Evaluating Xenial support

The SecureDrop project has always recommended Ubuntu Trusty for the server operating system. In April 2019, the Long-Term Support (LTS) status for Trusty will end. We plan to migrate to Ubuntu Xenial 16.04, which will be supported until April 2021.

In order to evaluate how to support Xenial as we prepare for the transition, we’ve created a developer environment suitable for provisioning VMs based on Xenial.

Running the Xenial dev env

If you’re using the libvirt Vagrant provider, you’ll need a libvirt-format Xenial base image. To set one up, run the following commands:

vagrant box add bento/ubuntu-16.04  # choose the virtualbox option
vagrant mutate bento/ubuntu-16.04 mutate libvirt

Due to packaging logic changes, you’ll need to build the Debian packages with overrides enabled for Xenial support. Then run the Xenial scenario.

make build-debs-xenial
make staging-xenial

The VMs will now be available. Depending your choice of VM provider, you can log into the machines with the following commands:


molecule login -s libvirt-staging-xenial -h app-staging


molecule login -s virtualbox-staging-xenial -h app-staging

To run the testinfra tests against the Xenial enviroment, you can use the commands:


molecule verify -s libvirt-staging-xenial


molecule verify -s virtualbox-staging-xenial

If you encounter errors, re-running the make staging-xenial target may help. Naturally, we want the process to be error-free reliably.

Known bugs with Xenial support

Below is a high-level overview of known problems to be addressed for delivering Xenial compatibility.

Dependencies for the securedrop-app-code deb package have changed; apache2 should be explicitly required; apache2-mpm-worker should be omitted.
The _apt user should be permitted to perform DNS and outbound TCP calls on ports 80 and 443, rather than the root user.
Explicit rules required for Apache mpm worker/event changes. gpg2 policy should permit links via /var/lib/securedrop/keys/* l or similar.
PAM logic
The PAM common-auth customizations include declarations for pam_ecryptfs.so which prove problematic; commenting out ostensibly resolves. More research required.
Config tests
The testinfra config test suite runs slightly different checks for Trusty and Xenial where appropriate. Care should be taken to preserve functionality of the config tests against both distros.

More detailed research notes on evaluating Xenial support can be found in the following GitHub issues: