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Boot your existing, installed Debian Host into Live Mode with GRUB LIVE

From Whonix


FREE

One of the primary objectives of grub-live is preventing malware from gaining persistence and having an unchanged system after reboot. It would require targeted [1] malware which gains super user (root) access to re-mount the disk for write access.

It is also recommended to regularly boot into persistent mode for installation of updates.

There are two choices:

  • grub-live [archive]: Boots into persistent mode by default. The grub boot menu has an option to boot into live mode.
  • grub-default-live [archive]: Boots into live mode by default. The grub boot menu has an option to boot into persistent mode.

This is also a useful tool for better privacy on the hard drive, as well as experimental changes like testing software.

Ambox warning pn.svg.png grub-live is not yet considered amnesic because anti-forensics testing is required!

Installation[edit]

1. Download the Signing Key.

wget https://www.whonix.org/patrick.asc

2. Optional: Check the Signing Key for better security.

3. Add Whonix's signing key.

sudo apt-key --keyring /etc/apt/trusted.gpg.d/whonix.gpg add ~/patrick.asc

4. Add Whonix's APT repository.

echo "deb https://deb.whonix.org buster main contrib non-free" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/whonix.list

5. Update the package lists.

sudo apt-get update

6. Install grub-live or grub-default-live.

sudo apt-get install grub-live

Usage[edit]

After reboot a new live mode entry will appear in the grub boot menu.

Comparison[edit]

Table: Comparison of grub-live and Tails

Aspect grub-live on the host [2] /
grub-default-live on the host
Tails DVD only Tails USB / DVD, with persistent USB Tails read-only medium all other writable disks unplugged [3] [4]
Common [5] mode of operation Yes Yes Yes No [6]
Amnesic / protects against disk modifications [7] Yes Yes Yes Yes
Protects against malware persistence on hard drive after malware compromise No [8] No [8] No [8] Yes [8]
Protects against firmware trojans after malware compromise No [8] No [8] No [8] No [8]
Avoid writing to any host disks ? Yes [9] Yes [9] Yes [9]
Disables removable drives auto-mounting No Yes [10] Yes [10] Yes [10]
Disables swap ? Yes Yes Yes
Disabled virtual machine shared folders No [11] ? ? ?
Wipe RAM on shutdown No [12] Yes, but with limitations. [13] Yes, but with limitations. [13] Yes, but with limitations. [13]
Wipe video RAM on shutdown No [14] No [15] No [15] No [15]
Emergency shutdown on USB removal No Yes Yes Yes
Live Mode Usability [16] Average [17] Good [18] Good [18] Good [18]
Live Mode Indicator For XFCE only. Not yet documented. [19] Unneeded Unneeded Unneeded
Unified Amnesic + Anonymous User Experience No [20] Yes Yes Yes
Easy standard ("everyday") upgrades [21] Yes ? ? ?
Release upgrades [22] possible anytime [21] Yes No [23] No [23] No [23]
Live boot by default
  • grub-live: No [24]
  • grub-default-live: Yes
Yes Yes Yes
Persistent boot by default
  • grub-live: Yes [24]
  • grub-default-live: No
No No No
Full disk encryption compatibility Yes No No No
Encrypted persistence supported Yes Yes [25] Yes [25] Yes [25]

Forum Discussion[edit]

https://forums.whonix.org/t/whonix-live-mode-amnesia-amnesic-non-persistent-anti-forensics/3894/123 [archive]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. Re-mounting the disk for write access is not yet a default feature available to off-the-shelf malware; no such reports have come to our attention.
  2. Meaning, grub-live outside of a virtual machine. For grub-live in a VM, see Whonix Live.
  3. Assuming Tails on a DVD which can only be written to once, not DVD-RW.
  4. Or Using Tails USB with physical, active and effective (non-circumventable by software) write protection switch enabled.
  5. As in a substantial user group willing and able to do this.
  6. This would be a prudent approach but search engines indicate that no or very few users run this configuration.
  7. Excluding malware compromise.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 Once targeted malware is active it can circumvent read-only settings, mount the harddrive, and add malware which becomes active after next boot.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Quote https://tails.boum.org/contribute/design/ [archive]

    Tails takes care not to use any filesystem that might exist on the host machine hard drive, unless explicitly told to do so by the user. The Debian Live persistence feature is disabled by passing nopersistence over the kernel command line to live-boot.

  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Quote https://tails.boum.org/contribute/design/ [archive]

    Removable drives auto-mounting is disabled in Tails 0.7 and newer.

    https://git-tails.immerda.ch/tails/plain/config/chroot_local-includes/etc/dconf/db/local.d/00_Tails_defaults [archive]

    https://git-tails.immerda.ch/tails/plain/config/chroot_local-includes/etc/dconf/db/local.d/00_Tails_defaults [archive] contains a configuration for GNOME only. This is reasonable in the Tails context since its default desktop is GNOME and others are unsupported.

  11. Considered a feature or bug?
  12. It might be possible to create a separate package wiperam. Then a meta package amnesia could depend on both grub-live and wiperam to simplify live boot for users.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 https://tails.boum.org/contribute/design/memory_erasure/ [archive]
  14. https://github.com/QubesOS/qubes-issues/issues/1563 [archive]
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 https://redmine.tails.boum.org/code/issues/5356 [archive]
  16. The user being aware of currently running in live mode vs persistent mode.
  17. Without Live Mode Indicator (see below) it is not obvious to the user if they booted into persistent or live mode. This might lead to a mistake where live boot is not selected from the grub boot menu (persistent mode is instead set), but the user believes otherwise.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Consistently good because amnesia has always has been a core Tails feature. It is obvious to the user that nothing persists except folders that have selective persistence enabled.
  19. https://github.com/Whonix/whonix-xfce-desktop-config [archive]
  20. Whonix ™ is primarily run inside virtualizers. grub-live is an extra configuration step on the user's host.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Using standard package managers such as apt.
  22. Such as from Debian stretch to Debian buster.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Release upgrade of Tails from lets say Debian stretch to Debian buster is a non-trivial development effort. See also: https://tails.boum.org/doc/first_steps/upgrade/index.en.html [archive]
  24. 24.0 24.1 Persistent boot is the default option in grub boot menu.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 https://tails.boum.org/doc/first_steps/persistence/configure/index.en.html [archive]


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