Toggle the authenticate capability

Andrew Gallagher andrewg at
Mon Dec 5 00:09:38 CET 2016

Hi Roy,

You normally don't need to remove the A capability from a signing key. By default, gnupg will use the most recently created valid subkey with the appropriate capability, so all you need to do is create a new A subkey and it will be used in preference to the old one. Mathematically, authentication is just a special case of signing, so having both S and A on a subkey does not introduce extra vulnerabilities (that we know of). 

It is technically possible to change the capability flags on any key, but you can't do it with a vanilla version of the software. There is a patch somewhere in the archives of this list but I would recommend against it. The only use case where it would be necessary to remove a capability flag would be if you had created an encryption key that also had S or A capability - but it's almost impossible to do it by accident and in such cases it's safer to revoke the key and start again.

Andrew Gallagher

> On 4 Dec 2016, at 21:29, Roy A. Gilmore <rag at> wrote:
> Hi,
> I have a keypair that was initially generated with the defaults, so the
> signing key also has the authenticate capability enabled. I want to add
> a separate authentication subkey for use with an OpenPGP smartcard. Is
> there any way to turn the authenticate capability off on the signing
> key? It doesn't sound like it should be that difficult, but I've
> searched using several different search terms, and I can't seem to find
> a way to do this.
> Roy A. Gilmore
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> Gnupg-users at

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