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Fleet documentation

Welcome to the documentation for Fleet, the lightweight management platform for laptops and servers.


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Update agents

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Self-managed agent updates

The fleetd agent will periodically check the public Fleet update repository and update Orbit, Fleet Desktop, and/or osquery if it detects a later version.

To override this behavior, users can set a channel for each component or disable updates altogether. Visit Adding Hosts to learn more. Alternatively, users with a Fleet Premium subscription can self-manage an update server.

Securing updates

Fleetd utilizes The Update Framework to secure the update system. The TUF specification provides a robust framework for establishing trust over the content of updates. See TUF's security documentation for more details.

Fleet's usage of TUF allows the keys most critical to the security of the system to be stored offline, and provides a simple deployment model for update metadata and content.

There is no server that must be maintained for updates, instead Fleet provides tools via fleetctl to manage the static metadata and update assets. These can be served by any static content hosting solution (Apache, nginx, S3, etc.).


Update management is handled by the fleetctl updates subcommands.

Fleet will prompt for passphrases when needed, or passphrases may be set in the environment variables FLEET_ROOT_PASSPHRASE, FLEET_TARGETS_PASSPHRASE, FLEET_SNAPSHOT_PASSPHRASE, and FLEET_TIMESTAMP_PASSPHRASE. Passphrases should be stored separately from keys.

By default, the current working directory is used for the TUF repository. All update commands support a --path parameter to use a different directory.

Initialize the repository

The root cryptographic key generated in this step is highly sensitive, and critical to the security of the update system. We recommend following these steps from a trusted, offline, ephemeral environment such as Debian Live running from a USB stick. Avoid placing the root key in an online environment. Fleet will soon support the use of Hardware security modules (HSMs) to further protect the root key.

For testing purposes it is okay to initialize the repository in an online environment. Be sure to use a clean offline environment with new keys and passphrases when deploying to production.

Initialize the repository:

fleetctl updates init

Choose and record secure passphrases, different for each key. If the passphrases are not already set in the environment, you will be prompted to input them.

Make multiple copies of the keys directory to be stored offline on USB drives. These copies contain the root key:

cp -r keys <destination>

Delete the root key from the keys directory:

rm keys/root.json

Copy the keys, repository, and staged directories to a separate "working" USB drive:

cp -r keys repository staged <destination>

Shut down the environment.

Deploy updates

Updates are deployed first by staging the contents and metadata, then publishing.


Staging targets requires access to the target, snapshot, and timestamp keys. Best practice is to connect the drive containing the keys while staging updates and leave the keys offline at other times.

Use fleetctl updates add to stage updates. Fleetd updates the osqueryd binary, as well as the orbit binary. Updates are staged for each of these separately using the --name flag. It is not necessary to update both at the same time.

The following commands will prompt for key passphrases if not specified in the environment.

To stage updates for osqueryd:

fleetctl updates add --target ./path/to/linux/osqueryd  --platform linux --name osqueryd --version 4.6.0 -t 4.6 -t 4 -t stable 

This will add the osqueryd binary located at ./path/to/osqueryd to the channels 4.6.0, 4.6, 4, and stable for the linux platform.

In a typical scenario, each platform is staged before the repository is published.

Stage the equivalent macOS update:

fleetctl updates add --target ./path/to/macos/osqueryd  --platform macos --name osqueryd --version 4.6.0 -t 4.6 -t 4 -t stable 

A similar process can be used to stage the orbit artifacts by substituting --name orbit

When updates are staged, publish the repository.


Publishing updates is as simple as making the contents of the repository directory available over HTTP. This can be achieved with AWS S3, Apache, NGINX, or any other static file hosting solution or CDN.

Python's SimpleHTTPServer can be used for quick local testing:

cd repository && python -m SimpleHTTPServer

Or, for Python version 3.0 and greater:

cd repository && python -m http.server

Run this to host the repository at http://localhost:8000.

Update timestamp

Fleetd verifies freshness of the update metadata using the signed timestamp file. This file must be re-signed every two weeks (this interval will be made configurable soon).

To update the timestamp metadata:

fleetctl updates timestamp

This operation requires the timestamp key to be available, along with the corresponding passphrase. Best practice is to keep these keys "online" in a context where they can be used to update the metadata on an interval (via cron, AWS Lambda, etc.). This "online" context should be on a separate host from the static file server, to prevent leaking these less sensitive (though still sensitive) keys in the event the static file server is compromised.

Building packages

Note that osqueryd and orbit updates must be published before packages can be produced.

Record the root key metadata with a copy of the repository:

fleetctl updates roots

This output is not sensitive and will be shared in agent deployments to verify the contents of updates and metadata. Provide the JSON output in the --update-roots flag of the fleetd agent.

Packaging with fleetd

You can use fleetctl package to generate Fleet's agent (fleetd) to integrate with your Fleet instance.

For example running fleetctl package --type deb --fleet-url=<fleet url> --enroll-secret=<enroll secret> will build a .deb installer with everything needed to communicate with your fleet instance.

See the Enroll hosts docs for instructions on generating the fleetd agent.

Key rotation

Key rotation is supported for each of the update role keys via the fleetctl updates rotate command.

Rotation is required for a key if the key has been compromised, or before the key expires.

Compromise of a single key (besides the root key) within the system does not enable an attacker to push arbitrary updates. Compromise of the root key is a catastrophic failure allowing arbitrary updates, and for this reason the root key is highly guarded in an offline context. See Section 7.4 of the Survivable Key Compromise paper for a more in-depth discussion of the implications of key compromise in the TUF system.

To rotate (for example) the targets key:

fleetctl updates rotate targets

After the key(s) have been rotated, publish the repository in the same fashion as any other update.

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