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This is for internal use by the PaaS team. Public-facing documentation is located at

How to use GPG

Some of our projects use GPG to encrypt secrets so that they can only be decrypted by members of the team. These instructions may be useful if you haven’t used GPG recently or ever at all.


On MacOS:

brew install gpg

On Ubuntu:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install gnupg2 gnupg-agent pinentry-curses

Generate keypair

To generate a new public and private keypair:

gpg --gen-key

You should choose a key size of 4096 bits. The other defaults are OK to accept.

Publish key

Public keyservers are a simple way of distributing your public key so that other people can download it and encrypt content for you.

Note: the following commands use the full fingerprint ID because there is a risk of clashes when using the shortened last 8 digits (which is the default).

To list your keys:

gpg -K --fingerprint

The output will look something like the following:

sec   4096R/22652456 2013-02-06
      Key fingerprint = 9562 E7AD 3A95 E7BC 708D  036F F894 D400 2265 2456
uid                  Dan Carley (Government Digital Service) <>
ssb   4096R/233AD793 2013-02-06

Take the long ID listed after Key fingerprint = and run:

gpg --keyserver --send-keys 'YOUR ID HERE …'

You will need to provide the same ID to an existing member of the team so that they can add you to any secret stores that you need access to.

Setup agent

If you’re accessing several secrets in quick succession then it can be frustrating to be prompted for your password multiple times. You can configure gpg-agent, which is similar in concept to ssh-agent, to cache your password for a short period of time.

Write the following to your shell initialisation (such as ~/.bashrc or ~/.zshrc) to load gpg-agent each time you start a new shell:

if which gpg-agent >/dev/null; then
  if ! pgrep gpg-agent >/dev/null; then
    gpg-agent --daemon --write-env-file "${GPG_ENV_FILE}" >/dev/null
  if [ -f "${GPG_ENV_FILE}" ]; then
    source "${GPG_ENV_FILE}"
    export GPG_AGENT_INFO

Configure gpg to use the agent automatically by uncommenting the use-agent line in your ~/.gnupg/gpg.conf.

Aborting pinentry

If you abort out of the pinentry password prompt by using ^C then it can leave your shell and GPG in an unusable state. Symptoms include:

  • any characters you type appear as *
  • output from commands is incorrectly line breaked
  • subsequent calls to gpg hang

You can fix this by killing any outstanding pinentry processes:

pkill -9 pinentry

And resetting your terminal with: