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How-to: Use ElectrumX Personal Server in Whonix ™

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Introduction[edit]

Using electrum with its default, public servers (which are hosted by third parties) has various security and privacy disadvantages mentioned in electrum chapter warnings. These issues can be resolved by using one's own, self-hosted, local electrum server. ElectrumX is a electrum server, which is documented on this wiki page. Under the assumption of a non-compromised system, the advantages include:

  • No third party can correlate all of the user's Bitcoin addresses to the same pseudonym simply by starting the electrum Bitcoin wallet. However, this does not change recommendation regarding Coin Control. When spending Bitcoin using multiple inputs, correlation will still happen on the blockchain level.
  • No third party can log how many times or the times when a user is viewing their Bitcoin addresses, transactions in their electrum Bitcoin wallet.
  • A self-hosted ElectrumX will always truthfully report unconfirmed and confirmed transactions. However, the usual recommendation to wait for a number of confirmations on the blockchain remains unchanged.
  • Confirmed transactions are fully verified, not only via SPV.
  • Bitcoin network fee estimates are no longer dependent on third parties.

ElectrumX [archive] is developed by the same developers as electrum [archive]. Both are developed under the github organization spesmilo [archive].

These instructions should be compatible with Non-Qubes-Whonix ™, Qubes-Whonix ™ and Kicksecure ™.

ElectrumX depends on Bitcon Core to download the Bitcoin blockchain. Electrum will be unable to connect to the internet thanks to enabling Whonix ™ transparent proxying feature as documented below. ElectrumX will connect to Bitcoin Core.

The connection scheme is electrumElectrumXBitcoin CoreTorBitcoin network.

Inappropriate Use of Root Rights should be avoided. Instructions on this wiki page have been carefully crafted with when to use and when not to use sudo in mind. The user should not use sudo unless instructed in documentation. [1]

Ambox warning pn.svg.png Warning: This is for testers-only!

Installation[edit]

Isolating Proxy Setup[edit]

Optional but recommended for better privacy.

Make sure the electrum is prohibited from accidentally connecting to electrum public servers and effectively only permitted to connect to ElectrumX.

1. Acquire prerequisite knowledge.

2. Do not configure electrum for use with stream isolation.

As documented on the the electrum wiki page since this would nullify, circumvent the advantage of disabling transparent proxying.

3. Disable transparent proxying.

Note: The following step should be applied in Whonix-Gateway ™ (Qubes-Whonix ™: In App Qubes sys-whonix):
Disable Transparent Proxying.

electrum Safeguard[edit]

Remove the default electrum start menu entry.

Optional but highly recommended for better privacy.

Make sure the electrum default start menu entry (which would result in using electrum public servers) gets deleted and stays deleted even after electrum package upgrades to make sure to not accidentally start the electrum using its default start menu entry.

Note: The following command should be applied in Whonix-Workstation ™ (Qubes-Whonix ™: In Template whonix-ws-16).

sudo dpkg-divert --local --divert /usr/share/applications/electrum.desktop --rename --add /usr/share/electrum-invalid

Package Dependency Installation[edit]

Note: The following instructions should be applied in Whonix-Workstation ™ (Qubes-Whonix ™: In Template whonix-ws-16).

Install dependencies from the Debian repository. [2]

Install git python3-rocksdb python3-aiohttp python3-plyvel electrum.

1. Update the package lists.

sudo apt update

2. Upgrade the system.

sudo apt full-upgrade

3. Install the git python3-rocksdb python3-aiohttp python3-plyvel electrum package.

Using apt command line parameter --no-install-recommends is in most cases optional.

sudo apt install --no-install-recommends git python3-rocksdb python3-aiohttp python3-plyvel electrum

4. Done.

The procedure of installing git python3-rocksdb python3-aiohttp python3-plyvel electrum is complete.

Software Dependency Installation[edit]

Note: The following instructions should be applied in Whonix-Workstation ™ (Qubes-Whonix ™: App Qube anon-whonix).

1. Install the Install PyLRU. [3]

2. Install Bitcoin Core.

Source Code Download and Digital Software Signature Verification[edit]

Note: The following instructions should be applied in Whonix-Workstation ™ (Qubes-Whonix ™: App Qube anon-whonix).

1. Open a terminal.

If you are using Qubes-Whonix ™, complete the following steps.

Qubes App Launcher (blue/grey "Q")Whonix-Workstation ™ App Qube (commonly named anon-whonix)Xfce Terminal

If you are using a graphical Whonix ™ with XFCE, run.

Start MenuXfce Terminal

2. Acquire the OpenPGP public key of ElectrumX developer SomberNight. [4]

notice Digital signatures can increase security but this requires knowledge. Learn more about digital software signature verification.

Securely download the signing key.

scurl-download https://raw.githubusercontent.com/spesmilo/electrum/master/pubkeys/sombernight.asc

Display the key's fingerprint.

gpg --keyid-format long --import --import-options show-only --with-fingerprint sombernight.asc

Verify the fingerprint. It should show.

In late-2021, the output is identical to the following. Key fingerprint = 4AD6 4339 DFA0 5E20 B3F6 AD51 E7B7 48CD AF5E 5ED9

The most important check is confirming the key fingerprint exactly matches the output below. [5]

warning Warning:

Do not continue if the fingerprint does not match! This risks using infected or erroneous files! The whole point of verification is to confirm file integrity.

Add the signing key.

gpg --import sombernight.asc

3. Download the ElectrumX server source code using git.

git clone https://github.com/spesmilo/electrumx.git

4. Change directory.

cd electrumx

5. Digital signature verification.

Note: At the time of writing, 1.16.0 was the latest stable release. Before starting the ElectrumX source code download, browse to github.com/spesmilo/electrumx/tags [archive] to verify the version number.

git tag --verify 1.16.0

If the file is verified successfully, the output will include Good signature.

gpg: WARNING: This key is not certified with a trusted signature!
gpg:          There is no indication that the signature belongs to the owner.

The above "gpg: WARNING" can be ignored since it does not alter the validity of the signature related to the downloaded key. Rather, this warning refers to the level of trust placed in the developers signing key and the web of trust. To remove this warning, the developers signing key must be personally signed with your own key.

6. Checkout the git tag.

git checkout 1.16.0

7. Done.

Download, digital software verification and git checkout of the ElectrumX server source code is complete.

Configuration[edit]

Bitcoin-Qt Configuration[edit]

Note: The following instructions should be applied in Whonix-Workstation ™ (Qubes-Whonix ™: App Qube anon-whonix).

1. Create folder ~/.bitcoin.

Note: It is OK Bitcoin-Qt has been previously used and folder ~/.bitcoin already exists. Running the following command would be optional, OK and do nothing.

mkdir -p ~/.bitcoin

2. Create the Bitcoin Core configuration file ~/.bitcoin/bitcoin.conf.

Open file ~/.bitcoin/bitcoin.conf in a text editor of your choice as a regular, non-root user.

If you are using a graphical environment, run.

mousepad ~/.bitcoin/bitcoin.conf

If you are using a terminal, run.

nano ~/.bitcoin/bitcoin.conf

3. Paste the following text. [6]

server=1
bind=127.0.0.1
rpcbind=127.0.0.1
rpcallowip=127.0.0.1
txindex=1
prune=0
rpcuser=username
rpcpassword=password
proxy=10.152.152.10:9111

4. Save.

5. Start Bitcoin-Qt.

Bitcoin-Qt can be started using any method (from command line or start menu entry). Starting normally. [7]

~/bitcoin-*/bin/bitcoin-qt

6. Disable pruning in Bitcoin-Qt.

Bitcoin CoreSettingsOptionsunselect Prune block storage to [8]

7. Disable incoming connections in Bitcoin-Qt.

Optional. [8] [9]

Bitcoin CoreSettingsNetworkunselect Allow incoming connections

8. Terminate Bitcoin-Qt.

Close terminate Bitcoin-Qt. This is required for the following next step which requires that Bitcoin-Qt is not running.

9. Reindex the blockchain using Bitcon-Qt.

Bitcon-Qt needs to be started at least once from the command line with the -reindex parameter. [10]

~/bitcoin-*/bin/bitcoin-qt -reindex

When Bitcoin-Qt is started next time, there is no more need for -reindex and it probably should not be used since it takes more time.

10. Wait for the blockchain to be synchronized.

11. Optional for better usability: Add Bitcoin-Qt start menu entry.

12. Optional for better usability: Autostart bitcoin-qt.

Autostarting Bitcon-Qt after reboot might be desirable so it can catch up downloading the blockchain as well as to serve ElectrumX.

13. Done.

Configuration of Bitcoin-Qt is complete.

ElectrumX Configuration[edit]

ElectrumX Server Configuration[edit]

Note: The following instructions should be applied in Whonix-Workstation ™ (Qubes-Whonix ™: App Qube anon-whonix).

1. Open file ~/electrumx.conf in a text editor of your choice as a regular, non-root user.

If you are using a graphical environment, run.

mousepad ~/electrumx.conf

If you are using a terminal, run.

nano ~/electrumx.conf

2. Paste the following contents.

COIN=Bitcoin
DB_DIRECTORY=/home/user/.electrumx
DAEMON_URL=username:password@127.0.0.1
SERVICES=tcp://127.0.0.1:5000,rpc://127.0.0.1:2401
PEER_DISCOVERY=self

3. Save.

4. Done.

Server configuration of ElectrumX has been completed.

ElectrumX User Systemd Unit Configuration[edit]

Note: The following instructions should be applied in Whonix-Workstation ™ (Qubes-Whonix ™: App Qube anon-whonix).

1. Create folder ~/.config/systemd/user.

mkdir -p ~/.config/systemd/user

2. Create file ~/.config/systemd/user/electrumx.service.

Open file ~/.config/systemd/user/electrumx.service in a text editor of your choice as a regular, non-root user.

If you are using a graphical environment, run.

mousepad ~/.config/systemd/user/electrumx.service

If you are using a terminal, run.

nano ~/.config/systemd/user/electrumx.service

[11]

3. Paste the following contents.

[Unit]
Description=Electrumx
After=network.target

[Service]
EnvironmentFile=/home/user/electrumx.conf
ExecStart=/home/user/electrumx/electrumx_server
LimitNOFILE=8192
TimeoutStopSec=30min

[Install]
WantedBy=default.target

4. Save.

5. Reload systemd user instance.

systemctl --user daemon-reload

6. Optional: Enable autostart for the ElectrumX systemd user instance.

systemctl --user enable electrumx

7. Start ElectrumX systemd user instance.

systemctl --user restart electrumx

8. Done.

Creation and configuration of ElectrumX systemd user unit has been completed.

Electrum Bitcoin Wallet Configuration[edit]

Note: The following instructions should be applied in Whonix-Workstation ™ (Qubes-Whonix ™: App Qube anon-whonix).

Connect only to one server (own server) instead of any third party servers.

electrum --offline setconfig oneserver true

Connect to own local server.

electrum --offline setconfig server 127.0.0.1:5000:t

Avoid auto connecting to third party servers (and avoid electrum first start wizard asking to).

electrum --offline setconfig auto_connect false

Add a electrum Start Menu Entry[edit]

Creating a electrum start menu entry which only connects to ElectrumX.

This step is optional.

Note: The following instructions should be applied in Whonix-Workstation ™ (Qubes-Whonix ™: App Qube anon-whonix).

Inside Whonix-Workstation ™ (Qubes-Whonix ™: App Qube anon-whonix).

1. Create folder ~/.local/share/applications.

mkdir -p ~/.local/share/applications

2. Open file ~/.local/share/applications/electrum-with-electrumx.desktop in a text editor of your choice as a regular, non-root user.

If you are using a graphical environment, run.

mousepad ~/.local/share/applications/electrum-with-electrumx.desktop

If you are using a terminal, run.

nano ~/.local/share/applications/electrum-with-electrumx.desktop

3. Paste the following contents.

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Electrum with ElectrumX
Comment=electrum-with-electrumx
Exec=electrum --oneserver --server localhost:5000:t
Terminal=false
Type=Application
Icon=money-manager-ex
StartupWMClass=bitcoin
MimeType=x-scheme-handler/bitcoin;
Categories=Finance;

4. Save.

5. Qubes-Whonix ™: perform platform-specific steps.

In dom0, refresh Qubes' appmenu: VM settingsApplicationsRefresh ApplicationsAdd desktop shortcut.

6. Done.

The Electrum with ElectrumX start menu entry available should be available.

autostart electrum[edit]

Automatically starting Electrum with ElectrumX.

This step is optional.

Inside Whonix-Workstation ™ (Qubes-Whonix ™: App Qube anon-whonix).

1. Apply instructions Add a electrum Start Menu Entry first.

2. Create folder ~/.config/autostart.

mkdir -p ~/.config/autostart

3. Create a symlink from ~/.local/share/applications/electrum-with-electrumx.desktop to ~/.config/autostart/electrum-with-electrumx.desktop.

ln -s ~/.local/share/applications/electrum-with-electrumx.desktop ~/.config/autostart/electrum-with-electrumx.desktop

4. Done.

Electrum with ElectrumX will be automatically started the next time the VM is started.

Usage[edit]

Note: The following instructions should be applied in Whonix-Workstation ™ (Qubes-Whonix ™: App Qube anon-whonix).

1. Start Bitcoin-Qt using any method (from start menu entry, autostart or manually from the command line).

~/bitcoin-*/bin/bitcoin-qt

2. Check the the blockchain download in Bitcoin-Qt is functional.

3. Run the ElectrumX server using any method (autostart, or manually form the command line).

systemctl --user restart electrumx

4. Check that ElectrumX blockchain processing is functional.

See monitoring.

5. Start the electrum Bitcoin wallet using any method (autostart, or manually form the command line).

electrum --oneserver --server localhost:5000:t

Or alternatively in verbose mode.

electrum -v --oneserver --server localhost:5000:t

If electrum shows "not connected" then that could be because Bitcoin Core has not downloaded enough blockchain yet and/or ElectrumX has not caught up with the blockchain yet. In that case, if electrum is run in verbose mode, the console output would include:

I/i | interface.[localhost:5000] | connection established. version: ['ElectrumX 1.16.0', '1.4']
I/i | interface.[localhost:5000] | disconnecting due to GracefulDisconnect('server tip below max checkpoint')

Upstream bug report: electrum unwanted disconnect from own ElectrumX server [archive] [12]

Monitoring[edit]

Note: The following instructions should be applied in Whonix-Workstation ™ (Qubes-Whonix ™: App Qube anon-whonix).

Check the status of the ElectrumX systemd user service.

systemctl --user status electrumx

Follow the log of the ElectrumX systemd user service.

journalctl --boot --user -f -u electrumx

If all is going well, it should be showing output similar to the following.

electrumx_server[7426]: INFO:Prefetcher:new block height 144,270 hash 00000000000002606168ac016368896d79c591bff2b6580db2e398faef7ec093

See Also[edit]

Donations[edit]

After installing the ElectrumX server, please consider making a donation to electrum Bitcoin Wallet / ElextrumX server and Whonix ™ project (Donate) to help keep it running for many years to come.

Donate Bitcoin (BTC) to Whonix ™.

Bitcoin accepted here 35wdTVzyYGzRd7W2Wb2dunw3v5Am14sxPX

Whonix donate bitcoin.png

Footnotes[edit]

  1. The systemctl --user must be run as normal, non-root user without sudo because these are systemd user units and not systemd system units.
  2. Installation of the electrum Bitcoin Wallet is optional. In advanced setups, the electrum wallet might be running on a different server or in a different VM.
  3. Not available from packages.debian.org at time of writing. https:/packages.debian.org/pylru
  4. Minor changes in the output such as new uids (email addresses) or newer expiration dates are inconsequential.
    • prune=0 is the default for bitcoind but the Bitcon-Qt GUI has a first start wizard which asks if pruning should be enabled. To avoid that first start wizard and to make sure pruning is disabled, explicitly disable pruning in configuration file.
    • Quote ElectrumX Upstream Documentation [archive]:

      You must be running a non-pruning bitcoin daemon with txindex=1

  5. "normally" meaning without -reindex.
  6. 8.0 8.1 Optional since bitcoin-qt options menu says that configuration file overrides bitcoin-qt GUI settings anyhow but better just in case to avoid any potential bugs.
  7. Disable incoming connections in Bitcoin-Qt for better security (?) (avoiding code paths handling unsolicited incoming connections). But incoming connections are not accidentally happening inside Whonix-Workstation ™ anyhow. That would require setting up an onion service for Bitcoin Core which is Undocumented. On the other hand, unsolicited incoming connections through an onion service might be desirable for better connectivity, to support the Bitcoin network?
  8. Using -reindex is required because Bitcoin Core configuration has been changed, specifically txindex [archive] has been enabled. (txindex=1)
    Quote ElectrumX Upstream Documentation [archive]:

    You must be running a non-pruning bitcoin daemon with txindex=1

  9. Based on ~/electrumx/contrib/systemd/electrumx.service.
  10. https://github.com/spesmilo/electrum/issues/7548 [archive]


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