B.4. Generating a Revocation Certificate

Once you have created your keypair, you should create a revocation certificate for your public key. If you forget your passphrase, or if it has been compromised, you can publish this certificate to inform users that your public key should no longer be used.


When you generate a revocation certificate, you are not revoking the key you just created. Instead, you are giving yourself a safe way to revoke your key from public use in case you forget your passphrase, switch ISPs (addresses), or suffer a hard drive crash. The revocation certificate can then be used to disqualify your public key.

Your signature is valid to others who read your correspondence before your key is revoked, and you are able to decrypt messages received prior to its revocation. To generate a revocation certificate, use the --gen-revoke option:

gpg --output revoke.asc --gen-revoke  you@example.com

Note that if you omit the --output revoke.asc option from the above, your revocation certificate is returned to the standard output, which is your monitor screen. While you can copy and paste the contents of the output into a file of your choice using a text editor, it is probably easier to send the output to a file in your login directory. That way, you can keep the certificate for use later, or move it to a diskette and store it someplace safe.

The output looks similar to the following:

sec  1024D/823D25A9 2000-04-26  Your Name <you@example.com>
Create a revocation certificate for this key?

Press [Y] and [Enter] to create a revocation certificate for the listed key. Next, you are asked to select the reason for revocation and provide an optional description. After confirming the reason, enter the passphrase you used to generate the key.

Once your revocation certificate has been created (revoke.asc), it is located in your login directory. You should copy the certificate to a diskette and store it in a secure place. (If you do not know how to copy a file to a diskette in Red Hat Enterprise Linux, see the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Step By Step Guide, Section 13.1 Using Diskettes).