Prefer a currently available signing subkey?

Danielle McLean dani at
Thu Apr 20 02:47:10 CEST 2017

On 4/20/17 5:00 AM, Andrew Stubbs via Gnupg-users wrote:
> even if the encryption key is the same.
Oh, this brings up a related issue, actually! GnuPG doesn't cope very
well if you put the same subkey on *multiple* smartcards - it remembers
the first smartcard it saw that contained the subkey and always asks for
that smartcard to be reinserted, even if you've later done gpg
--card-status with another smartcard that contains the same key. You can
get it to forget the first card by deleting the subkey's
~/.gnupg/private-keys-v1.d/$KEYGRIP.key file, but that's terribly fiddly
and potentially dangerous. (Before figuring out that those files are
named by keygrip, I was just deleting ~/.gnupg/private-keys-v1.d
entirely, which would've be extremely bad once I'd gotten actual private
keys into my keyring!)

I would assume this issue occurs with all kinds of subkeys, although it
only particularly hurts for encryption subkeys - since unlike the other
key usages, it only really makes sense to have one "live" encryption
subkey and so it's the most likely subkey to be shared across several cards.

To remedy this, GnuPG should either track multiple smartcards for each
key - and do something like "please insert any of the following
smartcards: <list of serial numbers>" - or simply overwrite the card-no
when you insert a second smartcard containing the same key. The latter
probably involves fewer changes.

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