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Install required tools

Tomb needs a few programs to be installed on a system in order to work:

  • zsh
  • file
  • sudo
  • gnupg
  • cryptsetup
  • pinentry-curses (and/or -gtk-2, -x11, -qt)

Most systems provide these tools in their package collection, for instance on Debian/Ubuntu one can use apt-get install on Fedora and CentOS one can use yum install and pacman on Arch.

Install Tomb

To install Tomb simply download the source distribution (the tar.gz file) from and decompress it. From a terminal:

cd Downloads
tar xvfz Tomb-2.4.tar.gz (correct with actual file name)

Then enter its directory and run 'make install' as root, this will install Tomb into /usr/local:

cd Tomb-2.4 (correct with actual directory name)
sudo make install

After installation one can read the commandline help or read the manual:

tomb -h     (print a short help on the commandline)
man tomb    (show the full usage manual)

Basic usage

Once installed one can proceed creating a tomb, for instance:

tomb dig -s 10 secrets.tomb       (dig a 10MB Tomb)
tomb forge -k secrets.tomb.key    (create a new key and set its password)
tomb lock  -k secrets.tomb.key secrets.tomb (format the tomb, lock it with key)

When this is done, the tomb can be opened with:

tomb open -k secrets.tomb.key secrets.tomb (will ask for password)

The key can also be hidden in an image, to be used as key later

tomb bury -k secrets.tomb.key nosferatu.jpg (hide the key in a jpeg image)
tomb open -k nosferatu.jpg secrets.tomb (use the jpeg image to open the tomb)

Or backed up to a QRCode that can be printed on paper and hidden in books. QRCodes can be scanned with any mobile application, resulting into a block of text that can be used with -k just as a normal key.

tomb engrave -k secrets.tomb.key  (also an image will work)

There are some more things that tomb can do for you, make sure you have a look at the manpage and at the commandline help to find out more.

Optional tools

Tomb can use some optional tools to extend its functionalities:

executable function
lsof slam a tomb (close even if open programs)
dcfldd show progress while digging tombs and keys
steghide bury and exhume keys inside images
resizefs extend the size of existing tomb volumes
qrencode engrave keys into printable qrcode sheets
mlocate fast search of file names inside tombs
swish++ fast search of file contents inside tombs
unoconv fast search of contents in PDF and DOC files
lesspipe fast search of contents in compressed archives
haveged fast entropy generation for key forging

As for requirements, also optional tools may be easy to install using the packages provided by each distribution.

Once any of the above is installed Tomb will find the tool automatically.


Tomb comes with a bunch of extra tools that contribute to enhance its functionality or integrate it into particular system environments.


The Gtk tray adds a nifty tomb skull into the desktop toolbar: one can use it to close, slam and explore the open tomb represented by it.

When using pinentry-gtk-2 it also adds a little skull on the password input, useful to not confuse it with other password inputs.

To have it change directory extras/gtk-tray then

  1. make sure libnotify and gtk+-2.0 dev packages are available
  2. run make inside the directory to build tomb-gtk-tray
  3. run sudo make install (default PREFIX is /usr/local)
  4. start tomb-gtk-tray tombname after the tomb is open

Of course, one can include the launch of tomb-gtk-tray scripts.


The QT tray adds a tomb tray in a QT desktop toolbar. It requires at least QT libraries of version 5.4 or above. Build with 'qmake' and then 'make'.


The KDF wrapper programs allows one to use KDF rounds on passwords in order to obstruct dictionary based and similar brute-forcing attacks.

In case an attacker comes in possession of both a tomb and its key, the easy to memorize password can be guessed by rapidly trying different combinations. With KDF every try will require a significant amount of computation that will slow down the process avoiding tight loops and in fact making such attacks very onerous and almost impossible.

To have it enter extras/kdf-keys then

  1. make sure libgcrypt dev packages are available
  2. run make inside the directory to build tomb-kdb-* executables
  3. run sudo make install (default PREFIX is /usr/local)
  4. use --kdf 100 when forging a key (tune the number to your cpu)

KDF keys are recognized automatically by Tomb, which will always need the extras/kdf-keys program to be installed on a machine in order to open the Tomb.

Please note that it doesn't makes much sense to use KDF keys and steganography, since the latter will invalidate the brute-forcing protection. For details on the issue see


There are translations available for Tomb and they are installed by default. If you wish to update them manually navigate to extras/po and run 'make install' as root:

cd extras/translations
sudo make install


This is a minimalistic graphical user interface scripted in ZSh depending from Zenity to display dialog boxes. It covers all basic operations in Tomb and facilitates the setup of hooks.

cd extras/gtomb

Tomb support in other applications

Can Tomb be used by other applications?

Sure as Hell it can! Licensing issues aside (GNU GPLv3+ terms) Tomb provides machine-readable output and interaction via some flags:

flag function
--no-color avoids coloring output to allow parsing
--unsafe allows passwords options and cleartext key from stdin
--tomb-pwd specify the key password as argument
--tomb-old-pwd specify the old key password as argument
-k cleartext reads the unencrypted key from stdin

Yet please consider that these flags may introduce vulnerabilities and other people logged on the same system can easily log your passwords while such commands are executing. We only recommend using the pinentry to input your passwords.

At the time of writing another free software graphical application supports opening and closing Tombs via a plugin installed by default: zuluCrypt. One needs to activate the Tomb plugin included in the zuluCrypt source to be able to create, open and close tombs. Beware zuluCrypt may miss advanced Tomb functionalities that are only available from the command-line.


A Python wrapper is under development and already usable, but it introduces some vulnerabilities mentioned above. Find it in extras/tomber. For more information see PYTHON.

Let us know!

If you plan to develop any kind of wrapper for Tomb you are welcome to let us know. Tomb is really meant to be maintained as a minimal tool for long-term compatibility when handling something so delicate as our secrets. For anything else we rely on your own initiative.

Happy hacking! ;^)