encroot - build encrypted Linux instances on Amazon EC2


encroot [options] domain

           --address <a>    : private IP address; use once per interface
           --big-boot       : full system on /dev/xvda1, not just /boot
           --dedicated      : use single-tenant hardware (only with VPC)
           --ebs-type <t>   : EBS volume type; use "gp2" or "io1" for SSD
           --fix-hook <h>   : hook script to fix distro-specific things
           --group <g>      : security group; use once per required group
           --iops <i>       : number of EBS I/O operations per second
           --key <k>        : name of an SSH key pair for the instance
           --name <n>       : name of the instance; default is Linux_*
           --no-color       : remove all annoying colors from the output
           --no-fonts       : remove bold and thin fonts from the output
           --no-lines       : replace underscore lines with ASCII dashes
           --no-style       : remove VT100 escape codes from the output
           --paravirtual    : use paravirtual virtualization instead of HVM
           --port <p>       : alternative port number for the web server
           --reg-params <p> : extra parameters for the RegisterImage call
           --run-params <p> : extra parameters for the RunInstances call
           --size <s>       : total volume size in GiB; /boot is 1 GiB
           --subnet <s>     : subnet ID for the started VPC instance
           --system <s>     : e.g. "lucid-20101228" or "maverick/i386"
           --type <t>       : instance type ("t1.micro", "m1.large", etc.)
           --version        : display the date of this Encroot version
           --vpc <v>        : Virtual Private Cloud; disambiguates addresses
             domain         : DNS domain for decryption password entry


The encroot utility can be used to create new Amazon EC2 instances with encrypted root filesystems. Simply encrypting everything is easier than dealing with separate encrypted volumes, and you can stop worrying about your secrets leaking through configuration or log files.

For step-by-step instructions about using the script, please read the accompanying README.txt file. This man page mostly serves as a way to document the more advanced options.

However, the quick version is that you need a private ~/.awsapirc file, as documented in the awsapi(1) man page, and your SSL certificate (boot.crt) and private key (boot.key) for the password entry page should be located in the current working directory. After that, just follow the examples, but remember to allow HTTPS in the security group.



Use the private address for a new VPC instance. If this option is repeated, extra network interfaces will be created. This can be used to create gateways between different subnets. You may not combine addresses with the --subnet option, since a subnet is given implicitly by each address, but you may have to use the --vpc option if the subnet is ambiguous.


Install a full Linux distro on /dev/xvda1 instead of just /boot. The Linux copy in the encrypted partition is entirely unchanged, which means that you may in principle replace it with any distro instead of being forced to run Ubuntu. However, the kernel will still boot from the first partition, complicating maintenance.


Start a dedicated instance, running on single-tenant hardware. Instances of this type can only be launched into a VPC.


The type of EBS volume to use for the instance. The default is an ordinary magnetic ("standard") volume. If you want SSD disks instead, you may specify "gp2" for General Purpose (SSD) volumes or "io1" for Provisioned IOPS (SSD) volumes. Provisioned IOPS will also require a corresponding --iops argument. More details can be found in the EC2 User Guide.


An optional hook script that is used to fix things when a system doesn't look exactly like the main script expects. It may also handle special configuration like installing extra packages.

This hook is called as root. Its first argument is a code that indicates the current step in the process, since the hook will be called more than once. The second argument is the root directory of the copied system image.

At the moment, the following hook codes are used by Encroot:

initCalled on a copied system before making changes
exitCalled when all ordinary changes have been made

If your hook script exits with a non-zero exit code, the main script will immediately release allocated resources and stop.


Add the security group, which may be specified by name or ID. The ID prefix is optional, so use "3bd535d7" for "sg-3bd535d7". You can use multiple security groups by repeating this option. Groups listed before the first --address option will be used on all network interfaces. Otherwise, groups are applied to the interface associated with the preceding --address option.


The number of EBS I/O operations per second. This is required for Provisioned IOPS (SSD) volumes. At the time of writing, no other volume types can be combined with this option.


The name of an EC2 key pair for SSH connections. The default is to use the same key pair as the build instance.


The name given to the new instance instead of a hopefully unique but boring default like "Linux_2013-06-17_16.51.49".


Remove colors, but keep bold text and fancy separator lines. You may need this option if you hate the choice of colors.


Remove differences between bold and thin fonts in the output. Depending on your terminal, these may show up as different fonts or different colors, so you can disable them if they look bad.


Replace the default underscore lines with ASCII dashes, just in case somebody hates them. Unlike the previous two options, it's difficult to see a good reason for this, but for completeness...


Remove VT100 escape codes from the output. This is the shorter way to specify all of --no-color --no-fonts --no-lines at once to strip colors, bold text, and fancy separator lines for those people who prefer their output to be pure ASCII text. ASCII is the default when standard output is not connected to a suitable terminal, but that should be a rare occurrence. In other cases, you may still need this option if you hate the fancy styling.


Use paravirtual (PV) instead of hardware virtual machine (HVM) as the virtualization type. HVM is the default except for T1, C1, M1, and M2 instance types, which do not support HVM. Some other instance types will not support PV. You only need this option if you know why you need it.


An alternative port for the password-entry web page. The normal HTTPS port (443) is the default, but you may want to use another port to keep mere mortals away from it during reboots. Remember to open the correct port in you security group as well.


Extra request parameters for the RegisterImage call, as found in the EC2 API. See awsapi(1) for a description of the format. These parameters are inserted first on the command line, so they will not override parameters added by the main script. They may be useful to enable features that are not otherwise accessible.


Extra request parameters for the RunInstances call, as found in the EC2 API. See awsapi(1) for a description of the format. These parameters are inserted first on the command line, so they will not override parameters added by the main script. They may be useful to enable features that are not otherwise accessible.


Total volume size in GiB, of which 1 GiB is used for /dev/xvda1.


Launch the instance into the given subnet, where subnet can be either the subnet ID or some CIDR notation like "". If the latter is ambiguous, you may require the --vpc option. It is silly to use this option more than once; use --address instead if you want network interfaces in different subnets.


The Linux distro to install, where system is a specific version, like "precise" or "raring". Subversions of releases can also be used, such as "precise-20130411.1" or "raring-beta-2". A 32-bit system is created by adding the suffix "/i386".

The system spec can have one of the following prefixes:

debian-debian-wheezyDebian "Wheezy" (official AMI release)
ubuntu-ubuntu-trustyUbuntu "Trusty Tahr" (optional prefix)
ami-ami-2c886c44Amazon Machine Image
i-i-2d872f7eAmazon EC2 instance
snap-snap-04203ddbAmazon EBS snapshot
vol-vol-7b91763eAmazon EBS volume

If the system is given simply as "debian" or "ubuntu", a default version of them will be selected. Currently, the version used is that mentioned in the table above.

Finally, system may be a directory on the local machine, which could be a mounted system image, an unpacked system hierarchy, or simply the root directory of the build instance itself, if you want to make an encrypted clone of it. However, unless you are forced to use this method, the latter scenario is probably better handled by stopping the instance to get a consistent clone based on its instance ID. One thing that might force you is if your instance is based on an AWS Marketplace AMI, since that will prevent cloning even if the image is "sold" for free.


The instance type to use for the new instance. The default is to use the same instance type as the build instance. Read the "Instance Types" section in the EC2 User Guide for more info.


Display the date of this Encroot version (which is "2015-05-28") and exit without doing any further damage.


Use a specific Virtual Private Cloud, where vpc is the VPC ID. The ID prefix is optional, so use "37aaf90f" for "vpc-37aaf90f". You only need this option if you have more than one VPC and if the subnet ranges overlap. Unambiguous addresses work anyway.


To create a classic EC2 instance with external HTTPS access:

           encroot --name "EC2 Instance" \
               --group "HTTPS Group"

To do the same thing, but with Debian instead of Ubuntu:

           encroot --name "EC2 Instance" --system debian \
               --group "HTTPS Group"

To clone the build instance instead of creating from scratch:

           encroot --name "EC2 Instance" --system / \
               --group "HTTPS Group"

To create a VPC instance with the address selected by AWS:

           encroot --name "VpcInstance1" \

To create an instance with two different subnets, where the groups used are those with group ID sg-b517c157 and name "default", respectively:

           encroot --name "VpcInstance2" \
               --address --group b517c157 \

To create an internal instance without public domain name:

           encroot --name "InternalVpc1" \
               --address ip-10-0-1-41.ec2.internal


~/.awsapirc - contains your AWS secrets.

This file contains secret data. It should only be accessible by the awsapi user, so remember to "chmod 600 ~/.awsapirc" before adding your keys. All settings are given as lines of "name: value" pairs. The secretAccessKey and accessKeyId settings are required.

boot.crt - SSL certificate for the boot partition

This certificate is used to authenticate the web page where you enter your decryption password. External users should never access this page, so a self-signed internal certificate is OK.

boot.key - private SSL key for the boot partition

This is the corresponding private key used by the web server. Don't forget that this must be the decrypted version of the key.

/var/cache/encroot/ - previously downloaded files

Downloaded Ubuntu releases are stored in this directory to avoid unnecessary downloads in the future. However, if updated versions of Ubuntu are released, you may need to delete some of these files to get rid of annoying SHA256 checksum failures.







Henrik Gulbrandsen <>