Troubleshooting system updates

Warning

SecureDrop Workstation is currently in a closed beta, and we do not recommend installing it for production purposes independently. See our blog post for more information.

After you log into Qubes, the SecureDrop Workstation preflight updater will prompt you to check for available system updates at least once per day.

If updates fail for any reason, the preflight updater will not launch the SecureDrop Client application until the underlying issue has been resolved. This is to ensure that the system is in a secure state before you interact with SecureDrop.

A screenshot of the preflight update window, displaying a failed update error message. The title reads "Security updates failed", and the message instructs the user to contact the administrator to correct the error. The SecureDrop client cannot be started until the error is corrected.

The error displayed when the preflight updater does not successfully complete the update.

This guide offers troubleshooting steps for common update issues.

Step 1: Locate the updater log

The preflight updater runs in the dom0 domain. It writes its log to ~/.securedrop_launcher/logs/launcher.log. Log files are rotated hourly; if you have started the updater again since the error occurred, you may need to check the previous log file.

In order to examine the most recent log file:

  1. Open a terminal in dom0 by clicking the Qubes menu icon in the upper left corner of your screen, and selecting Terminal Emulator.

  2. Change to the ~/.securedrop_launcher/logs/ directory:

    cd ~/.securedrop_launcher/logs/

  3. Display the most recent log file:

    cat launcher.log

In order to locate a previous log file in the same directory:

  1. Locate the most recently modified log file.

    ls -t  launcher.log* | head -n 2

  2. Display the file that ends with a date and time stamp, e.g.:

    cat launcher.log.2023-01-01_10

Step 2: Identify the cause(s) of the error

If the updater has run to completion, you should see a result line in the log file that looks similar to the following:

2023-03-30 20:12:11,821 - sd.sdw_updater_gui.UpdaterApp:71(upgrade_status)
INFO: Signal: upgrade_status {
'dom0': <UpdateStatus.UPDATES_OK: '0'>,
'apply_dom0': <UpdateStatus.UPDATES_OK: '0'>,
'fedora-38': <UpdateStatus.UPDATES_OK: '0'>,
'sd-large-bullseye-template': <UpdateStatus.UPDATES_OK: '0'>,
'whonix-gateway-17': <UpdateStatus.UPDATES_FAILED: '3'>,
'sd-small-bullseye-template': <UpdateStatus.UPDATES_OK: '0'>,
'recommended_action': <UpdateStatus.UPDATES_FAILED: '3'>}

In this example, the whonix-gateway-17 VM has failed to update. This is indicated by the text <UpdateStatus.UPDATES_FAILED: '3'>.

It is possible that multiple steps have failed. Make note of any of the individual steps that have failed, other than recommended_action.

Step 3: Resolve the issue(s)

The resolution path will depend on which step(s) failed. Note that dom0 and apply_dom0 are separate steps.

dom0 update failures

  1. Open a terminal in dom0 by clicking the Qubes menu icon in the upper left corner of your screen, and selecting Terminal Emulator.

  2. Perform an interactive dom0 update by running the following command:

    sudo qubes-dom0-update

  3. Follow the prompts to resolve any issues. If you are unsure on how to resolve an error, please contact us for assistance.

  4. Reboot the system. dom0 updates are often security-sensitive, and may requrie a reboot to take effect.

sd-*-template or whonix-gateway-17 update failures

  1. Click the Qubes menu and open a terminal in the impacted template. For example, if whonix-gateway-17 failed to update, select its entry in the Qubes menu and click Terminal. (Be sure not to confuse it with the similarly named whonix-workstation-17 template.)

  2. Perform an interactive template update by running the the following commands:

    sudo apt update

    sudo apt upgrade

The SecureDrop and Whonix templates are based on Debian GNU/Linux. The apt update comand will ensure the package index is up-to-date, and the apt upgrade comand will apply updates.

  1. Follow the prompts to resolve any issues. If you are unsure on how to resolve an error, please contact us for assistance.

fedora-38 update failures

  1. Click the Qubes menu and open a terminal in the fedora-38 template.

  2. Perform an interactive template update by running the following command:

    sudo dnf update

  3. Follow the prompts to resolve any issues. If you are unsure on how to resolve an error, please contact us or assistance.

apply_dom0 update failures

The apply_dom0 step applies any necessary configuration changes to the SecureDrop Workstation. If this step fails, this may indicate a misconfiguration, or it could be a result of download failures during the operation.

We recommend first re-running the updater by double-clicking the SecureDrop desktop icon. This may resolve transient network issues.

If this does not resolve the issue:

  1. Locate the launcher-detail.log file in the same directory as the launcher.log file. This file contains more detailed information about the apply_dom0 step.

    Like the launcher.log file, this file is rotated hourly.

  2. Copy this file to a networked VM by using the qvm-copy-to-vm command. For example, to copy the file to the work VM:

    qvm-copy-to-vm work ~/.securedrop_launcher/logs/launcher-detail.log

  3. The file can now be found in ~/QubesIncoming/dom0/ in the work VM.

    Send us the file through a secure channel, such as our support portal. We will provide further instructions.

Step 4: Restart the updater

Click the SecureDrop desktop icon to restart the updater. If all issues have been resolved, the updater should run to completion and display a success message. If the issue persists, please contact us for assistance.