Whonix Live Mode
|About this Whonix Live Page|
Users can optionally run Whonix as a live system.  Booting into live mode will make all writes go to RAM instead of the hard disk. Everything that is created / changed / downloaded in the VM during that session will not persist after shutdown. This also holds true for malicious changes made by malware, so long as it did not break out of the virtual machine.
grub-livewill create a new boot menu entry which the user has to select manually but it is the more failsafe and hence the recommended option.
ro-mode-initthe boot menu will stay the same and the system will automatically boot into live mode when it detects a read-only disk otherwise it boots normally into persistent mode.
Live mode is not amnesic; in particular, memory forensics has not been taken into account! The primary objective is preventing malware from gaining persistence and having an unchanged system after each reboot.
When Whonix is run as a live system, all changes are written to RAM by default. However, it is possible for this design to be bypassed if swap files, core dumps and other relevant configurations are in effect. Fortunately, most of these can be disabled.    
To stymie disk forensics, ideally full disk encryption should be applied on the host and the computer should be powered off when not in use. Alternatively, the whole host OS could be run from RAM, or a live system run on the host with all writes going to RAM. The latter method also requires a correctly implemented write protection switch.
To make memory forensics harder, the machine should either be removed from any power source (by pulling the plug / removing the battery) and/or the memory should be wiped upon shutdown.
Since live mode makes each write go to RAM, the user might want to increase the memory assigned to the VM to improve performance; for example, if large files are regularly downloaded.
Following reboot, a second boot entry called "Whonix Live-mode" will be visible. Simply press
Enter to boot the live system and use it as normal.
To increase security, the VM disks can be set to read-only. Otherwise, malware running as root in the VM could theoretically mount the image read-write and gain persistence in this way. To do so, power off the machine and set the hard disk to read-only in the virt-manager GUI before booting into live mode. To boot into normal mode again, simply revert this change and choose the normal boot option in the GRUB menu.
Virtualbox and KVM:
An inconsistent filesystem will likely result in errors during live-boot. For instance, inconsistencies can arise when the VM is killed instead of performing a normal shutdown in persistent mode. Therefore, to make sure it is consistent, run
fsck in persistent mode. Debian automatically does this during boot. VMs running in live mode can be killed without problems.
In the case of non-
fsck related errors using
ro-mode-init (like dropping to an initramfs shell), add the following to the kernel command line/GRUB menu for easier debugging:
In the future, running Whonix from a Live CD or DVD might be supported. Check this wiki entry at a later date.
To learn more about live mode, refer to the Live-mode forum discussion.
This is a wiki. Want to improve this page? Help is welcome and volunteer contributions are happily considered! See Conditions for Contributions to Whonix, then Edit! IP addresses are scrubbed, but editing over Tor is recommended. Edits are held for moderation.