The securedrop-admin Utility

Using securedrop-admin

The securedrop-admin command-line utility is used from the Admin Workstation to perform common server administration tasks, including:

  • configuring and installing SecureDrop

  • backing up and restoring the servers (see Backing Up and Restoring Servers)

  • retrieving server logs for troubleshooting (see Investigating Logs)

  • updating the SecureDrop code and Tails configuration on the Admin Workstation

  • updating your SecureDrop servers’ configuration post-install.

To use securedrop-admin:

  1. Boot the Admin Workstation with persistence enabled and an admin password set

  2. Open a terminal via Applications > System Tools > Terminal

  3. Change directory to the SecureDrop installation directory: cd ~/Persistent/securedrop

You can list all available securedrop-admin actions using the command ./securedrop-admin --help


If your team has multiple admins, each with their own Admin Workstation, you must take steps to manually synchronize any configuration changes made via securedrop-admin with each other. See Managing Configuration Updates with Multiple Admins

Updating the Server Configuration

There are two primary reasons why you may want to update the system configuration:

  • to change SecureDrop server configuration options. Example: You want to change the time of day at which the servers are automatically rebooted (default: 4:00 AM).

  • to restore a valid configuration state on your servers. Example: Another admin has directly modified the iptables rules during troubleshooting, and you want to reinstate the correct rules.

In both cases, follow these steps:

  1. Boot the Admin Workstation and unlock its persistent volume.

  2. Open a terminal and type cd ~/Persistent/securedrop.

  3. Run git status. If the output includes HEAD detached at followed by the version number displayed in the footer of your Source Interface, you are running the applicable version of the SecureDrop code on your workstation, and can proceed to the next step. If not, it is not safe to proceed. Follow the upgrade instructions associated with the release notes for the most recent release of SecureDrop. Apply all available updates, including for the Tails operating system.

  4. Run ./securedrop-admin sdconfig. This will display the current configuration, one line at a time, and allow you to change it. At this point, any changes you make are only saved on this Admin Workstation, to the following file:


  5. Run ./securedrop-admin install. This will apply the configuration to your Application and Monitor Server, and enforce the canonical state of the server configuration.


If you see an error running ./securedrop-admin install, and believe it may be an intermittent issue (for example, due to losing network connectivity to the servers), it is safe to run the ./securedrop-admin install command again. If you see the same issue consistently, then you will need to troubleshoot it.

If you see the error message “timeout (62s) waiting for privilege escalation prompt”, try deleting the Ansible control path directory on your Admin Workstation (rm -rf ~/.ansible/cp) to reset the connection to the servers, then re-run the ./securedrop-admin install command from within ~/Persistent/securedrop.

If you encounter other errors, we encourage you to submit a bug report, or to contact us at (GPG encrypted).

Updating Localization for the Source Interface and the Journalist Interface

The Source Interface and Journalist Interface are translated in the following languages:

At any time during and after initial setup, you can choose from a list of supported languages to display using the codes shown in parentheses.


With a Source Interface displayed in French (for example), sources submitting documents are likely to expect a journalist fluent in French to be available to read the documents and follow up in that language.

To add or remove locales from your instance, you’ll need to update your system configuration as outlined above.

When you reach the prompt starting with “Space separated list of additional locales to support”, you will see a list of languages currently supported. Refer to the list above to see which languages correspond to which language codes. For example:

Space separated list of additional locales to support (ru nl pt_BR fr_FR tr it_IT zh_Hant sv hi ar en_US de_DE es_ES nb_NO): nl fr_FR es_ES

You’ll need to list all languages you now want to support, adding or removing languages as needed. Locale changes will be applied after the next reboot.

Managing Configuration Updates with Multiple Admins

Organizations with multiple admins should set up a way to synchronize any changes one admin makes to the server configuration, as by default those changes are stored only on their individual Admin Workstation.

Configuration changes will be flagged by OSSEC and will generate alerts, but if other admins don’t regularly review OSSEC alerts they may miss important changes, such as an update to the Submission Public Key. If they subsequently run ./securedrop-admin install from their Admin Workstation, they will revert the server configuration to an older version.

The simplest approach to keeping workstations in sync is to inform other admins of changes as you make them, for example via a secure Signal group chat. Any such communications should happen over a platform that provides E2EE, as you may need to share sensitive information.

Configuration information is stored in several files on the Admin Workstation under ~/Persistent/securedrop/:

  • install_files/ansible-base/group_vars/all/site-specific contains settings written by ./securedrop-admin sdconfig - if it is changed other admins should be notified.

  • The Submission Public Key and OSSEC Alert Public Key should be present under install_files/ansible-base. If these keys are rotated, the public keys should be updated on other Admin Workstations.

  • Onion service information is stored in several files:


    If onion service addresses are changed, the files listed above should be shared securely with other administrators - preferably in person using an encrypted transfer USB, as they can be used to access the servers directly via SSH over Tor.