Passbolt on CentOS 7 with NGINX / PHP7-FPM / MariaDB from scratch

You tried installing passbolt on CentOS but things didn’t go as planned ? You are struggling with some parts ? Or you simply want to learn how to have a running instance of passbolt ? Then this step by step tutorial is for you. It covers the installation of passbolt on a freshly installed CentOS 7 environment.

You can get CentOS 7 by downloading it from the official mirrors, by running the corresponding AMI for AWS, or by pulling the CentOS docker container.

The goal of this tutorial is not to create an hardened installation, but more to create a minimal barebone passbolt instance you can use to test the application locally, before you start building your production environment.

Before we start, I’d like to point out that SvennD had already made a great tutorial about it. However since then, a few installation steps have evolved and we got to know about a few additional pain points faced by the community while installing passbolt on CentOS, hence this updated version was born.

This tutorial was made for passbolt v1.6.9

Base packages

Let’s first update our yum database and enable EPEL repositories to install all the required passbolt components:

# yum update
# yum install epel-release && yum update
  1. PHP packages and utilities

Passbolt required php extensions and utilities required to build php-gnupg:

# yum install php-intl php-gd php-mysql php-mcrypt php-pear php-devel gcc gpgme-devel git policycoreutils-python
  • php-devel, gcc and gpgme-devel are required to build php-gnupg extension throuhg PECL.
  • git will be required to clone passbolt source code
  • policycoreutils-python will install some binaries to easily manage selinux policies such as semanage.

Now it’s time to build php-gnupg extension and enable it:

# pecl install gnupg
# echo "" > /etc/php.d/gnupg.ini

Entropy is required to generate the SSL or GPG keys. Since it can be long to generate entropy (e.g. randomness) on virtual machines we will install rng-tools to ensure that there is enough.

# yum install rng-tools
# systemctl enable rngd
# systemctl start rngd

Security note: rng-tools is not magic, as it can only get entropy from the sources available. In other words if your virtual machine has no available sources of entropy then security-wise it will not help. You can check how much entropy is available at any given time, the higher the better. Learn more.

# cat /proc/sys/kernel/random/entropy_avail

2. Nginx

Installing nginx package (apache is also supported):

# yum install nginx
  1. PHP-FPM

Install php-fpm

# yum install php-fpm
# systemctl enable php-fpm
# systemctl start php-fpm

We will be making use of the default nginx user to run both nginx and php-fpm. FPM out of the box uses the apache user but it is easy to change:

Edit /etc/php-fpm.d/www.conf with your preferred editor and modify the user/group configuration parameter to ‘nginx’:

user = nginx
group = nginx

Some users have found errors regarding the strtotime() in passbolt log files. If that is your case you can set the timezone in /etc/php.ini like following:

date.timezone = Asia/Kuala_Lumpur
  1. MariaDB

We will use mariadb here, but you could also use mysql. In this section we will:

  • Install mariadb engine
  • Set up the root user credentials for mariadb using
# mysql_secure_installation
  • Create a database called ‘passbolt’ for Passbolt to operate with.
  • Grant permissions on database ‘passbolt’ to user ‘passbolt’

Let’s install mariadb server

# yum install mariadb-server

Start the mariadb server and enable the service to start on the next boot:

# systemctl start mariadb
# systemctl enable mariadb

It’s not mandatory but recommended to run the following command to secure initial mariadb installations. We will use it in this tutorial to set the root credentials for the mariadb instance.

It will help you to set the root credentials and more, just:

# mysql_secure_installation

Check the official mariadb documentation to learn more.

Create a database with a name that suits your organization, for this case we will be original and name it ‘passbolt’:

# mysqladmin -u root -p create passbolt

If you have used the mysql_secure_installation you have probably set a root password for the mariadb instance. Use that password and the root user to connect as root to the mariadb console and grant permissions for the passbolt database to a user called passbolt with a password of your choice:

# mysql -u root -p -e "GRANT ALL ON passbolt.* to passbolt@'localhost' identified by 'YOUR_SECRET_PASSWORD_OF_CHOICE';"

Note the user will be only allowed to connect to the database through localhost. If plan to install mariadb on a remote node this value might change.

Passbolt setup

Now that we have all the required dependencies and packages installed, let’s start configuring passbolt and its dependencies.

  1. Generate GPG key pair

Important: Currently php-gnupg does not support keys with a passphrase so you will need to leave that field empty.

Passbolt will need its own PGP key to be able to shake hands with the users during the authentication procedure. Use the command below to generate a PGP key pair, and answer the questions.

It’s a good idea to fill in the details properly and not press enter frantically. Make sure you have decent name and email for the key. This will come in handy to identify and verify it down the line.

Important: Currently php-gnupg does not support keys with a passphrase so you will need to leave that field empty.

# gpg --gen-key

  1. Download passbolt source code

Download the source code from its git repository and store it in /var/www/passbolt

# git clone /var/www/passbolt
  1. Export the GPG keys

We’ll need to export the public and the private key that we created previously. We’ll store the keys in the configuration folder.

Don’t forget to replace with the email address you used while generating your key.

# gpg --armor --export-secret-keys > /var/www/passbolt/app/Config/gpg/server_private_key.key
# gpg --armor --export > /var/www/passbolt/app/Config/gpg/server_public_key.key
  1. Set the correct rights

The web server needs to be able to write in the tmp directory to speed things up during excecution. It also need a place to upload the profile pictures.

# chown -R nginx.nginx /var/www/passbolt/
# chmod +w -R /var/www/passbolt/app/tmp
# chmod +w /var/www/passbolt/app/webroot/img/public
  1. Create the configuration files

5.1. Let’s copy the default configuration files to create our own versions.

# cd /var/www/passbolt/app/Config
# cp core.php.default core.php
# cp database.php.default database.php
# cp app.php.default app.php
# cp email.php.default email.php

5.2 Edit the configuration files

We need to edit the security salt, cipherSeed (digit only), and fullBaseUrl (the url where passbolt will be reachable) in core.php. Both values are currently not used, but they may be used in the future, so it is a mandatory step. Choose random values by for example throwing a few dice.

# vim core.php

The lines below will have to be modified.

Configure::write('Security.salt', '{salt_of_your_choice}');
Configure::write('Security.cipherSeed', '{cipher_seed_of_your_choice}');

We also want to uncomment and change the App.fullBaseUrl to our selected domain or ip address so that all the links are correctly formatted. This will be used for example to display the avatar images in the notification emails.

Do not forget to uncomment the line. It is commented by default!

Configure::write('App.fullBaseUrl', 'http://{ip_of_your_server}');

5.3. We also need to set the right database name and user credentials in database.php.

# vim database.php

You need to fill in the details for your default database server. Here mostly login (e.g. root or whatever user you have created previously), password and database (passbolt).

No need to edit other items, see the diff bellow:

# diff database.php.default database.php
<   'login' => 'user',
<   'password' => 'password',
<   'database' => 'database_name',
>   'login' => 'root',
>   'password' => 'Str0ng#P4ssword',\
>   'database' => 'passbolt',

We need to tell the application to use reuse our freshly created gpg keys, as the default ones are insecure. To accomplish this we set the fingerprint and location in app.php (in the GPG Configuration section). Also take a moment to check the other application settings. You may want to allow public registration of users for example.

# vim app.php

With the values

// Server private key location and fingerprint

‘fingerprint’ => ”,

‘public’ => APP . ‘Config’ . DS . ‘gpg’ . DS . ‘server_public_key.key’,

‘private’ => APP . ‘Config’ . DS . ‘gpg’ . DS . ‘server_private_key.key’

To obtain the fingerprint of your key, you can run the command below.

# echo `gpg –fingerprint | sed -n ‘2p’ | rev | awk ‘{NF=10}1’ | rev | sed ‘s/ //g’`

  1. Configure the GPG Keyring for the nginx user

5.1 Retrieve the home directory of the nginx user, this is where the GPG keyring will be stored and used by nginx server. We are in CentOS 7, so the default location should be /var/lib/nginx

# getent passwd nginx

nginx:x:997:995:Nginx web server:/var/lib/nginx:/sbin/nologin

5.2 Create the .gnupg keyring directory by, for instance, listing the current gpg keys (which should be none)

# su -c “gpg –list-keys” -s /bin/bash nginx

5.3. Edit /var/www/passbolt/app/Config/app.php to use the newly created keyring. The only thing we’ll need to edit is the GPG.env.home entry, and set it with the path of the .gnupg directory (in centos 7: /var/lib/nginx/.gnupg)

‘home’ => ‘/var/lib/nginx/.gnupg’,

Wrapping up

  1. Install passbolt

Everything is now ready. We can install passbolt.

# cd /var/www/passbolt
# su -s /bin/bash -c "app/Console/cake install --no-admin" nginx

You can at that step decide if you want to send anonymous statistics about your passbolt usage. Cool kids do, because it helps the developers to make passbolt better for everyone.

  1. Configure Nginx

Passbolt is installed. We now need to tell nginx how to run it. Among other settings, passbolt needs to be run by a web server configured with url rewriting.

# vim /etc/nginx/conf.d/default.conf

Below is an example of configuration you can use in

server {
 listen 80;
 client_body_buffer_size     100K;
 client_header_buffer_size   1k;
 client_max_body_size        100k;
 client_body_timeout   10;
 client_header_timeout 10;
 keepalive_timeout     5 5;
 send_timeout          10;
 root /var/www/passbolt;
# X-Frame-Options is to prevent from clickJacking attack
 add_header X-Frame-Options SAMEORIGIN;
#  disable content-type sniffing on some browsers.
 add_header X-Content-Type-Options nosniff;
# This header enables the Cross-site scripting (XSS) filter
 add_header X-XSS-Protection "1; mode=block";
location / {
   try_files $uri $uri/ /index.php?$args;
   index index.php;
location ~ \.php$ {
   fastcgi_index           index.php;
   fastcgi_pass  ;
   fastcgi_split_path_info ^(.+\.php)(.+)$;
   include                 fastcgi_params;
   fastcgi_param           SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
   fastcgi_param           SERVER_NAME $http_host;
location ~* \.(jpe?g|woff|woff2|ttf|gif|png|bmp|ico|css|js|json|pdf|zip|htm|html|docx?|xlsx?|pptx?|txt|wav|swf|svg|avi|mp\d)$ {
   access_log off;
   log_not_found off;
   try_files $uri /app/webroot/$uri /index.php?$args;

2.2 Reload nginx configuration

# systemctl restart nginx
  1. Deactivate ssl force in passbolt temporarily

We’ll also set App.ssl.force parameter to false in the app.php configuration file, so that we can test that passbolt is already in a working condition. If we keep it to true, passbolt would not let us access it through http and would force https.

# vim /var/www/passbolt/app/Config/app.php

4. Selinux permissions

Disable selinux

5. Check that everything is in order

Everything is now in a working condition. We’ll execute the healthcheck command to get a full report about the passbolt installation

# su -c "/var/www/passbolt/app/Console/cake passbolt healthcheck" -s /bin/bash nginx

In our installation, everything seems now in order, except the SSL part which we are going to fix.

We can also see that passbolt is now accessible through a web browser:

If you are impatient to see passbolt in action, continue with the next step: create a first user. Or if you want to complete everything first, then you can jump directly to the emails section.

  1. Create the first user

At last, passbolt is up and running! But there is no user yer. So let’s create our first user, the administrator.

# su -c "/var/www/passbolt/app/Console/cake passbolt register_user -u -f ada -l lovelace -r admin" -s /bin/bash nginx

Follow the link in the terminal to start the setup process, in the browser, for this admin user. Once logged in, we can start creating passwords.

Don’t forget to take a backup of your key during the setup.

Going further

  1. Emails

Before inviting other users we need to wrap-up the email configuration in app/Config/email.php. Enter the host, username and password of your SMTP server in the default configuration.

# vim app/Config/email.php

public $default = array(
 'transport' => 'Smtp',
 'from' => array('hostname@local' => 'Passbolt'),
 'host' => ' server address)',
 'port' => 25(smtp port),
 'timeout' => 30,
 //'username' => '',
 //'password' => '',
 'client' => null,
 'tls' => false,

We also need a cron job to send periodically the emails from the queue.

# yum install crontabs -y
# crontab -e

The following will send emails every minutes:

* * * * * su -c "/var/www/passbolt/app/Console/cake EmailQueue.sender > /var/www/passbolt/app/tmp/email.log" -s /bin/bash nginx
  1. Configure HTTPS

It is recommended to use https with passbolt (and, well, pretty much everything). To setup SSL we need a certificate. Here for the sake of brevity we will create a self-signed certificate. Of course you are free to use a proper free certificate and tidy up the server supported cypher suites.

In the following steps, we’ll generate a self signed certificate and configure nginx and passbolt to use https.

2.1 Generate the self signed certificate

# openssl req -new -newkey rsa:4096 -days 365 -nodes -x509 -subj "/C=FR/ST=Denial/L=Springfield/O=Dis/CN=yourdomain.test" -keyout /etc/ssl/certs/passbolt.key -out /etc/ssl/certs/passbolt.crt

2.2 Make sure the certificate is readable by nginx

# chown root:nginx /etc/ssl/certs/passbolt.crt
# chown root:nginx /etc/ssl/certs/passbolt.key
# chmod 640 /etc/ssl/certs/passbolt.crt
# chmod 640 /etc/ssl/certs/passbolt.key

2.3. Configure nginx for https

# vim /etc/nginx/conf.d/default.conf

Add the following configuration

server {
 listen 443;
 ssl on;
 ssl_certificate     /etc/ssl/certs/passbolt.crt;
 ssl_certificate_key /etc/ssl/certs/passbolt.key;
 ssl_protocols TLSv1.2;
 ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;
 ssl_session_tickets off;
 root /var/www/passbolt;
# X-Frame-Options is to prevent from clickJacking attack
 add_header X-Frame-Options SAMEORIGIN;
#  disable content-type sniffing on some browsers.
 add_header X-Content-Type-Options nosniff;
# This header enables the Cross-site scripting (XSS) filter
 add_header X-XSS-Protection "1; mode=block";
# This will enforce HTTP browsing into HTTPS and avoid ssl stripping attack
 add_header Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000; includeSubdomains;";
location / {
   try_files $uri $uri/ /index.php?$args;
   index index.php;
location ~ \.php$ {
   fastcgi_index           index.php;
   fastcgi_pass  ;
   fastcgi_split_path_info ^(.+\.php)(.+)$;
   include                 fastcgi_params;
   fastcgi_param           SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
   fastcgi_param           SERVER_NAME $http_host;
location ~* \.(jpe?g|woff|woff2|ttf|gif|png|bmp|ico|css|js|json|pdf|zip|htm|html|docx?|xlsx?|pptx?|txt|wav|swf|svg|avi|mp\d)$ {
   access_log off;
   log_not_found off;
   try_files $uri /app/webroot/$uri /index.php?$args;

2.4 Reload configuration

# systemctl restart nginx

We’ll need to change the passbolt configuration to make him use https instead of http, and force the redirection to https:

# vim /var/www/passbolt/app/Config/app.php

2.5. Set App.ssl.force to true

# vim /var/www/passbolt/app/Config/core.php

2.5. Set App.fullBaseUrl to https

url change to https

That’s it! Passbolt is now ready to be used with https.

You will notice that the passbolt plugin tells you that the plugin is not configured to work with this domain. This is normal since it was already configured to work with http, and not https.

That’s not an issue, you can fix this easily by clicking on “recover an existing account”

Self Signed Cert

1. Create a new openssl.cnf /etc/pki/tls/

req_extensions = v3_req
distinguished_name =
prompt = no
[ ]
C = KL
O = KL
CN =
[ v3_req ]
# Extensions to add to a certificate request
basicConstraints = CA:FALSE
keyUsage = nonRepudiation, digitalSignature, keyEncipherment
subjectAltName = @alt_names
IP.1 = 167.99.XXX.XXX
DNS.1 =

2. Changes Directory and create cert and key

Cd /etc/ssl/cert/

3. Create a private key

openssl genrsa -out private-key.pem 2048

4. Create a Certificate Request

openssl req -new -nodes -sha256 -key private-key.pem -out sebolt-csr.pem -config /etc/pki/tls/openssl.cnf

5. Sign the certificate yourself (rather than via a known Certificate Authority).

openssl x509 -req -sha256 -days 3650 -in sebolt-csr.pem -signkey private-key.pem -out sebolt-cert.pem -extfile /etc/pki/tls/openssl.cnf -extensions v3_req

6. Nginx Configuration add.

ssl_certificate /etc/ssl/certs/passbolt-cert.pem;
ssl_certificate_key /etc/ssl/certs/private-key.pem;

Trust the certificate (Windows Google Chrome)

Setting -> Advanced -> Manage Certificates -> Trusted Root Certification Authorities 
Import -> Browse (click ur cert) -> Certificate store: Trusted Root Certification Authorities
close browser and open browser and test

Trust the certificate (macOS)

1. Open Keychain Assistant
2. Import the certificate (Select SYSTEM)
3. Open it and select "Always trust"

Send mail configuration

# cd /var/www/passbolt/app/Config/
# vim  email.php

look for the class EmailConfig section :

class EmailConfig {
public $default = array(
'transport' => 'Smtp',
'from' => array('hostname@local' => 'Passbolt'),
'host' => ' server address)',
'port' => 25(smtp port),
'timeout' => 30,
//'username' => '',
//'password' => '',
'client' => null,
'tls' => false,

Save & Quit.

Restart php-fpm and nginx to take effect.
service php-fpm restart
service nginx restart.

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