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Passive journal centralization with encryption using self-signed certificates

This page will guide you through creating a passive journal centralization setup using self-signed certificates for encryption and authorization.

Once you centralize your infrastructure logs to a server, Netdata will automatically detect all the logs from all servers and organize them in sources. With the setup described in this document, on recent systemd versions, Netdata will automatically name all remote sources using the names of the clients, as they are described at their certificates (on older versions, the names will be IPs or reverse DNS lookups of the IPs).

A passive journal server waits for clients to push their metrics to it, so in this setup we will:

  1. configure a certificates authority and issue self-signed certificates for your servers.
  2. configure systemd-journal-remote on the server, to listen for incoming connections.
  3. configure systemd-journal-upload on the clients, to push their logs to the server.

Keep in mind that the authorization involved works like this:

  1. The server (systemd-journal-remote) validates that the client (systemd-journal-upload) uses a trusted certificate (a certificate issued by the same certificate authority as its own). So, the server will accept logs from any client having a valid certificate.
  2. The client (systemd-journal-upload) validates that the receiver (systemd-journal-remote) uses a trusted certificate (like the server does) and it also checks that the hostname or IP of the URL specified to its configuration, matches one of the names or IPs of the server it gets connected to. So, the client does a validation that it connected to the right server, using the URL hostname against the names and IPs of the server on its certificate.

This means, that if both certificates are issued by the same certificate authority, only the client can potentially reject the server.

Self-signed certificates

To simplify the process of creating and managing self-signed certificates, we have created this bash script.

This helps to also automate the distribution of the certificates to your servers (it generates a new bash script for each of your servers, which includes everything required, including the certificates).

We suggest to keep this script and all the involved certificates at the journals centralization server, in the directory /etc/ssl/systemd-journal, so that you can make future changes as required. If you prefer to keep the certificate authority and all the certificates at a more secure location, just use the script on that location.

On the server that will issue the certificates (usually the centralizaton server), do the following:

# install systemd-journal-remote to add the users and groups required and openssl for the certs
# change this according to your distro
sudo apt-get install systemd-journal-remote openssl

# download the script and make it executable
curl > ""
chmod 750

To create certificates for your servers, run this:

sudo ./ "server1" "DNS:hostname1" "IP:"


  • server1 is the canonical name of the server. On newer systemd version, this name will be used by systemd-journal-remote and Netdata when you view the logs on the dashboard.
  • DNS:hostname1 is a DNS name that the server is reachable at. Add "DNS:xyz" multiple times to define multiple DNS names for the server.
  • IP: is an IP that the server is reachable at. Add "IP:xyz" multiple times to define multiple IPs for the server.

Repeat this process to create the certificates for all your servers. You can add servers as required, at any time in the future.

Existing certificates are never re-generated. Typically certificates need to be revoked and new ones to be issued. But systemd-journal-remote tools do not support handling revocations. So, the only option you have to re-issue a certificate is to delete its files in /etc/ssl/systemd-journal and run the script again to create a new one.

Once you run the script of each of your servers, in /etc/ssl/systemd-journal you will find shell scripts named, where XXX are the canonical names of your servers.

These include everything to install the certificates, fix their file permissions to be accessible by systemd-journal-remote and systemd-journal-upload, and update /etc/systemd/journal-remote.conf and /etc/systemd/journal-upload.conf.

You can copy and paste (or scp) these scripts on your server and each of your clients:

sudo scp /etc/ssl/systemd-journal/ XXX:/tmp/

For the rest of this guide, we assume that you have copied the right at the /tmp of all the servers for which you issued certificates.

note about certificates file permissions

It is worth noting that systemd-journal certificates need to be owned by systemd-journal-remote:systemd-journal.

Both the user systemd-journal-remote and the group systemd-journal are automatically added by the systemd-journal-remote package. However, systemd-journal-upload (and systemd-journal-gatewayd - that is not used in this guide) use dynamic users. Thankfully they are added to the systemd-journal remote group.

So, by having the certificates owned by systemd-journal-remote:systemd-journal, satisfies both systemd-journal-remote which is not in the systemd-journal group, and systemd-journal-upload (and systemd-journal-gatewayd) which use dynamic users.

You don't need to do anything about it (the scripts take care of everything), but it is worth noting how this works.

Server configuration

On the centralization server install systemd-journal-remote:

# change this according to your distro
sudo apt-get install systemd-journal-remote

Make sure the journal transfer protocol is https:

sudo cp /lib/systemd/system/systemd-journal-remote.service /etc/systemd/system/

# edit it to make sure it says:
# --listen-https=-3
# not:
# --listen-http=-3
sudo nano /etc/systemd/system/systemd-journal-remote.service

# reload systemd
sudo systemctl daemon-reload

Optionally, if you want to change the port (the default is 19532), edit systemd-journal-remote.socket

# edit the socket file
sudo systemctl edit systemd-journal-remote.socket

and add the following lines into the instructed place, and choose your desired port; save and exit.


Next, run the script on the server:

# if you run the certificate authority on the server:
sudo /etc/ssl/systemd-journal/

# if you run the certificate authority elsewhere,
# assuming you have coped the script (as described above):
sudo bash /tmp/

This will install the certificates in /etc/ssl/systemd-journal, set the right file permissions, and update /etc/systemd/journal-remote.conf and /etc/systemd/journal-upload.conf to use the right certificate files.

Finally, enable it, so that it will start automatically upon receiving a connection:

# enable systemd-journal-remote
sudo systemctl enable --now systemd-journal-remote.socket
sudo systemctl enable systemd-journal-remote.service

systemd-journal-remote is now listening for incoming journals from remote hosts.

When done, remember to rm /tmp/runme-on-*.sh to make sure your certificates are secure.

Client configuration

On the clients, install systemd-journal-remote (it includes systemd-journal-upload):

# change this according to your distro
sudo apt-get install systemd-journal-remote

Edit /etc/systemd/journal-upload.conf and set the IP address and the port of the server, like so:


Make sure that centralization.server.ip is one of the DNS: or IP: parameters you defined when you created the centralization server certificates. If it is not, the client may reject to connect.

Next, edit systemd-journal-upload.service, and add Restart=always to make sure the client will keep trying to push logs, even if the server is temporarily not there, like this:

sudo systemctl edit systemd-journal-upload.service

At the top, add:


Enable systemd-journal-upload.service, like this:

sudo systemctl enable systemd-journal-upload.service

Assuming that you have in /tmp the relevant script for this client, run:

sudo bash /tmp/

This will install the certificates in /etc/ssl/systemd-journal, set the right file permissions, and update /etc/systemd/journal-remote.conf and /etc/systemd/journal-upload.conf to use the right certificate files.

Finally, restart systemd-journal-upload.service:

sudo systemctl restart systemd-journal-upload.service

The client should now be pushing logs to the central server.

When done, remember to rm /tmp/runme-on-*.sh to make sure your certificates are secure.

Here it is in action, in Netdata:

2023-10-18 16-23-05

Verify it works

To verify the central server is receiving logs, run this on the central server:

sudo ls -l /var/log/journal/remote/

Depending on the systemd version you use, you should see new files from the clients' canonical names (as defined at their certificates) or IPs.

Also, systemctl status systemd-journal-remote should show something like this:

systemd-journal-remote.service - Journal Remote Sink Service
Loaded: loaded (/etc/systemd/system/systemd-journal-remote.service; indirect; preset: disabled)
Active: active (running) since Sun 2023-10-15 14:29:46 EEST; 2h 24min ago
TriggeredBy: ● systemd-journal-remote.socket
Docs: man:systemd-journal-remote(8)
Main PID: 2118153 (systemd-journal)
Status: "Processing requests..."
Tasks: 1 (limit: 154152)
Memory: 2.2M
CPU: 71ms
CGroup: /system.slice/systemd-journal-remote.service
└─2118153 /usr/lib/systemd/systemd-journal-remote --listen-https=-3 --output=/var/log/journal/remote/

Note the status: "Processing requests..." and the PID under CGroup.

On the client systemctl status systemd-journal-upload should show something like this:

● systemd-journal-upload.service - Journal Remote Upload Service
Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/systemd-journal-upload.service; enabled; vendor preset: disabled)
Drop-In: /etc/systemd/system/systemd-journal-upload.service.d
Active: active (running) since Sun 2023-10-15 10:39:04 UTC; 3h 17min ago
Docs: man:systemd-journal-upload(8)
Main PID: 4169 (systemd-journal)
Status: "Processing input..."
Tasks: 1 (limit: 13868)
Memory: 3.5M
CPU: 1.081s
CGroup: /system.slice/systemd-journal-upload.service
└─4169 /lib/systemd/systemd-journal-upload --save-state

Note the Status: "Processing input..." and the PID under CGroup.

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