Generate the SecureDrop Application GPG Key

When a document or message is submitted to SecureDrop by a source, it is automatically encrypted with the SecureDrop Application GPG Key. The private part of this key is only stored on the Secure Viewing Station which is never connected to the Internet. SecureDrop submissions can only be decrypted and read on the Secure Viewing Station.

We will now generate the SecureDrop Application GPG Key on the Secure Viewing Station.

Correct the system time

After booting up Tails on the Secure Viewing Station, you will need to manually set the system time before you create the SecureDrop Application GPG Key. To set the system time:

  1. Right-click the time in the top menu bar and select Adjust Date & Time.
  2. Click Unlock in the top-right corner of the dialog window and enter your temporary Tails administration password.
  3. Set the correct time, region and city.
  4. Click Lock, enter your temporary Tails administration password one more time and wait for the system time to update in the top panel.

Once that’s done, follow the steps below to create the key.

Create the key

  • Open a terminal Terminal and run gpg --gen-key
  • When it says Please select what kind of key you want, choose (1) RSA and RSA (default).
  • When it asks What keysize do you want?, type 4096.
  • When it asks Key is valid for?, press Enter to keep the default.
  • When it asks Is this correct?, verify that you’ve entered everything correctly so far, then type y.
  • For Real name, type: SecureDrop
  • For Email address, leave the field blank and press Enter
  • For Comment, type [Your Organization's Name] SecureDrop Application GPG Key
  • Verify that everything is correct so far, then type o for (O)kay
  • It will pop up a box asking you to type a passphrase, but it’s safe to click okay without typing one. The key is protected by the encryption on the Tails persistent volume.
  • Wait for your GPG key to finish generating

To manage GPG keys using the graphical interface (a program called Seahorse), click the clipboard icon gpgApplet in the top right corner and select “Manage Keys”. You should see the key that you just generated under “GnuPG Keys.”

My Keys

Select the key you just generated and click “File” then “Export”. Save the key to the Transfer Device as SecureDrop.pgp, and make sure you change the file type from “PGP keys” to “Armored PGP keys” which can be switched right above the ‘Export’ button. Click the ‘Export’ button after switching to armored keys.


This is the public key only.

Export Key

Export Key 2

You’ll need to provide the fingerprint of this new key during the installation. Double-click on the newly generated key and change to the Details tab. Write down the 40 hexadecimal digits under Fingerprint.



Your fingerprint will be different from the one in the example screenshot.

Import GPG keys for journalists with access to SecureDrop

While working on a story, journalists may need to transfer some documents or notes from the Secure Viewing Station to the journalist’s work computer on the corporate network. To do this, the journalists should re-encrypt them with their own keys. If a journalist does not already have a personal GPG key, they can follow the same steps above to create one. The journalist should store the private key somewhere safe; the public key should be stored on the Secure Viewing Station.

If the journalist does have a key, transfer their public key from wherever it is located to the Secure Viewing Station, using the Transfer Device. Open the file manager Nautilus and double-click on the public key to import it. If the public key is not importing, rename the file to end in ”.asc” and try again.

Importing Journalist GPG Keys

At this point, you are done with the Secure Viewing Station for now. You can shut down Tails, grab the admin Tails USB and move over to your regular workstation.