Tails – The Amnesic Incognito Live System – is a live operating system that you can start on almost any computer from a USB stick or a DVD. Website: https://tails.boum.org/
A couple years ago my personal laptop was dying, so when I got to work early and sat at the local coffee shop I tried to use my companies laptop. Unfortunately, some of the sites I liked to read were considered “hacker” sites and my companies software blocked that. I had use bootable USB drives running various versions of Linux, but many of them would automatically try to use the local drive and possibly write data to the hard drive. I then came across Tails.
What got me interested in Tails was the fact that it fit on a small USB drive, and everything that you saved to that drive (and only that drive) was encrypted automatically. The Internet communications was also equally encrypted; it uses the TOR network (https://www.torproject.org/) along with a TOR-enabled Firefox browser to hide the traffic from prying eyes on the local network. With all this together, I could install Tails to a small (8GB or 16GB USB stick) and boot my companies laptop from there and not worry about my personal data being saved, or from my company laptop snooping on my private emails and communications.
The Tails system will let you connect to your coffee shop WiFi, but it won’t let you start browsing the web (or logging into your bank or email site) until it has fully connected into the TOR network. The TOR network encrypts all your communications through multiple computers on the Internet – many times the last computer (the “exit node”) is in a different country. (This makes for a wild multi-lingual experience trying to navigate a popular site if they attempt to use your “local” language.)
With Tails I could now use my work laptop but boot into Tails and securely take care of personal tasks (banking, email, medical, etc) without worrying about my companies computer or their filters blocking or breaking some of these sites.
Give Tails a shot if you want to have a simple to use and very secure web browsing experience that won’t mess with your regularly installed operating system.