Installation Overview

Installation Support

Any organization can install SecureDrop for free and also make modifications because the project is open source.

Because the installation and operation are complex, and because SecureDrop can only be as secure as the operational security practices followed by its users, Freedom of the Press Foundation will also help organizations install SecureDrop and train journalists and administrators.

If you would like to work with Freedom of the Press Foundation on your SecureDrop installation, please reach out to us. We do ask news organizations that can afford to pay for installation support, training and maintenance to do so.

As part of priority support agreements and on a pro-bono basis for smaller news organizations, Freedom of the Press Foundation will visit your offices, help set up SecureDrop and train journalists to use it. (For pro-bono support, we request that our travel costs are covered.)

Setting Expectations

SecureDrop is a technical tool. It is designed to protect journalists and sources, but no tool can guarantee safety. This guide will instruct you in installing and configuring SecureDrop, but it does not explain how to use it safely and effectively. Put another way: at the end of this guide, you will have built a car; you will not know how to drive. The Deployment Guide contains best practices for working with SecureDrop. Make sure to read it after completing the installation.

Setting up SecureDrop is a multi-step process, where each step builds on the steps that come before it. It’s important that you treat the installation as a complete process, making sure not to skip any portions of the install guide or jump ahead to later content.

Once you have all the necessary hardware, setting up SecureDrop will take at least a day’s work.

We recommend that you set aside at least a week to complete and test your setup.

Tracking your progress

To assist in the installation process, we offer a SecureDrop Installation Worksheet, which you can print out and complete as you go. Only complete this worksheet on paper, never electronically.

It is critical that you destroy this worksheet when your installation is complete and all of your passphrases have been safely stored in a password manager.


Remember to destroy the SecureDrop Installation Worksheet after the installation is complete.

Technical Summary

SecureDrop architecture overview diagram

This installation guide will walk you through the process of setting up the computers and services needed for a functional SecureDrop.

During this process, you’ll set up the following devices:

  • Secure Viewing Station:

    A physically-secured and air-gapped laptop running the Tails operating system from a USB stick, that journalists use to decrypt and view submitted documents.

  • Application Server:

    An Ubuntu server running two segmented Tor hidden services. The source connects to the Source Interface, a public-facing Tor Onion Service, to send messages and documents to the journalist. The journalist connects to the Journalist Interface, an authenticated Tor Onion Service, to download encrypted documents and respond to sources.

  • Monitor Server:

    An Ubuntu server that monitors the Application Server with OSSEC and sends email alerts.

As an administrator, you will also require a computer to connect to SecureDrop and perform administrative tasks via SSH or the Journalist Interface. This computer is referred to as the Admin Workstation, and must be capable of running the Tails operating system. The Admin Workstation may also be used as a Journalist Workstation if necessary.

Before you begin the installation, you will want to be sure to familiarize yourself with the glossary and the passphrases involved in SecureDrop’s operations. You may wish to leave these documents open in other tabs for reference as you work.

When running commands or editing configuration files that include filenames, version numbers, usernames, hostnames, or IP addresses, make sure to use the appropriate values for your instance.

Once you’re familiar with SecureDrop, have made your plan, ensured your organization is ready to follow through, and assembled the necessary hardware, you’re ready to begin.


The SecureDrop installation guide includes documentation on setting up Tails-based Admin Workstation and Journalist Workstation USB sticks. It is strongly recommended that these be used in preference to other undocumented solutions.