Get started with Ghostwriter quickly and easily with Docker and Ghostwriter CLI

Before You Begin: System Requirements

Ghostwriter uses Docker Compose. Install Docker and Docker Compose before proceeding.

You will need Docker version >=20 for the Alpine Linux images for Ghostwriter. Run docker version to check your installation. Look at the Version value for the client and server.

You will need Docker Compose version >=1.26 to support the compose files. Run docker compose version to check your installation.

Older versions of Docker Compose will try to build the containers and run into issues while parsing the configuration file with Docker's older DotEnv file parser—specifically, issues with quotations. Compose versions below v1.26 will parse configurations like port numbers literally and cause errors when Docker tries to bind a port like "8000"(with the quotes).

As of v1.26, Compose uses aPython's DotEnv parser, which understands quotations.

Older installations of Docker Compose use docker-compose as the command. If you have docker-compose in your PATH instead of docker compose, consider upgrading to the latest version.

$ docker compose version
Docker Compose version v2.23.3    # Good; >=1.26.x

$ docker version
 Version:           25.0.3        # Good; >=20

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Docker requires sufficient resources to build the containers successfully. Most systems capable of running a modern OS should have the necessary resources. If building Ghostwriter inside of a VM, ensure the VM meets the following recommended specs:

  • Two (2) vCPUs

  • 3GB RAM

  • 10GB Storage

The above specs are recommendations for the bare minimum necessary to get started. Ideally, provide at least one vCPU per container, more RAM for multiple users and scheduled tasks to run smoothly, and more storage for file uploads.

  • Five (5) vCPUs

  • 4GB RAM

  • 60GB

Getting Started

Ghostwriter comes with the Ghostwriter CLI tool. This tool makes it simple to manage the application. You will use it to install, reconfigure, and upgrade Ghostwriter.

Ghostwriter can run on Windows, macOS, and Linux, so there are multiple builds of Ghostwriter CLI. Pick the appropriate Ghostwriter CLI binary for your operating system.

  • ghostwriter-cli-macos : macOS (Intel)

  • ghostwriter-cli-linux : Linux amd64

  • ghostwriter-cli.exe : Windows 64-bit

You can rename these binaries without causing any issues. This wiki will always refer to it simply as ghostwriter-cli for commands.

Installing Ghostwriter

You can install Ghostwriter with three basic commands:

$ git clone https://github.com/GhostManager/Ghostwriter.git
$ cd Ghostwriter
$ ./ghostwriter-cli install

Ghostwriter will create self-signed TLS/SSL certificates. If you'd like to use your signed certificates, do that now to make things easier. If you don't have them ready, you can install them later.

There is more information below in Customizing Your Installation.

The install command will take care of everything necessary to create a production environment for you. That command performs the following actions:

  • Sets up the default server configuration

  • Generates TLS certificates for the server

  • Builds the Docker containers

  • Creates a default admin user with a randomly generated password

If you'd prefer to install a development (dev) environment, you can run:

./ghostwriter-cli install --dev

A development environment is best if you want to change Ghostwriter's codebase or test functionality. Debug logging is enabled, which makes it easier to troubleshoot. The dev installation does not use TLS, so it skips creating certificates.

Accessing Ghostwriter

The Ghostwriter server will now be accessible! Just visit and authenticate with the admin user. The password is displayed in the Ghostwriter CLI output at the end of the installation.

You can also get the password by running this command:

./ghostwriter-cli config get admin_password

This password is only used for creating the account. You can change it in the admin panel after logging into Ghostwriter. You can also change any other part of the user profile.

Changing the password in the config DOES NOT affect the installation. It's only stored in the config to make it easy for you to view the original password.

Adding More Users

You may create users using the admin panel or ask users to sign-up using /accounts/signup. Filling out a complete profile is recommended. Ghostwriter can use full names for displaying user actions and filling in report templates.

Django usernames are case-sensitive, so all lowercase is recommended to avoid confusion later.

Customizing Your Installation

You may wish to change some of the configuration options. The following sections outline common customizations.

If you make changes to the configuration, restart Ghostwriter for the changes to take effect:

./ghostwriter-cli containers down
./ghostwriter-cli containers up

Customizing the Date Format

The default format is d M Y which formats dates like so: 3 Jun 2022

This format is the default used in parts of the user interface and reports. You can change the date format with this command:

./ghostwriter-cli config set date_format "d M Y"

When you set DATE_FORMAT use Django's format string values:


Using Your Certificates

You can use your own TLS/SSL certificates for Ghostwriter. To swap in your certificate package:

  1. Name the keypair files ghostwriter.key and ghostwriter.crt

  2. Name the Diffie-Helman Parameters file dhparam.pem

  3. Place all three files inside the ssl directory

Your certificate will likely have a new hostname, so continue to the next section to complete the customization of your domain name.

Customizing the Domain Name or IP Address

Ghostwriter explicitly checks the hostname against a list of allowed hosts to avoid potential exposure to HTTP Host header attacks. To access Ghostwriter with your custom domain name or server IP address, you must tell the server to allow new IP addresses or hostnames.

To allow a new IP address or hostname, run this command:

./ghostwriter-cli config allowhost <YOUR DOMAIN NAME OR IP>

If you are setting up a new domain accompanied by a TLS certificate, update the Nginx hostname to match your new certificate and domain name:

./ghostwriter-cli config set NGINX_HOST <YOUR DOMAIN NAME>

You can use config disallowhost to remove a host you have added to the list.

While not recommended, a wildcard (*) will work, but only *.

A * will allow any hostname or IP address.

Anything like *.myserver.local or 192.168.10.* will not work to allow a host.

Configuring Access Through a Web Proxy

Similar to the HTTP Host header protections, Ghostwriter also checks the Origin and Referer headers. If you are accessing Ghostwriter through a proxy, configure Ghostwriter to trust the proxy with this command:

./ghostwriter-cli config trustorigin <YOUR PROXY>

You can use config distrustorigin to remove a proxy you have added to the list.

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