Quicker Emergency Shutdown for TAILS

Are you a security researcher, journalist, or intelligence operative that works in TAILS--exploiting TAILS' brilliant incognito & amnesic design that forces all of your network traffic through the Tor anonymity network? Great! This post is for you.

TAILS: The most secure OS available

TAILS is amnesic; it's designed to leave no trace of the fact that it was used on your laptop. But what if someone literally steals your laptop while you're working with classified information in TAILS? Not only will they get access to all of the tabs open in your Tor Browser (gaining access to your accounts for any sites you're currently logged into, gaining the ability to impersonate and send messages as you, etc), but they'd also be able to access the contents of your decrypted persistent drive!

Let's say you're a journalist, activist, whistleblower or a human rights worker in an oppressive regime. Or an intelligence operative behind enemy lines doing research or preparing a top-secret document behind a locked door. What do you do to protect your data, sources, or assets when the secret police suddenly batter down your door? How quickly can you actually act to shutdown your laptop and shred your RAM and/or persistent volume?

What if you had a magnetic trip-wire tied from your body to your laptop such that it would trigger the TAILS emergency shutdown if the cable got disconnected by you jumping to your feet or falling off your chair at the sudden bang of your front door being reduced to splinters?

Using a BusKill cable with your TAILS drive can help shave off those precious seconds needed to trigger an emergency shutdown that will help keep you, your data, and your contacts safe.

ⓘ Note: If you'd prefer to buy a BusKill cable than make your own, you can buy one fully assembled here.


Security experts agree: TAILS is by far the most secure Operating System for high-risk situations. Hell, even the NSA listed it in their "Capabilities Development Risk Matrix" as having a "CATASTROPHIC" impact to their worldwide surveillance efforts, noting it leaves the NSA with "Near-total loss/lack of insight to target communications, presence," What a great endorsement 🙂

TAILS is listed in this NSA Top Secret slide as a "Catastrophic" impact to their surveillance attempts
This Top-Secret slide lists TAILS as a "CATASTROPHIC" impact to the NSA's global surveillance program (source)

Rapid Emergency Shutdown

Image of a USB magnetic breakaway adapter
This USB magnetic breakaway adapter makes it easier to trigger an emergency shutdown in TAILS

Indeed, in the same spirit that guided our creation of BusKill, TAILS was designed to facilitate a rapid emergency shutdown, which includes a step that overwrites the system RAM to thwart cold boot attacks.

The fastest way to trigger the TAILS emergency shutdown is to physically yank out the USB drive.

This action can be made quicker by utilizing a BusKill cable, which adds a magnetic breakaway adapter (type A or type C) in-line to the USB bus and runs from your body to your laptop--triggering the TAILS emergency shutdown if your laptop was physically separated from you or if you were forced out of your chair.

For more information about BusKill, see the original article that introduced it. Or to buy a BusKill cable, click here.


Edward Snowden PortraitIf you're serious about security, Qubes OS is the best OS available today. It's what I use, and free. Nobody does VM isolation better.
- Edward Snowden, whistleblower and privacy advocate

While TAILS is by far the most secure OS for high-risk situations, its amnesic qualities certainly sacrifice usability for security. Depending on your risk model, you may want to opt for QubesOS instead, which--when using a Whonix Disposable VM, FDE, and BusKill--may provide sufficient security for your needs while also providing persistence to make its day-to-day usage much easier.

QubesOS is the OS-of-choice for Michael Altfield, Edward Snowden, and many other security experts.

If you'd like to purchase a BusKill cable, click here.

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