Installation Overview

Setting Expectations

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.

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.


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.