Tails short description states that all outgoing connections to the Internet must to go through the Tor network.

This is almost true. Let's clarify this a bit.


Tor does not support UDP so we cannot simply redirect DNS queries to the Tor transparent proxy.

Most DNS leaks are avoided by having the system resolver query the Tor network using the DNSPort configured in torrc.

There is a concern that any application could attempt to do its own DNS resolution without using the system resolver; UDP datagrams are therefore blocked in order to prevent leaks. Another solution may be to use the Linux network filter to forward outgoing UDP datagrams to the local DNS proxy.

Tails also forbids DNS queries to RFC1918 addresses; those might indeed allow the system to learn the local network's public IP address.

An exception to the above DNS configuration is the clearnet user used to run the Unsafe Browser, which uses the DNS server provided for DHCP for resolving.

resolv.conf is configured to point to the Tor DNS resolver, and NetworkManager and dhclient are configured not to manage resolv.conf at all:

Network filter

One serious security issue is that we don't know what software will attempt to contact the network and whether their proxy settings are set up to use the Tor SOCKS proxy correctly. This is solved by blocking all outbound Internet traffic except Tor, and explicitly configuring all applications to use one of these.

The default case is to block all outbound network traffic; let us now document all exceptions and some clarifications to this rule.

Tor user

Tor itself obviously has to connect to the Internet without going through the Tor network. This is achieved by special-casing connections originating from the debian-tor Unix user.

Unsafe Browser and the clearnet user

The clearnet user used to run the Unsafe Browser is granted full network access (but no loopback access) in order to deal with captive portals.

Local Area Network (LAN)

Tails short description talks of sending through Tor outgoing connections to the Internet. Indeed: traffic to the local LAN (RFC1918 addresses) is wide open as well as the loopback traffic obviously.

LAN DNS queries are forbidden to protect against some attacks.

Local services whitelist

The Tails firewall uses a whitelist which only grants access to each local service to the users that actually need it. This blocks potential leaks due to misconfigurations or bugs, and deanonymization attacks by compromised processes. For specifics, see the firewall configuration where this is well commented: config/chroot local-includes/etc/ferm/ferm.conf

Automapped addresses

AutomapHostsOnResolve is enabled in Tor configuration, and a firewall rule transparently redirects to the Tor transparent proxy port the connections targeted at the virtual mapped address space.

Only the amnesia user is granted access to the Tor transparent proxy port, so in practice only this user can use this hostname-to-address mapping facility.


Tor does not support IPv6 yet so IPv6 communication is blocked.

UDP, ICMP and other non-TCP protocols

Tor only supports TCP. Non-TCP traffic to the Internet, such as UDP datagrams and ICMP packets, is dropped.

An unfortunate consequence of fully blocking ICMP is that Path MTU Discovery is broken. We workaround this problem by enabling Packetization Layer Path MTU Discovery. For details, see:

RELATED packets

As a general rule, the Tails' firewall does not accept RELATED packets: accepting them enables quite a lot of code in the kernel that we don't need, so we prefer reducing the attack surface a bit by blocking them. See the "[Tails-dev] Reducing attack surface of kernel and tightening firewall/sysctls" thread for details.

However, RELATED ICMP packets to the loopback interface are let through, in order to smooth user experience whenever a program's local network connection is blocked, and the TCP stack generates ICMP packets (e.g. with TYPE=3 CODE=3, i.e. the destination port is unreachable) to let the program know what is going on early, instead of letting it wait for a timeout.

netfilter's connection tracking helpers

We disable netfilter's automatic conntrack helper assignment (nf_conntrack_helper), that would otherwise enable a lot of code in the Linux kernel that parses incoming network packets, which seems potentially unsafe compared to the little gain it brings in the use case of Tails:

config/chroot local-includes/etc/modprobe.d/no-conntrack-helper.conf