Ben Kero, former OSU student and current Mozilla employee, came down to Corvallis to give a talk on GNU Privacy Guard (GPG) encryption and key-signing. A crowd of one PSU student visited as well to help create this web of trust. After Ben’s presentation, which entailed a Bradley Manning example and spamming Ben’s IRC nick, everyone went around to each other to sign each other’s PGP keys. For example, here is my PGP key. Along with that, there was pizza.
Creating and Signing GPG Keys
The first step to key-signing is to actually generate GPG public and private keys (check the SSH guide for general information on public and private key pairs)
It will prompt you several options such as the encryption method, level of encryption in bits, expiry of key, name, email, comment (which can be left blank), and a passphrase. The first three is fine to leave by default for now.
Next, you will want to upload your PGP key to a keyserver (e.g. pgp.mit.edu). Get the last eight characters of your GPG fingerprint so your computer knows which key to send and send it to the keyserver.
gpg --fingerprint gpg --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --send-keys $KEY
$KEY being those eight characters. For example, mine is 69B85527. Now you are ready to trade and sign keys. Grab the other person’s eight characters by searching it via the keyserver’s web interface or have the person tell you the key directly along with their keyserver. If the person is on pgp.mit.edu:
gpg --keyserver pgp.mit.edu --recv-keys $KEY
Now we sign the key. By signing the key, you are giving a vote of trust that that person is indeed that person. And by signing their key, other people can see that you have signed your key and if they trust you, they can more readily trust the other person.
gpg --sign-key $KEY
Then enter in your passphrase and send the key (as we did earlier) back to the keyserver so it knows it is signed. Now that we have this key, we can encrypt and decrypt messages using the other person’s public key. To encrypt a message to another person:
gpg -r $KEY --encrypt FILE
If you get an encrypted message, you can decrypt it using your private key since it was encrypted with your public key.
gpg --output FILENAME --decrypt ENCRYPTED_FILE
There you go! Off and secure.