Everything you do on the Internet from Tails goes through the Tor network.

Tor encrypts and anonymizes your connection by passing it through 3 relays. Tor relays are servers operated by different people and organizations around the world.

You cannot access the Internet from Tails until you are connected to Tor. For example, Tor Browser displays the error message Proxy server refusing connections until you are connected to Tor.

To connect to the Tor network:

  1. Connect to a local network, wired, Wi-Fi, or mobile.

  2. The Tor Connection assistant appears to help you connect to the Tor network.

  3. Choose whether you want to:

    • Connect to Tor automatically

    • Hide to your local network that you are connecting to Tor

    The implications of both methods are detailed below.

Tor relays and bridges

  • Public Tor relays

    Most of the time, your local network does not block access to the Tor network and you can use a public relay as your first Tor relay.

    Using a public Tor relay as your first Tor relay makes it clear to your local network that you are connecting to Tor, while still keeping your online activity secure and anonymous.

  • Tor bridges

    Tor bridges are secret Tor relays that keep your connection to the Tor network hidden.

    Use a bridge as your first Tor relay if connecting to Tor is blocked or if using Tor could look suspicious to someone who monitors your Internet connection.

    The technology used by Tor bridges is designed to circumvent censorship where connections to Tor are blocked, for example in some countries with heavy censorship, by some public networks, or by some parental controls.

    It does so by camouflaging your connection so it cannot be recognized as a connection to Tor. As a consequence, the same technology can be used to hide that you are using Tor if it could look suspicious to someone who monitors your Internet connection.

    Tor bridges are often less reliable and slower than public Tor relays.

Connecting to Tor automatically

We recommend connecting to Tor automatically if you are on a public Wi-Fi network or if many people in your country use Tor to circumvent censorship.

When you choose this option, Tails tries different ways of connecting to Tor until it succeeds:

  1. Tails tries to connect to Tor directly using public relays, without using bridges.

  2. Tails tries to connect to Tor using a set of default bridges, already included in Tails, if connecting using public relays fails.

  3. Tails asks you to configure custom bridges, if connecting using the default bridges fails.

Someone monitoring your Internet connection could identify these attempts as coming from a Tails user.

If connecting to Tor automatically fails, the Tor Connection assistant helps you:

In the future, Tails will also automatically:

  • Detect if you have to sign in to the local network using a captive portal (#5785)
  • Synchronize the clock of the computer to make it easier to use Tor bridges in Asia (#15548)

Hiding to your local network that you are connecting to Tor

You might need to go unnoticed if using Tor could look suspicious to someone who monitors your Internet connection.

When you choose this option, Tails will only connect to Tor after you configure Tor bridges. Bridges are secret Tor relays that hide that you are connecting to Tor.

Our team is doing its best to help you connect to Tor using the most discrete types of Tor bridges. That is why, when you decide to hide that you are connecting to Tor:

  • Default bridges are not available.

    You will have to know the address of custom bridges.

    To request custom bridges, you can either:

    1. Request bridges on https://bridges.torproject.org/.

      We recommend doing so before starting Tails and ideally from a different local network than the one on which you want to hide that you are using Tor.

    2. Send an empty email to bridges@torproject.org from a Gmail or Riseup email address.

      Sending such an email, from your phone for example, does not reveal to your local network that you are trying to connect to Tor.

  • You can only use the types of bridges that our team considers discrete enough.

    Currently in Tails, only obfs4 bridges hide that you are using Tor.

    obfs4 bridges look like:

    obfs4 1.2.3.4:1234 B0E566C9031657EA7ED3FC9D248E8AC4F37635A4 cert=OYWq67L7MDApdJCctUAF7rX8LHvMxvIBPHOoAp0+YXzlQdsxhw6EapaMNwbbGICkpY8CPQ iat-mode=0
    

The entire line needs to be entered, not just the IP address and port combination.

It is impossible to hide to the websites that you visit that you are using Tor, because the list of exit nodes of the Tor network is public.

If connecting to Tor using custom bridges fails, the Tor Connection assistant helps you:

In the future, we will make it easier to use custom bridges by:

  • Allow you to save custom bridges in the Persistent Storage (#5461)
  • Allow scanning the QR code returned by bridges@torproject.org (#18219)
  • Allow requesting bridges from Tails by solving a CAPTCHA (#15331)
  • Synchronize the clock of the computer to be able to connect to Tor bridges more easily (#15548)

Troubleshooting Tor bridges

If the bridges that you entered do not work, try requesting another set of bridges. It is possible that the bridges you entered are no longer operational.

When connecting to Tor, Tails sets the system time to the current time in the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) timezone.

Many operating systems, such as Linux and macOS, write time expressed in UTC to the hardware clock of the computer. But, Windows instead writes time expressed in the local timezone to the hardware clock of the computer.

So, if you are east of the United Kingdom (which is in the UTC timezone) on a computer that also runs Windows, Tails will make the system clock go backwards during startup. Unfortunately, this can prevent bridges from working.

We are working on a fix for this issue. See #15548.

Viewing the status of Tor

The status of Tor appears as an onion icon in the notification area:

  • Onion icon You are connected to Tor.

  • Onion icon that is crossed out You are not connected to Tor.