A number of terms used in this guide, and in the SecureDrop workflow diagram, are specific to SecureDrop. The list below attempts to enumerate and define these terms.
The Application Server (or App Server for short) runs the SecureDrop application. This server hosts both the website that sources access (Source Interface) and the website that journalists access (Document Interface). You may only connect to this server using Tor.
The Monitor Server keeps track of the App Server and sends out an email alert if something seems wrong. You may only connect to this server using Tor.
The Source Interface is the website that sources will access when submitting documents and communicating with journalists. This site is hosted on the App Server and can only be accessed over Tor.
The Document Interface is the website that journalists will access when downloading new documents and communicating with sources. This site is hosted on the App Server and can only be accessed over Tor.
The Journalist Workstation is a machine that is online and used together with the Tails operating system on the online USB stick. This machine will be used to connect to the Document Interface, download documents, and move them to the Secure Viewing Station using the Transfer Device.
The Admin Workstation is a machine that the system administrator can use to connect to the App Server and the Monitor Server using Tor and SSH. The administrator will also need to have an Android or iOS device with the Google Authenticator app installed.
Secure Viewing Station¶
The Secure Viewing Station (or SVS for short) is a machine that is kept offline and only ever used together with the Tails operating system on the offline USB stick. This machine will be used to generate GPG keys for all journalists with access to SecureDrop, as well as to decrypt and view submitted documents.
Since this machine will never touch the Internet or run an operating system other than Tails on a USB, it does not need a hard drive or network device. We recommend physically removing the drive and any networking cards (wireless, Bluetooth, etc.) from this machine.
This is also referred to as the “airgapped computer,” meaning there is a gap between it and a computer connected to the Internet.
There are several places in the SecureDrop architecture where two-factor authentication is used to protect access to sensitive information or systems. These instances use the standard TOTP and/or HOTP algorithms, and so a variety of devices can be used to provide two factor authentication for devices. We recommend using one of:
The Transfer Device is the physical media used to transfer encrypted documents from the Journalist Workstation to the Secure Viewing Station. Examples: a dedicated USB stick, CD-R, DVD-R, or SD card.
If you use a USB stick for the transfer device, we recommend using a small one (4GB or less). You will want to securely wipe the entire device at times, and this process takes longer for larger devices.
Depending on your threat model, you may wish to only use one-time use media (such as CD-R or DVD-R) for transferring files to and from the SVS. While doing so is cumbersome, it reduces the risk of malware (that could be run simply by opening a malicious submission) exfiltrating sensitive data, such as the private key used to decrypt submissions or the content of decrypted submissions.
When we use the phrase “sneakernet” we mean physically moving documents on the Transfer Device from one computer to another.