Need tips on how to backup my keys

Robert J. Hansen rjh at
Thu Jan 24 16:05:47 CET 2008

Steven Woody wrote:
> the whole of ~/.gnugp directory, right?


 > But where should I keep the copy?

I keep mine in a safe deposit box in a manila envelope addressed to my 
best friend.  Also in the envelope are hardcopies of my private keys, my 
passphrase, and some instructions.

In the event of my untimely death, my lawyer hands off the envelope to 
my best friend, who gets access to my keys and passphrase and follows 
the instructions I've left him.

> It gets chance exposuring to public if I put in on a USB disk.

I think you are badly misunderstanding the problem.  Public exposure is 
not a big deal as long as you have a strong passphrase on your key. 
With a strong passphrase you can publish it in an OCR-friendly font in a 
full-page ad in the _New York Times_ and feel safe in the 
confidentiality of your messages.

People advocate keeping your private key private and also using a strong 
passphrase for a simple reason.  If we advocate only one, then people 
will screw it up and not do it at all.  If we advocate both, then people 
can screw one up.  No passphrase?  No problem, as long as you keep your 
key secret.  Share your key?  No problem, as long as you have a strong 

In any case, a CD-ROM can be stolen, lost and/or misplaced just as 
easily as a USB drive.  No matter what mechanism you use for those 
backups, those backups can be mislaid or taken away from you.  Best to 
make backups and keep them somewhere it is very unlikely anyone will be 
able to get them.  Like I said above, I use a safe deposit box at my 
bank.  Other people I know keep copies with their attorneys.

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