PGP Key-Signing Party

Matt Soucy ()

Cryptography and human recognition

4096R/B2370F0C 2013-04-20
33A9 6558 38DE 94B9 B85B  A0DC 7996 734F B237 0F0C

[Creative Commons Share-Alike][CC BY-SA 4.0]

What is GPG (wikipedia quote time)

Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) is a data encryption and decryption program that provides cryptographic privacy and authentication for data communication. PGP is often used for signing, encrypting, and decrypting texts, e-mails, files, directories, and even whole disk partitions.

GNU Privacy Guard (GnuPG or GPG) is a GPL Licensed alternative to the PGP suite of cryptographic software.

X.509 is an ITU-T standard for a public key infrastructure (PKI) and a Privilege Management Infrastructure (PMI). It specifies, amongst other things, standard formats for public key certificates, certificate revocation lists, attribute certificates, and a certification path validation algorithm. It assumes a strict hierarchical system of certificate authorities (CAs) for issuing the certificates.

Why use GPG?

Visualizing the Web of Trust

gpg --list-sigs --keyring ~/.gnupg/pubring.gpg | \
    sig2dot > ~/.gnupg/
neato -Tps ~/.gnupg/ > ~/.gnupg/
convert ~/.gnupg/ ~/.gnupg/pubring.gif
eog ~/.gnupg/pubring.gif

What signing another key means

It means that you trust that the key belongs to the person that it says it does.

It does not mean that you trust that person.

If you receive an executable from somebody you don’t know, but I’ve signed their key, it does not mean that I trust that they would not do anything malicious. It merely means “I trust that this person is actually the person who sent this to you”.

Creating your key

Before you can sign any keys, you need a key of your own to sign with.

You can do this with:

gpg --gen-key

Your key is stored in ~/.gnupg/ To check your key, run the following:

gpg --fingerprint ''

Your fingerprint is a short identifier that represents your key. My output:

pub   096R/B2370F0C 2013-04-20
      Key fingerprint = 33A9 6558 38DE 94B9 B85B  A0DC 7996 734F B237 0F0C
uid                  Matthew Soucy <>
uid                  Matthew Soucy <>
sub   4096R/2FD2F40B 2013-04-20

Sending your key

In order for other people to verify that a key belongs to you, and to sign it, you send it to a keyserver.

This is your public key. Your private key should, as you might expect, stay private.

gpg --keyserver hkp:// --send-key KEYNAME
# So for my example:
gpg --keyserver hkp:// --send-key B2370F0C

The keyservers all synchronize, so in practice it doesn’t matter which server you use. However, since many people here just made their keys now, it’s better to all use the same server so that there are no delays or timing problems.

You’re able to add email addresses to your key later on.

Quick recap

Key Signing Parties

A key signing party is a way for a bunch of people to sign each others’ keys. This helps build their web of trust.

Everyone here should have a key generated at this point.


To verify someone’s identity, one should Peoples’ preferred forms of ID may differ, but typically the following are used:

Steps in a party

The party, on a computer

The typical flow for these commands looks like this:

# Using my key as an example:
# Download their key
gpg --keyserver hkp:// --recv-keys B2370F0C
# Sign the key
gpg --sign-key B2370F0C
# Create an updated key that includes your signature
# Email the resulting file to the email address
gpg --armor --output B2370F0C.signed-by.YOUR_KEY.asc --export B2370F0C
# Import the key that you received
gpg --import YOUR_KEY.signed-by.B2370F0C.asc
# Verify all signatures
gpg --list-sigs YOUR_KEY
# Send your newly-signed key to the server
gpg --send-keys YOUR_KEY

Using keys

You can use tools such as KGPG to manage keys.

Many mail clients allow for pgp signing and encrypting, possibly with plugins:

Happy encrypting