Until the Tails privacy tool is patched, here's how to stay safe

Patches are ready for IP2, the vulnerable component in Tails, but it's not clear when Tails will update

Vulnerabilities in the Tails operating system could reveal your IP address, but you can avoid trouble by taking a couple of precautions.

Tails, a portable operating system that employs a host of privacy-focused components, plans to patch flaws contained in I2P, a networking tool developed by the Invisible Internet Project that provides greater anonymity when browsing. It's similar in concept to Tor.

On Saturday, I2P developers released several fixes for XSS (cross-site scripting) and remote execution flaws found by Exodus Intelligence, a vulnerability broker that irked some by announcing first on Twitter it knew of flaws but didn't immediately inform Tails.

It wasn't clear when Tails would release an update with I2P's fixes. It couldn't be immediately reached Sunday.

On Friday, Tails advised that users can take steps to protect themselves in the meantime. It recommended that I2P not be intentionally launched in Tails version 1.1 and earlier.

Luckily, I2P is not launched by default when Tails is started. But Tails warned that an attacker could use some other undisclosed security holes to launch Tails and then try to de-anonymize a user. To be sure that doesn't happen, the I2P software package should be removed when Tails is launched.

The danger of hackers using the I2P vulnerabilities is mitigated somewhat by the fact the details of the flaws haven't been disclosed publicly. But Tails wrote that hackers may have figured them out.

Even general descriptions of vulnerabilities often give hackers enough information of where to start hunting for flaws, enabling them to figure out the exact problems.

To execute an attack on I2P, a hacker must also lure someone to a website where they've manipulated the content, Tails said. That sort of lure is usually set using social engineering, successfully tricking a person into loading malicious content. Savvy users may spot such a lure, but it's easy to get tricked.

Soon after it wrote on Twitter of the flaws, Exodus Intelligence said it would provide the details to Tails and not sell the information to its customers. It wasn't clear if public pressure influenced Exodus.

The company wouldn't say if it would make similar exceptions for privacy-focused software in the future such as Tails, which has been recommended by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

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