private key protection

Jerome Baum jerome at
Tue Oct 18 14:36:29 CEST 2011

On 2011-10-18 14:22, Robert J. Hansen wrote:
> On 10/18/2011 8:10 AM, Jerome Baum wrote:
>> If I manage to steal your private keyring, then yes the very strong
>> passphrase should grind my attempts to steal your key to a halt. If I
>> manage to steal your private _key_ OTOH, I don't need to get past your
>> passphrase as that doesn't come into play.
> Nonsense.
> Have you looked at how GnuPG stores a keyring?  It's a sequential series
> of individual keys, one octet after another.  There is no difference
> between an individual private key and a keyring containing one entry.

Have you looked at my original statement? I recall making the
distinction between a key* and a key-ring/-file, not between a key-ring
and a key-file.

> (Note: this was true as of early in the GnuPG 1.4 days, which was the
> last time I seriously looked at the code.  I'm going from a memory a few
> years old here.)

IIRC "nowadays" is store a separate file per key?

> What you seem to be saying is "if I steal your decrypted key, which is
> to say the raw key material...".  Well, okay: but we already know that's
> a game-over state, which makes your statement trivial.

If you look at the original context you'll see that my statement wasn't
so trivial. The OP asked "how can I prevent people from stealing my
key*?" and one person answered "it's not a problem if people steal your
key*, because it's passphrase-protected."

In this context it might be a good idea to mention that stealing your
actual key* from memory _is_ a problem, while stealing your
key-file/-ring/-whatever is truly not so big a problem if your
passphrase holds up.

* I'm going to take the word to mean what it says: "key", not what I can
flexibly interpret it as: "encrypted key".

PGP: A0E4 B2D4 94E6 20EE 85BA E45B 63E4 2BD8 C58C 753A
PGP: 2C23 EBFF DF1A 840D 2351 F5F5 F25B A03F 2152 36DA

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