hands of the wrong person.
All our habits and use patterns are tracked and monitored on the internet and there is an increasing need to own your space and safeguard your personal details.
I have given a comparison of two operating systems that could be a solution to your privacy issues on the internet. They are very handy and not complicated for even the less tech-savvy users. My recommendation is that if you are an internet user, you must consider your privacy more seriously.
Of the two systems discussed, your final choice would depend on what you feel is easiest for you. My Whonix vs Tails comparison hasn’t been to promote any, but to expose you to two good alternatives. I would highly recommend either of them. Personally, I use both, but that may be because I love messing around with whatever new tech I can lay my hands on.
If you loved this Whonix vs Tails article please drop your comments so that we know you are interested in this kind of comparison.