Here I walk you thru the creation of a virtually invisible communications system that will be both untraceable and impossible to be confiscated and used against you in a military tribunal. This system will be only as good as your practices and habits. Never the less, the tools and systems we are going to set up here will make you transparent on the web. You must also do your part by practicing Communications Security ComSec and removing your on line presence as much as possible. This article is for members only.
What are we building? We are building a “computer” system that its fully resident in a micro storage device and a communications software suite that will make you slippery while on line.
How does it work? Well, your computer is a collection of parts. What we are doing here is substituting your hard drive (don’t worry is not a physical replacement) and operating system for a custom OS that runs in the same old hardware but does not touch your hard drive. Absolutely no evidence of the use of this replacement will be left behind and no files in your hard drive will be touched. You just insert the USB package we are going to build, boot your computer and run it like normal. Once completed, you power down your computer, remove the USB package and restart your computer (if desired). This can be done in any laptop or desktop (hotel, office space, etc) and it will leave no trace of your actions.
BTW, all this can also be done using a DVD disk. The advantages of the DVD disk is non-persistence, meaning it will not keep any information beyond the original burn and the DVD disk will work in older systems. The disadvantage is the non-persistence. You will be unable to pre-configure your communications package and are stuck with whatever came in the ISO. I will stop here and recommend the USB stick. It is more durable, easier to conceal and can be set to persistent mode. Yes, there is a risk that your private information will be available (if you don’t encrypt your USB, and we will) but, the USB stick would have to physically fall in the hands of the State for that to be a concern. The idea is to not allow the drive to fall into evil hands.
What is needed? About $30 dollars worth of parts, an internet connection to download the software and about 4 hours of your time.
1- USB or MicroSD card with USB adapter.
I recommend the SanDisk Cruizer Fit 8Gb micro USB drive (Item# SDCZ33-008G-A11)
Both of these configurations provide a very small profile that can be connected to any computer and its almost invisible. They fit inside the USB slot in your computer and are ideal for our purposes. Here are two key differences: The Cruizer Fit is a very durable USB device that will give you many years of use but, it is an obvious USB device that can be found by TPTB in your luggage or person, harder to hide. The elago with a MicroSDhc card is more discrete and can allow you to pull the micro SD card and hide it behind a stamp or inside a coat lining and its not detectable by TSA or other agencies on your person. The elago adapter is the weak link here. They last for about 6-12 months of constant use. They are about 10 FRN’s so its not a big loss and you can just replace the elago adapter and insert your microsd card in a new one with no data loss. You could also replace the elago for many of the MicroSDhc readers available on line. Amazon carries several brands. You loose the discrete nature of the drive, since anyone can see you have a USB device connected but, you can still remove the MicroSD card and hide it. Your choice, greater concealment or durability. Either of them are smaller than your thumbnail so we are not talking about a large device either way.
a. Tails Software package from the TOR project: https://tails.boum.org/download/index.en.html
a. Universal USB installer from here: http://www.pendrivelinux.com/downloads/Universal-USB-Installer/Universal-USB-Installer-18.104.22.168.exe
b.A linux ISO image from the many available on line. I recommend Linux Mint: http://www.linuxmint.com/edition.php?id=98
If you choose Linux Mint (or a similar Linux distro), you will have more flexibility in what browser, tunneling software and other applications you can install but, it needs more work. You will specifically need to download:
a. TOR browsing package
b. Enigma Web Mail
c. I2P tunneling package
d. Pidgin OTR package
to complete the security suite. I recommend that you stick to Tails software package as it is easier for non linux developer types.
A quick note on Linux distributions (distros in the lingo). All Linux distributions use a common kernel (Linux) and add a desktop graphical user interface (GUI) and an applications package customized to whatever target audience the developer intended to use the distro. There is little difference between flavors other than the look and feel of the desktop and the applications package. The most common distros are Ubuntu (and its variables, Kubuntu, Lubuntu and Edubuntu), Linux Mint, Debian (more of a business targeted package) and Knoppix. I recommend that the new user uses Ubuntu desktop edition first. It is a largish package but includes just about anything that you may desire. For our purposes we will use Linux Mint (but the instructions are very similar to Ubuntu).
3- Any old laptop or desktop as long as the BIOS allows you to boot from USB. Almost any computer built the last ten years will fit the bill. You will be modifying the BIOS to get it to boot from your USB first and then your hard drive. This way, if your USB package is inserted when you boot, it will launch your discrete system, if not it will launch your plain vanilla every day computer. Don’t worry, the change is not noticeable and no changes will be made to your hard drive.
So, off to the races!
Using the Tails software package:
You will need a blank DVD in order to do this right. First, use your image burning software to burn the .iso you downloaded into a DVD. Reboot your computer and boot into the DVD you burned. Once you log into the Tails package, insert the target USB stick. Select Applications > Tails > Tails USB Installer. Select “clone and install”. Wait a few minutes and the USB stick will be created. Shut down your computer and remove the dvd. Reboot from the USB stick you just created.
Now, once you are booted from the USB drive, we are going to create a persistent partition. This is the area where all your information will be saved. This partition will be encrypted. Do not forget your password or you will not be able to recover it. We will first delete the existing persistent partition. Go to Applications > System Tools > Delete persistent volume. Once completed go to Applications >System tools > Configure Persistent Volume. The wizard will ask you to provide a password. Don’t get lazy, make it difficult (but not forgettable). Wait until it is completed.
Voila! You are part of the way there!
Using Linux Mint:
Insert the target USB
Launch the Universal Installer
Select the linux mint ISO you downloaded earlier and make sure you select the option to create a persistent file or you will not be able to save anything to this USB stick.
Wait a few minutes while the USB stick is created.
Good, you are about 20% there!
Now, you will need to install additional software application that will lock down your on line communications. Boot from the USB stick, make sure that you are on-line, then:
Go to the start button ( the little sprocket on the bottom left) and select “Software Manager”
Search and install the following packages:
TOR (the onion router)
pidgin-otr (pidgin off the record plugin)
We will be installing additional packages during the configuration stage.
Next episode, we will configure the packages to encrypt our communications, create keys and set up confidential chat accounts.
Post-script: I am well aware that some of you are unwilling to learn Linux configuration. I admit that it can be a bit daunting. Any SSR member that would like to receive a pre-configured USB drive or MicroSDhc disk, contact me thru the SSR forum or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will build a drive for you. The cost (after all TANSTAAFL) is one ounce of silver in any form (rounds, bars or constitutional) to cover my cost for materials and postage. No obligation, just an offer to current members.