Note from 2022: Consider using age, especially for file encryption, rather than PGP.

GNU Privacy Assistant

For a GPG GUI application for Linux/Ubuntu for key management etc., try sudo apt install gpa which installs a program called "GNU Privacy Assistant"

GPG conf

Let's make sure we've got good GPG settings. To do this, create a new file at ~/.gnupg/gpg.conf.

Then do one or all of the following:

  1. Trust the decent gpg.conf I made for myself in 2021 below.
  2. Copy this guide's "hardened" config (actual gpg.conf file)
  3. Read through this guide, which points to this Github repo.

A decent gpg.conf

Put this in ~/.gnupg/gpg.conf

# This gpg.conf takes inspiration from: 
#   - Riseup OpenPGP Best Practices 
#   - DrDuh:
# Put this in ~/.gnupg/gpg.conf

# behavior

# Disable inclusion of the version string in ASCII armored output

# Disable comment string in clear text signatures and ASCII armored messages

# Display long key IDs
keyid-format 0xlong

# List all keys (or the specified ones) along with their fingerprints

# Display the calculated validity of user IDs during key listings
list-options show-uid-validity
verify-options show-uid-validity

# Try to use the GnuPG-Agent. With this option, GnuPG first tries to connect to
# the agent before it asks for a passphrase.

# Enable smartcard (from:

# keyserver

# This is the server that --recv-keys, --send-keys, and --search-keys will
# communicate with to receive keys from, send keys to, and search for keys on
keyserver hkps://

# Set the proxy to use for HTTP and HKP keyservers - default to the standard
# local Tor socks proxy
# It is encouraged to use Tor for improved anonymity. Preferrably use either a
# dedicated SOCKSPort for GnuPG and/or enable IsolateDestPort and
# IsolateDestAddr
#keyserver-options http-proxy=socks5-hostname://

# Don't leak DNS, see
keyserver-options no-try-dns-srv

# When using --refresh-keys, if the key in question has a preferred keyserver
# URL, then disable use of that preferred keyserver to refresh the key from
keyserver-options no-honor-keyserver-url

# When searching for a key with --search-keys, include keys that are marked on
# the keyserver as revoked
keyserver-options include-revoked

# algorithm and ciphers

# list of personal digest preferences. When multiple digests are supported by
# all recipients, choose the strongest one
personal-cipher-preferences AES256 AES192 AES CAST5

# list of personal digest preferences. When multiple ciphers are supported by
# all recipients, choose the strongest one
personal-digest-preferences SHA512 SHA384 SHA256 SHA224

# message digest algorithm used when signing a key
cert-digest-algo SHA512

# This preference list is used for new keys and becomes the default for
# "setpref" in the edit menu
default-preference-list SHA512 SHA384 SHA256 SHA224 AES256 AES192 AES CAST5 ZLIB BZIP2 ZIP Uncompressed

Using a PGP private key from a Smartcard on Ubuntu

  1. Add the public key to your system: Get the .asc file onto your system, then run gpg2 --import <file-name>.asc
  2. Plug the smartcard into your computer.
  3. Try running gpg2 --card-status.


  • If the above doesn't work try installing scdaemon and pcscd with sudo apt install scdaemon and then sudo apt install pcscd. You may also need to sudo apt install gpgsm
  • You may also need to kill and restart scdaemon with:
killall scdaemon
pgrep scdaemon

You can now encrypt and decrypt files with the pgp keys on your smartkey using the gpg2 command line tool. To decrypt a file run something like this: gpg --output test --decrypt '/home/schlinkert/keepass-databases/key-files/fly1.key.gpg'. Check that you can decrypt a Keepass database AND that you can alter settings.