[Gpg4win-users-en] Private and Public Keys and their Extensions

Daniel Kahn Gillmor dkg at fifthhorseman.net
Fri Jul 10 19:57:29 CEST 2015

On Fri 2015-07-10 13:49:08 -0400, L wrote:
> I'm afraid, having got to the point where I start to mess around with
> key generation, that I have run into a mire.
> The problem involves the concept of public/private/secret keys and their
> identification.

when generating a key, the secret keys are generated first.  then the
public keys are derived from the secret key material.

primary vs. subkey is entirely orthogonal to public vs. private -- the
primary key is the asymmetric key associated with your identity.  it has
a public part and a secret part.  a subkey is an additional asymmetric
key that is bound to your primary key, but is used for other purposes.
each subkey also has a public part and a secret part.

for example, your primary key might be used for signing documents and
making identity assertions ("certifying other keys"), while your subkey
might be used for people to encrypt messages to you.

> in Gpg as "pub" and "sub" respectively.

these are the public keys associated with the primary key ("pub") and
any associated subkeys ("sub").  you can see them with "gpg --list-keys"

> Someone else referred to private keys resolving as "sec" and "ssb" but I
> can find no mention of this in manuals nor any means to create them.

These are the secret keys, associated with the primary ("sec") and any
associated subkeys ("ssb").  You can see them with "gpg



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