The combination of GnuPG and a OpenPGP smartcard has been implemented and working for almost a decade. I recall starting to use it when I received a FSFE Fellowship card in 2006. Today I’m using a YubiKey NEO. Sadly there has been some regressions when using them under GNOME recently. I reinstalled my laptop with Debian Jessie (beta2) recently, and now took the time to work through the issue and write down a workaround.
To work with GnuPG and smartcards you install GnuPG agent, scdaemon, pscsd and pcsc-tools. On Debian you can do it like this:
apt-get install gnupg-agent scdaemon pcscd pcsc-tools
pcsc_scan command line tool to make sure
pcscd recognize the smartcard before continuing, if that doesn’t recognize the smartcard nothing beyond this point will work. The next step is to make sure you have the following line in
Logging out and into GNOME should start gpg-agent for you, through the
/etc/X11/Xsession.d/90gpg-agent script. In theory, this should be all that is required. However, when you start a terminal and attempt to use the smartcard through GnuPG you would get an error like this:
jas@latte:~$ gpg --card-status gpg: selecting openpgp failed: unknown command gpg: OpenPGP card not available: general error jas@latte:~$
The reason is that the GNOME Keyring hijacks the GnuPG agent’s environment variables and effectively replaces
gnome-keyring-daemon which does not support smartcard commands (Debian bug #773304). GnuPG uses the environment variable
GPG_AGENT_INFO to find the location of the agent socket, and when the GNOME Keyring is active it will typically look like this:
jas@latte:~$ echo $GPG_AGENT_INFO /run/user/1000/keyring/gpg:0:1 jas@latte:~$
If you use GnuPG with a smartcard, I recommend to disable GNOME Keyring’s GnuPG and SSH agent emulation code. This used to be easy to achieve in older GNOME releases (e.g., the one included in Debian Wheezy), through the
gnome-session-properties GUI. Sadly there is no longer any GUI for disabling this functionality (Debian bug #760102). The GNOME Keyring GnuPG/SSH agent replacement functionality is invoked through the XDG autostart mechanism, and the documented way to disable system-wide services for a normal user account is to invoke the following commands.
jas@latte:~$ mkdir ~/.config/autostart jas@latte:~$ cp /etc/xdg/autostart/gnome-keyring-gpg.desktop ~/.config/autostart/ jas@latte:~$ echo 'Hidden=true' >> ~/.config/autostart/gnome-keyring-gpg.desktop jas@latte:~$ cp /etc/xdg/autostart/gnome-keyring-ssh.desktop ~/.config/autostart/ jas@latte:~$ echo 'Hidden=true' >> ~/.config/autostart/gnome-keyring-ssh.desktop jas@latte:~$
You now need to logout and login again. When you start a terminal, you can look at the
GPG_AGENT_INFO environment variable again and everything should be working again.
jas@latte:~$ echo $GPG_AGENT_INFO /tmp/gpg-dqR4L7/S.gpg-agent:1890:1 jas@latte:~$ echo $SSH_AUTH_SOCK /tmp/gpg-54VfLs/S.gpg-agent.ssh jas@latte:~$ gpg --card-status Application ID ...: D2760001240102000060000000420000 ... jas@latte:~$ ssh-add -L ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAADAQABAAABAQDFP+UOTZJ+OXydpmbKmdGOVoJJz8se7lMs139T+TNLryk3EEWF+GqbB4VgzxzrGjwAMSjeQkAMb7Sbn+VpbJf1JDPFBHoYJQmg6CX4kFRaGZT6DHbYjgia59WkdkEYTtB7KPkbFWleo/RZT2u3f8eTedrP7dhSX0azN0lDuu/wBrwedzSV+AiPr10rQaCTp1V8sKbhz5ryOXHQW0Gcps6JraRzMW+ooKFX3lPq0pZa7qL9F6sE4sDFvtOdbRJoZS1b88aZrENGx8KSrcMzARq9UBn1plsEG4/3BRv/BgHHaF+d97by52R0VVyIXpLlkdp1Uk4D9cQptgaH4UAyI1vr cardno:006000000042 jas@latte:~$
That’s it. Resolving this properly involves 1) adding smartcard code to the GNOME Keyring, 2) disabling the GnuPG/SSH replacement code in GNOME Keyring completely, 3) reorder the startup so that gpg-agent supersedes gnome-keyring-daemon instead of vice versa, so that people who installed the gpg-agent really gets it instead of the GNOME default, or 4) something else. I don’t have a strong opinion on how to solve this, but 3) sounds like a simple way forward.