Grub-live: Boot an existing Debian Host into Live Mode
One of the primary objectives of
grub-live is preventing malware from gaining persistence and having an unchanged system after reboot. It would require targeted  malware which gains super user (root) access to re-mount the disk for write access.
It is also recommended to regularly boot into persistent mode for installation of updates.
There are two choices:
grub-live [archive]: Boots into persistent mode by default. The grub boot menu has an option to boot into live mode.
grub-default-live: Boots into live mode by default. The grub boot menu has an option to boot into persistent mode.
This is also a useful tool for better privacy on the hard drive, as well as experimental changes like testing software.
After reboot a new
live mode entry will appear in the grub boot menu.
Table: Comparison of grub-live and Tails
|Aspect||grub-live on the host  /
grub-default-live on the host
|Tails DVD only||Tails USB / DVD, with persistent USB||Tails read-only medium all other writable disks unplugged  |
|Common  mode of operation||Yes||Yes||Yes||No |
|Amnesic / protects against disk modifications ||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Protects against malware persistence on hard drive after malware compromise||No ||No ||No ||Yes |
|Protects against firmware trojans after malware compromise||No ||No ||No ||No |
|Avoid writing to any host disks||?||Yes ||Yes ||Yes |
|Disables removable drives auto-mounting||No||Yes  ||Yes ||Yes |
|Disabled virtual machine shared folders||No ||?||?||?|
|Wipe RAM on shutdown||No ||Yes, but with limitations. ||Yes, but with limitations. ||Yes, but with limitations. |
|Wipe video RAM on shutdown||No ||No ||No ||No |
|Emergency shutdown on USB removal||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Live Mode Usability ||Average ||Good ||Good ||Good |
|Live Mode Indicator||For Xfce only. Not yet documented. ||Unneeded||Unneeded||Unneeded|
|Unified Amnesic + Anonymous User Experience||No ||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Easy standard ("everyday") upgrades ||Yes||?||?||?|
|Release upgrades  possible anytime ||Yes||No ||No ||No |
|Live boot by default||
|Persistent boot by default||
|Full disk encryption compatibility||Yes||No||No||No|
|Encrypted persistence supported||Yes||Yes ||Yes ||Yes |
- Re-mounting the disk for write access is not yet a default feature available to off-the-shelf malware; no such reports have come to our attention.
grub-liveoutside of a virtual machine. For
grub-livein a VM, see Whonix Live.
- Assuming Tails on a DVD which can only be written to once, not DVD-RW.
- Or Using Tails USB with physical, active and effective (non-circumventable by software) write protection switch enabled.
- As in a substantial user group willing and able to do this.
- This would be a prudent approach but search engines indicate that no or very few users run this configuration.
- Excluding malware compromise.
- Once targeted malware is active it can circumvent read-only settings, mount the harddrive, and add malware which becomes active after next boot.
Quote https://tails.boum.org/contribute/design/ [archive]
Tails takes care not to use any filesystem that might exist on the host machine hard drive, unless explicitly told to do so by the user. The Debian Live persistence feature is disabled by passing
nopersistenceover the kernel command line to live-boot.
Quote https://tails.boum.org/contribute/design/ [archive]
Removable drives auto-mounting is disabled in Tails 0.7 and newer.
- https://git-tails.immerda.ch/tails/plain/config/chroot_local-includes/etc/dconf/db/local.d/00_Tails_defaults [archive] contains a configuration for GNOME only. This is reasonable in the Tails context since its default desktop is GNOME and others are unsupported.
- Considered a feature or bug?
It might be possible to create a separate package
- https://forums.whonix.org/t/is-ram-wipe-possible-inside-whonix/5596 [archive]
- https://github.com/QubesOS/qubes-issues/issues/1562 [archive]
amnesiacould depend on both
wiperamto simplify live boot for users.
- https://tails.boum.org/contribute/design/memory_erasure/ [archive]
- https://github.com/QubesOS/qubes-issues/issues/1563 [archive]
- https://redmine.tails.boum.org/code/issues/5356 [archive]
- The user being aware of currently running in live mode vs persistent mode.
- Without Live Mode Indicator (see below) it is not obvious to the user if they booted into persistent or live mode. This might lead to a mistake where live boot is not selected from the grub boot menu (persistent mode is instead set), but the user believes otherwise.
- Consistently good because amnesia has always has been a core Tails feature. It is obvious to the user that nothing persists except folders that have selective persistence enabled.
- https://github.com/Whonix/whonix-xfce-desktop-config [archive]
- Whonix ™ is primarily run inside virtualizers.
grub-liveis an extra configuration step on the user's host.
- Using standard package managers such as
- Such as from Debian stretch to Debian buster.
- Release upgrade of Tails from lets say Debian stretch to Debian buster is a non-trivial development effort. See also: https://tails.boum.org/doc/first_steps/upgrade/index.en.html [archive]
- Persistent boot is the default option in grub boot menu.
- https://tails.boum.org/doc/first_steps/persistence/configure/index.en.html [archive]
This is a wiki. Want to improve this page? Help is welcome and volunteer contributions are happily considered! Read, understand and agree to Conditions for Contributions to Whonix ™, then Edit! Edits are held for moderation. Policy of Whonix Website and Whonix Chat and Policy On Nonfreedom Software applies.
Copyright (C) 2012 - 2020 ENCRYPTED SUPPORT LP. Whonix ™ is a trademark. Whonix ™ is a licensee [archive] of the Open Invention Network [archive]. Unless otherwise noted, the content of this page is copyrighted and licensed under the same Freedom Software license as Whonix ™ itself. (Why?)