Signing Github Commits using GnuPG (GPG).

GnuPG (GPG) is a command line tool to integrate standard implementation of OpenPGP to address an integrity of data which is also accepted by Github to verify the integrity of the source the commits are pushed from.

We have probably seen the Verified tag in commits at least once in Github repositories, green Verified tag in commit means the machine and the person who pushed the commit is actually the Github user (as associated in the account) and no-one else.

Before generating a new GPG key, it is imperative for a person to check if he/she already has an existing GPG key. They can do so by executing the following command in their terminal.

gpg --list-secret-keys --keyid-format LONG

Generate a new GPG key

Considering generating a new GPG key is pretty straightforward, we need to know that Github accepts GPG key of size 4096 bits. Another thing to take into consideration is the GPG’s version, gpg --version. At the time of this writing, my versions of required libraries and modules were as follows.

gpg (GnuPG) 2.2.4
libgcrypt 1.8.1
  1. Execute gpg --full-generate-key in your terminal.
  2. Select default (1), RSA and RSA (default).
  3. Change keysize from default 3072 to 4096 bits.
  4. Change validity for the time of your choice, I put mine to be 2y, which means, valid for 2 years.
  5. Rest of the prompts are pretty straightforward however the next prompt after Real Name, Email address is where we need to pay close attention. If you are using Github’s private (anonymous) as your commit email with format of [email protected], you need to enter that instead of your primary email. If not, it will show as Unverified on your commit signature.
  6. Secure your key with a passphrase.
  7. Verify that key is created using gpg --list-secret-keys --keyid-format LONG command.

Unverified Commit

You should see an output similar to this.

sec   rsa4096/47E29D1BEAA33061 2018-10-28 [SC] [expires: 2020-10-27]
uid   [ultimate] Prashant Shrestha (Anonymous Github Email GPG) <[email protected]>
ssb   rsa4096/598E4AA9F1C7AE98 2018-10-28 [E] [expires: 2020-10-27]

Take note of the 3rd line, rsa4096/47E29D1BEAA33061 where 47E29D1BEAA33061 is our public GPG key ID.

Generate a private key to use with Github

Once we have our GPG key ID, we now need to generate a private key that is accepted by Github to verify our GPG key ID which can be done so by the command below.

gpg --armor --export 47E29D1BEAA33061

Once it is done generating the private key, copy everything, including -----BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK----- and -----END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK----- and head over to Github’s Personal Settings > SSH and GPG keys and add the block in there.

Creating Signed Commits

Creating signed commits requires a bit of a set up in the cloned repository directory. Head to the directory and let git know that we are going to be signing our commits using the following command.

git config --global user.signingkey 47E29D1BEAA33061

..or simply git config user.signingkey 47E29D1BEAA33061 without --global parameter for repository specific GPG key.

To test, make some changes in your local copy of your repository and commit your changes using the -S flag.

git commit -S -am "Yay, signed message test."

If everything went well, your signed and verified commit in Github should look similar to this.

Verified Commit

Good Luck!


  1. Poster image of encryption/decryption process used in this blog post to
  2. Github
  3. GnuPG (GPG)