For chatting and instant messaging, Tails includes the Pidgin Instant Messenger.

You can use it to connect to IRC or XMPP (also known as Jabber) servers, and have several accounts connected at the same time.

To start Pidgin choose Applications ▸ Internet ▸ Pidgin Instant Messenger or click on the Pidgin icon in the application shortcuts.

For more detailed documentation refer to the official Pidgin user guide.

Predefined accounts

Two accounts are configured in Pidgin by default:

  • irc.oftc.net to connect to the OFTC IRC server, and join the #tails chats.
  • 127.0.0.1 to connect to the I2P IRC server.

Those accounts are deactivated when Tails is started. To activate them, choose Accounts ▸ Enable Accounts , and select the account that you want to enable in the submenu.

Off-the-record (OTR) encryption

As explained on its official page, Off-the-Record messaging allows you to have private conversations over instant messaging by providing:

  • Encryption No one else can read your instant messages.
  • Authentication You are assured the correspondent is who you think it is.
  • Deniability The messages you send do not have digital signatures that are checkable by a third party. Anyone can forge messages after a conversation to make them look like they came from you. However, during a conversation, your correspondent is assured the messages he sees are authentic and unmodified.
  • Perfect forward secrecy If you lose control of your private keys, no previous conversation is compromised.

To learn how to use OTR with Pidgin, refer to the documentation from Security in-a-box: How to Use OTR to Initiate a Secure Messaging Session in Pidgin.

To store your OTR keys and preferences across separate working sessions, you can activate the Pidgin persistent volume feature.
In a private OTR conversation over IRC, a message sent using the /me command is not encrypted. The person receiving the message is notified by a warning.

Random username generation

Every time you start Tails, a random username is generated for all Pidgin accounts.

The generator uses a list of common English first names, and modifies them, so that they are almost unique, and does not reveal that you are using Tails.

It is based on the language confluxer by Christopher Pound.

If you want to reuse the same username across separate working sessions, you can activate the Pidgin persistent volume feature.

Adding support for another protocol

For security reasons, it is only possible to use IRC and XMPP with Pidgin in Tails. Here are the prerequisites to enable another protocol that is supported by Pidgin otherwise:

  1. The support in Pidgin for this protocol has been successfully tested in Tails.
  2. Someone volunteers to maintain the corresponding support in Tails on the long term.
  3. Someone has verified that the security record of the desired plugin (including open bugs) is good enough.

If you want to work on this issue, see our contribute page.