Deploying SecureDrop staging instance on Qubes¶
This assumes you have an up-to-date Qubes installation on a compatible laptop with at least 16GB RAM and 60GB free disk space.
Follow the the Qubes platform instructions in Setting Up the Development Environment
to create an
sd-dev Standalone VM. Once done, we’ll create three new
Standalone (HVM) Qubes VMs for use with staging:
sd-staging-base, a base VM for cloning reusable staging VMs
sd-staging-app-base, a base VM for the SecureDrop Application Server
sd-staging-mon-base, a base VM for the SecureDrop Monitor Server
While the development VM,
sd-dev, is based on Debian 10, the other VMs
will be based on Ubuntu Xenial.
The staging server VM names were recently changed from
sd-mon to account for a name change in the SecureDrop Workstation
Download Ubuntu Xenial server ISO¶
sd-dev, download the Ubuntu Xenial server ISO, along with corresponding
checksum and signature files. See the hardware installation docs
for detailed instructions. If you opt for the command line instructions, omit
torify prepended to the
Create the base VM¶
We’re going to build a single, minimally configured Ubuntu VM. Once it’s bootable, we’ll clone it for the application and monitoring VMs.
dom0, do the following:
qvm-create sd-staging-base --class StandaloneVM --property virt_mode=hvm --label green qvm-volume extend sd-staging-base:root 20g qvm-prefs sd-staging-base memory 2000 qvm-prefs sd-staging-base maxmem 2000 qvm-prefs sd-staging-base kernel ''
The commands above will create a new StandaloneVM, expand the storage space and memory available to it, as well as disable the integrated kernel support. The SecureDrop install process will install a custom kernel.
Boot into installation media¶
qvm-start sd-staging-base --cdrom=sd-dev:/home/user/ubuntu-16.04.6-server-amd64.iso
You may need to edit the filepath above if you downloaded the ISO to a
different location within the
sd-dev VM. Choose Install Ubuntu.
For the most part, the install process matches the
hardware install flow, with a few exceptions:
- Server IP address: use value returned by
qvm-prefs sd-staging-base ip, with
- Gateway: use value returned by
qvm-prefs sd-staging-base visible_gateway
- For DNS, use Qubes’s DNS servers:
- Domain name should be left blank
Make sure to configure LVM and use Virtual disk 1 (xvda 20.0GB Xen Virtual Block device) when asked for a target partition during installation. It should be the default option.
You’ll be prompted to add a “regular” user for the VM: this is the user you’ll be
using later to SSH into the VM. We’re using a standardized name/password pair:
Once installation is done, let the machine shut down and then restart it with
dom0. You should get a login prompt.
Initial VM configuration¶
Before cloning this machine, we’ll update software to reduce provisioning time
on the staging VMs. In the new
sd-staging-base VM’s console, do:
sudo apt update sudo apt dist-upgrade -y
Before we continue, let’s allow your user to
sudo without their password.
visudo to make the sudo group line look like
%sudo ALL=(ALL) NOPASSWD: ALL
Finally, update the machine’s Grub configuration to use a consistent Ethernet device
name across kernel versions. Edit the file
/etc/default/grub, changing the line:
When initial configuration is done, run
qvm-shutdown sd-staging-base to shut it down.
We’re going configure the VMs to use specific IP addresses, which will make
various routing issues easier later. We’ll also tag the VMs for management
sd-dev VM. Doing so will require Qubes RPC policy changes,
documented below. Run the following in
qvm-clone sd-staging-base sd-staging-app-base qvm-clone sd-staging-base sd-staging-mon-base qvm-prefs sd-staging-app-base ip 10.137.0.50 qvm-prefs sd-staging-mon-base ip 10.137.0.51 qvm-tags sd-staging-app-base add created-by-sd-dev qvm-tags sd-staging-mon-base add created-by-sd-dev
Now start both new VMs:
qvm-start sd-staging-app-base qvm-start sd-staging-mon-base
On the consoles which eventually appear, you should be able to log in with
Configure cloned VMs¶
We’ll need to fix each machine’s idea of its own IP. In the console for each
/etc/network/interfaces to update the
address line with
the machine’s IP.
/etc/hosts on each host to include the hostname and IP for itself.
sd-staging-mon, omitting the
-base suffix, since the cloned VMs
will not have the suffix.
Next, on each host edit
/etc/hostname to reflect the machine’s name.
Again, omit the
Halt each machine, then restart each from
dom0. The prompt in each console
should reflect the correct name of the VM. Confirm you have network access by
ping freedom.press. It should show no errors.
We want to be able to SSH connections from
sd-dev to these new standalone VMs.
In order to do so, we have to adjust the firewall on
See the official Qubes guide on configuring inter-VM networking for details.
Let’s get the IP address of
qvm-prefs sd-dev ip
Get a shell on
sys-firewall. Create or edit
/rw/config/qubes-firewall-user-script, to include the following:
sd_dev="<sd-dev-addr>" sd_app="10.137.0.50" sd_mon="10.137.0.51" iptables -I FORWARD 2 -s "$sd_dev" -d "$sd_app" -j ACCEPT iptables -I FORWARD 2 -s "$sd_dev" -d "$sd_mon" -j ACCEPT iptables -I FORWARD 2 -s "$sd_app" -d "$sd_mon" -j ACCEPT iptables -I FORWARD 2 -s "$sd_mon" -d "$sd_app" -j ACCEPT
Run those commands on
sudo sh /rw/config/qubes-firewall-user-script
sd-dev, you should be able to do
and log in with the password
SSH using keys¶
You likely already have an SSH keypair configured for access to GitHub.
If not, create one with
ssh-keygen -b 4096 -t rsa. The configuration
logic will use the key at
~/.ssh/id_rsa to connect to the VMs.
Later we’ll be using Ansible to provision the application VMs, so we should
make sure we can SSH between those machines without needing to type
a password. On
ssh-copy-id firstname.lastname@example.org ssh-copy-id email@example.com
Confirm that you’re able to ssh as user
sd-staging-app-base without being prompted for a password.
We’re going to configure
sd-dev to build the SecureDrop
then we’re going to build them, and provision
Follow the instructions in the developer documentation
to set up the development environment.
Once finished, build the Debian packages for installation on the staging VMs.
.deb files will be available in
Managing Qubes RPC for Admin API capability¶
We’re going to be running Qubes management commands on
which requires some additional software. Install it with
sudo apt install qubes-core-admin-client
You’ll need to grant the
sd-dev VM the ability to create other VMs,
by editing the Qubes RPC policies in
dom0. Here is an example of a
permissive policy, sufficient to grant
sd-dev management capabilities
over VMs it creates:
/etc/qubes-rpc/policy/include/admin-local-rwx: sd-dev @tag:created-by-sd-dev allow,target=@adminvm /etc/qubes-rpc/policy/include/admin-global-rwx: sd-dev @adminvm allow,target=@adminvm sd-dev @tag:created-by-sd-dev allow,target=@adminvm
See the Qubes documentation for details on leveraging the Admin API.
Creating staging instance¶
After creating the StandaloneVMs as described above:
And after building the SecureDrop .debs, we can finally provision the staging
environment. In from the root of the SecureDrop project in
make staging command invokes the
qubes-staging Molecule scenario.
You can also run constituent Molecule actions directly, rather than using
the Makefile target:
molecule create -s qubes-staging molecule converge -s qubes-staging molecule test -s qubes-staging
to mitigate the error
"stderr": "app: Failed to clone appmenus, qvm-appmenus
missing\ are no longer required. If you experience errors at this stage, ensure you have
followed all the previous steps correctly.
That’s it. You should now have a running, configured SecureDrop staging instance
running on your Qubes machine. For day-to-day operation, you should run
sd-dev in order to make code changes, and use the Molecule commands above
to provision staging VMs on-demand. To remove the staging instance, use the Molecule command:
molecule destroy -s qubes-staging
Accessing the Journalist Interface (Staging) in Whonix-based VMs¶
These instructions are only appropriate for a staging setup and should not be used to access a production instance of SecureDrop.
To access the Source and Journalist Interfaces (staging) in a Debian- or Fedora-based VM, follow the instructions here.
To use a Whonix-based VM, the following steps are required to configure access to the Journalist Interface (staging).
You will have to copy the
app-journalist.auth_private file (located in
sd-dev VM in
generated after a successful run of
make staging) into your Whonix gateway
VM. On standard Qubes installations this VM is called
To do this, in an
sd-dev terminal, run the command:
sys-whonix in the resulting permissions dialog.
In the Whonix Gateway¶
Open a terminal in
sys-whonix and create a directory with appropriate
ownership and permissions, then move your credential file there:
sudo mkdir -p /var/lib/tor/onion_auth sudo mv ~/QubesIncoming/sd-dev/app-journalist.auth_private /var/lib/tor/onion_auth sudo chown --recursive debian-tor:debian-tor /var/lib/tor/onion_auth
Next, edit the Tor configuration so it recognizes the directory containing your credentials:
sudo vi /usr/local/etc/torrc.d/50_user.conf
In this file, enter the following:
Save and close the file. Finally, reload Tor by clicking Qubes Application Menu > sys-whonix > Reload Tor
At this point, you should be able to access the Journalist Interface
(staging) in a Whonix VM that uses
sys-whonix as its gateway.
Note that you will have to replace the
and reload Tor on the Whonix gateway every time you rerun