Fight “lawful access” with Liberté Linux.

While Canada’s Internet experience is, at present, nothing like the filtered and monitored mess you’d get in say, China, there are some troubling signs ahead. Chief among them is the looming spectre of “lawful access” — explained here by Dr. Michael Geist and the subject of this recent episode of Jesse Brown‘s Search Engine podcast.

Fortunately, if you’re a Linux user like me there’s no shortage of options to protect your anonymity on the ‘net — hell, there’s an entire distribution dedicated to keeping your online affairs private.

It’s called Liberté Linux. Let’s take a look…

Getting Started

Installing Liberté is somewhat less trivial than preparing your typical live USB .iso, but follow the instructions here and you might even learn a thing a two along the way. Remember, your privacy is at stake!

The First Boot

I didn’t install Liberté in a virtual machine so I can’t show you any screenshots of the boot sequence, but I can at least tell you about it…

The first thing that caught me off-guard was a prompt to set a LUKS passphrase for my mount point — an encouraging sign that the author of this distro isn’t messing around.

Once my passphrase was set a 8192-bit RSA private key was generated for, um… “communication certificates”. As you can imagine this took an extra few minutes; though I wasn’t keeping track of the total boot time, I’d put it at less than ten.

The Desktop

If you were expecting nothing more than a blinking cursor you’ll be thrilled to know that Liberté provides a familiar desktop environment, with everything you need on that bottom panel.

Some features of note:

  • Near as I can tell there is no package manager; you would update the system by downloading and installing an entirely new build from here.
  • There are two included games, eboard and Xmahjongg — presumably to calm your nerves while you’re waiting to hear back from Wikileaks.
  • The clock is set to GMT/UTC time, with no visible means of changing it.


Two different variants of the Midori web browser are available from the applications menu — an “unsafe” instance in case the user needs to register on a wireless network and, much more importantly, a secure version running Tor.

And this right here would be my unique Tor-rified email address, generated during that lengthy first boot. And now that you’ve seen it I will have to kill you. Or generate a new one…

If this weren’t enough, the email client — Claws, if you didn’t know — also has GnuPG on-board for added security.

Tor also seems to figure into the way the bundled XChat client connects to IRC servers but to be honest, I don’t think I can do it justice by trying to explain how.

No BitTorrent?

The only glaring omission I can see is a BitTorrent client — not for downloading porn and/or crap Hollywood movies but rather to seed video documentation of human rights violations, for example.

Since such things wouldn’t be tied to an identifiable Vimeo or YouTube account, BitTorrent seems like the perfect mechanism for anonymous distribution; perhaps its exclusion has something to do with the fact that Liberté was designed to boot from removable media?

Sad State of Affairs

Liberté Linux is designed to facilitate anonymous and secure electronic communication from within a hostile regime. It’s a fairly sad state of affairs that I would even consider recommending it for citizens of the country that calls itself the True North, strong and free.

You can thank our newly re-elected majority government for that. And the IP cartels that it’s beholden to…

One comment:

  1. Bittorrent is likely excluded because IP leakage potential is really high in the clients.


    Anyways, using tor for downloading warez and other shit is just totally wrong. It puts a huge strain on the network which is run by volenteers. How the heck do the pirates who use tor live with themselves? (That was a rhetorical question btw)

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