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#448 in Cryptography

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MIT/Apache and LGPL-2.0-or-later


OpenPGP card tools

This crate contains the oct tool for inspecting, configuring and using OpenPGP cards.


One easy way to install this crate is via the "cargo" tool.

The following build dependencies are needed for current Debian:

# apt install rustc cargo clang pkg-config nettle-dev libpcsclite-dev

And for current Fedora:

# dnf install rustc cargo clang nettle-devel pcsc-lite-devel

Afterwards, you can install this crate by running:

$ cargo install openpgp-card-tools --locked

If you are using Windows and want to quickly install without issues, you can run below command:

$ cargo install openpgp-card-tools --locked --no-default-features --features sequoia-openpgp/crypto-cng,sequoia-openpgp/compression

Finally, add $HOME/.cargo/bin to your PATH to be able to run the installed binaries.

System integration

oct uses the PC/SC framework. So on Linux-based systems, you need to make sure the pcscd service is running, to be able to access your OpenPGP cards.

Man pages

To generate the man pages for oct, provide an absolute directory with the OCT_MANPAGE_OUTPUT_DIR environment variable. After creating the man pages below the specified directory, the application exits.

$ OCT_MANPAGE_OUTPUT_DIR=/some/directory oct

Shell completions

To generate the shell completions for oct, provide an absolute directory with the OCT_COMPLETION_OUTPUT_DIR environment variable. After creating the shell completions below the specified directory, the application exits.

$ OCT_COMPLETION_OUTPUT_DIR=/some/directory oct


A tool to inspect, configure and use OpenPGP cards.

This tool is designed to be equally convenient for regular interactive use, as well as from scripts. To this end, all functionality of this tool is alternatively usable in a non-interactive manner (see below).

When using the tool in interactive contexts, two methods of PIN entry are supported: in most cases, PINs can (and must) be entered via the host computer. When a pin pad is available on the smartcard reader, PIN entry will be requested via this pin pad.

List cards

List idents of all currently connected cards:

$ oct list
Available OpenPGP cards:

Inspect card status

Print status information about the data on a card. The card is implicitly selected (if exactly one card is connected):

$ oct status
OpenPGP card ABCD:01234567 (card version 3.4)

Cardholder: Alice Adams
Language preferences: 'en'

Signature key
  Fingerprint: 034B 348C EDA2 064C AA22  74E4 7563 E86F 5CAB C2A4
  Creation Time: 2022-05-21 13:15:19 UTC
  Algorithm: Ed25519 (EdDSA)
  Signatures made: 11

Decryption key
  Fingerprint: 338B EE09 3950 D831 A76F  0EB9 13D6 2DF6 8C9E 5176
  Creation Time: 2022-05-21 13:15:19 UTC
  Algorithm: Cv25519 (ECDH)

Authentication key
  Fingerprint: 4881 A22E 7EC6 26D1 1202  50B0 A7D7 F0D5 0C8D F719
  Creation Time: 2022-05-21 13:15:19 UTC
  Algorithm: Ed25519 (EdDSA)

Remaining PIN attempts: User: 3, Admin: 3, Reset Code: 0

Explicitly print the status information for a specific card (this command syntax is needed, when more than one card is plugged in):

$ oct status --card ABCD:01234567

Add -v for more verbose card status:

OpenPGP card ABCD:01234567 (card version 3.4)

Cardholder: Alice Adams
Language preferences: 'en'

Signature key
  Fingerprint: 034B 348C EDA2 064C AA22  74E4 7563 E86F 5CAB C2A4
  Creation Time: 2022-05-21 13:15:19 UTC
  Algorithm: Ed25519 (EdDSA)
  Touch policy: Cached (features: Button)
  Key Status: generated
  User PIN presentation is valid for unlimited signatures
  Signatures made: 11

Decryption key
  Fingerprint: 338B EE09 3950 D831 A76F  0EB9 13D6 2DF6 8C9E 5176
  Creation Time: 2022-05-21 13:15:19 UTC
  Algorithm: Cv25519 (ECDH)
  Touch policy: Off (features: Button)
  Key Status: generated

Authentication key
  Fingerprint: 4881 A22E 7EC6 26D1 1202  50B0 A7D7 F0D5 0C8D F719
  Creation Time: 2022-05-21 13:15:19 UTC
  Algorithm: Ed25519 (EdDSA)
  Touch policy: Off (features: Button)
  Key Status: generated

Attestation key:
  Algorithm: RSA 2048 [e 17]
  Touch policy: Cached (features: Button)

Remaining PIN attempts: User: 3, Admin: 3, Reset Code: 0
Key Status (#129): imported

The --public-key-material flag additionally outputs the raw public key data for each key slot.

Get an OpenPGP public key representation from a card

This command returns an OpenPGP public key representation of the keys on a card.

To bind the decryption and authentication subkeys (if any) to the signing key, the user pin needs to be provided.

$ oct pubkey
OpenPGP card ABCD:01234567
Enter User PIN:
Comment: F9C7 97CB 1AF2 1C68 AEEC  8D4D 1002 89F5 5EF6 B2D4
Comment: Alice Adams


You can query a specific card

$ oct pubkey --card ABCD:01234567

In the process of exporting the key material on a card as a certificate (public key), one or more User IDs can be bound to the certificate:

$ oct pubkey --userid "Alice Adams <alice@example.org>"

Caution: the exported public key material isn't always what you want

The result of exporting public key material from a card is only an approximation of the original public key, since some metadata is not available on OpenPGP cards. This missing metadata includes expiration dates.

Also, if your card only contains subkeys, but not the original primary key, then the exported certificate will use the signing subkey from the card as the primary key for the exported certificate.

One way to safely process this exported public key material from a card is via sq key adopt.

You can use this approach when you have access to your private primary key material (in the following example, we assume this key is available in key.pgp). Then you can bind the public key material from a card to your key:

oct pubkey > public.key
sq key adopt key.pgp public.pgp

In that process, you will be able to manually set any relevant flags.

Using a card for ssh auth

To use an OpenPGP card for ssh login authentication, a PGP authentication key needs to exist on the card.

oct ssh then shows the ssh public key string representation of the PGP authentication key on the card, like this:

$ oct ssh
OpenPGP card ABCD:01234567

Authentication key fingerprint:

SSH public key:
ssh-ed25519 AAAAC3NzaC1lZDI1NTE5AAAAII2dcYBqMCamidT5MpE3Cl3MIKcYMBekGXbK2aaN6JaH oct:ABCD:01234567

To allow login to a remote machine, that ssh public key can be added to .ssh/authorized_keys on that remote machine.

In the example output above, this string is the ssh public key:

ssh-ed25519 AAAAC3NzaC1lZDI1NTE5AAAAII2dcYBqMCamidT5MpE3Cl3MIKcYMBekGXbK2aaN6JaH oct:ABCD:01234567

Show OpenPGP card metadata

Print information about the capabilities of a card, including the list of supported algorithms (if the card returns that list).

Most of the output is probably not of interest to regular users.

$ oct info
OpenPGP card FFFE:12345678 (card version 2.0)

Application Identifier: D276000124 01 0200 FFFE 12345678 0000
Manufacturer [FFFE]: Range reserved for randomly assigned serial numbers.

Card Capabilities:
- command chaining

Card service data:
- Application Selection by full DF name
- EF.DIR and EF.ATR/INFO access services by the GET DATA command (BER-TLV): 010

Extended Capabilities:
- get challenge
- key import
- PW Status changeable
- algorithm attributes changeable
- maximum length of challenge: 32
- maximum length cardholder certificates: 2048
- maximum command length: 255
- maximum response length: 256

Supported algorithms:
- SIG: RSA 2048 [e 32]
- SIG: RSA 4096 [e 32]
- SIG: Secp256k1 (ECDSA)
- SIG: Ed25519 (EdDSA)
- SIG: Ed448 (EdDSA)
- DEC: RSA 2048 [e 32]
- DEC: RSA 4096 [e 32]
- DEC: Secp256k1 (ECDSA)
- DEC: Cv25519 (ECDH)
- DEC: X448 (ECDH)
- AUT: RSA 2048 [e 32]
- AUT: RSA 4096 [e 32]
- AUT: Secp256k1 (ECDSA)
- AUT: Ed25519 (EdDSA)
- AUT: Ed448 (EdDSA)

Or to query a specific card:

$ oct info --card ABCD:01234567

Admin commands

All admin commands need the Admin PIN. It can be provided as a file, with -P <admin-pin-file>, for non-interactive use (see below).

By default, the PIN must be entered interactively on the host computer, or via a pin pad if the OpenPGP card is used in a smart card reader that has a pin pad.

Set touch policy

Cards can require confirmation by the user before cryptographic operations are performed (this confirmation feature is often implemented as a mechanical button on the card).

However, not all cards implement this feature.

Rationale: when a card requires touch confirmation, an attacker who gains control of the user's host computer cannot perform cryptographic operations on the card at will - even after they learn the user's PINs.

This feature is configured per key slot. The user can choose to require (or not require) touch confirmation separately for signing, decryption, authentication and attestation operations.

E.g., when the touch policy is set to On for the SIG key slot, then every signing operation requires a touch button confirmation:

$ oct admin --card ABCD:01234567 touch --key SIG --policy On

Valid values for the key slot are: SIG, DEC, AUT, ATT (some cards only support the first three).

Available policies can include: Off, On, Fixed, Cached, CachedFixed. Some cards only support a subset of these.

  • Off means that no touch confirmation is required.
  • On means that each operation requires on touch confirmation.
  • The Fixed policies are like On, but the policies cannot be changed without performing a factory reset on the card.
  • With the Cached policies, a touch confirmation is valid for multiple operations within 15 seconds.

Set cardholder name

Set the (informational) cardholder name:

$ oct admin --card ABCD:01234567 name "Alice Adams"

Set certificate URL

The URL field on OpenPGP cards is intended to point to the certificate (or "public key") the corresponds to the keys that are present on the card.

It can be set like this:

$ oct admin --card ABCD:01234567 url "https://key.url.example"
Using keys.openpgp.org for the URL

If you have uploaded (or plan to upload) your certificate (your public key) to the keys.openpgp.org keyserver, you can point the URL field on your card there:

If the fingerprint of your certificate is 0123456789ABCDEF0123456789ABCDEF01234567, then you can set the URL as follows:

$ oct admin --card FFFE:12345678 url "https://keys.openpgp.org/vks/v1/by-fingerprint/0123456789ABCDEF0123456789ABCDEF01234567"
Other common options for certificate URLs

You can use any URL that serves your certificate ("public key"), including links to:

  • gitlab (https://gitlab.com/<username>.gpg) or github (https://github.com/<username>.gpg)
  • any other keyserver, such as https://keyserver.ubuntu.com/,
  • a WKD server,
  • a copy of your certificate on your personal website, ...

Import keys

Import private key onto a card. This works if at most one (sub)key per role (sign, decrypt, auth) exists in key.priv:

$ oct admin --card ABCD:01234567 import key.priv

Import private key onto a card while explicitly selecting subkeys. Explicitly specified fingerprints are necessary if more than one subkey exists in key.priv for any role (spaces in fingerprints are ignored).

$ oct admin --card ABCD:01234567 -P <admin-pin-file> import key.priv \
 --sig-fp "F290 DBBF 21DB 8634 3C96  157B 87BE 15B7 F548 D97C" \
 --dec-fp "3C6E 08F6 7613 8935 8B8D  7666 73C7 F1A9 EEDA C360" \
 --auth-fp "D6AA 48EF 39A2 6F26 C42D  5BCB AAD2 14D5 5332 C838"

When fingerprints are only specified for a subset of the roles, no keys will be imported for the other roles.

Passphrase-locked private key material

If the private (sub)keys in the import file are locked with a passphrase, the user is prompted to enter the passphrase. If (sub)keys are encrypted with different passphrases, the user will be prompted multiple times.

(Background: OpenPGP keys can be passphrase-protected when they are stored in files. However, to import to an OpenPGP card the keys must be provided in unencrypted form. Therefore, they need to be decrypted for import.)

For non-interactive workflows it's possible to provide the passphrase from a file:

$ oct admin --card ABCD:01234567 import --key-passphrase passphrase.txt key.priv

Note that the content of the passphrase file is used verbatim, including e.g. any trailing space or newline. One way to generate a passphrase file without a trailing newline is

$ echo -n "my passphrase" > passphrase.txt

(Be aware that executing such a command might store your passphrase in your shell history file. Make sure to take measures to avoid this, if necessary.)

Generate Keys on the card

This command generates new keys on an OpenPGP card. It creates the corresponding certificate ("public key") representation in an output file.

$ oct admin --card ABCD:01234567 generate --output <output-cert-file> cv25519

Note that key generation needs both the Admin PIN and the User PIN (the User PIN is needed to export the new key as a public key).

Output will look like:

Enter Admin PIN:
Enter User PIN:
 Generate subkey for Signing
 Generate subkey for Decryption
 Generate subkey for Authentication

The <output-cert-file> will contain the corresponding certificate ("public key").

As part of the process of generating key material on a card, one or more User IDs can be included with the exported certificate:

$ oct admin --card ABCD:01234567 generate --userid "Alice Adams <alice@example.org>" --output <output-cert-file> cv25519


This tool supports creating three different forms of OpenPGP signatures: Detached, inline and cleartext signatures.

If no input file is provided, stdin is read. By default output is emitted on stdout, but can be directed to a file using a commandline option.


$ oct sign --card ABCD:01234567 detached <input-file>


$ oct sign --card ABCD:01234567 inline <input-file>


$ oct sign --card ABCD:01234567 cleartext <input-file>


Decryption using a card (if no input file is set, stdin is read):

$ oct decrypt --card ABCD:01234567 <input-file>

PIN management

OpenPGP cards use PINs (numerical passwords) to verify that a user is allowed to perform an operation.

To use cryptographic operations on a card (such as decryption or signing), the User PIN is required.

To configure a card (for example to import OpenPGP key material into the card's key slots), the Admin PIN is needed.

By default, on unconfigured (or factory reset) cards, the User PIN is typically set to 123456, and the Admin PIN is set to 12345678.

Blocked cards and resetting

When a user has entered a wrong User PIN too often, the card goes into a blocked state, in which presenting the User PIN successfully is not possible anymore. The purpose of this is to prevent attackers from trying all possible PINs (e.g. after stealing a card).

To be able to use the card again, the User PIN must be "reset".

A User PIN reset can be performed by presenting the Admin PIN.

The resetting code

OpenPGP cards offer an additional, optional, Resetting Code mechanism.

The resetting code may be configured on a card and used to reset the User PIN if it has been forgotten or blocked. When unblocking a card with the Resetting Code, the Admin PIN is not needed.

The Resetting Code mechanism is only useful in scenarios where a user doesn't have access to (or prefers not to use) the Admin PIN (e.g. in some corporate settings, users might not be given the Admin PIN for their cards. Instead, an admin may define a resetting code and give that code to the user).

On un-configured (or factory reset) cards, the Resetting Code is typically unset.

Set a new User PIN

Setting a new User PIN requires the Admin PIN:

$ oct pin --card ABCD:01234567 set-user

Set new Admin PIN

This requires the (previous) Admin PIN.

$ oct pin --card ABCD:01234567 set-admin

Reset User PIN with Admin PIN

The User PIN can be reset to a different (or the same) PIN by providing the Admin PIN. This is possible at any time, including when a wrong User PIN has been entered too often, and the card refuses to accept the User PIN anymore.

$ oct pin --card ABCD:01234567 reset-user

Configuring the resetting code

The resetting code is an alternative mechanism to recover from a lost or locked User PIN.

You can set the resetting code after verifying the Admin PIN. Once a resetting code is configured on your card, you can use that code to reset the User PIN without needing the Admin PIN.

$ oct pin --card ABCD:01234567 set-reset

Reset User PIN with the resetting code

If a resetting code is configured on a card, you can use that code to reset the User PIN:

$ oct pin --card ABCD:01234567 reset-user-rc
Enter resetting code:
Enter new User PIN:
Repeat the new User PIN:

User PIN has been set.

System commands

The "system" top level command groups commands that perform initialization and similar functionality.

Factory reset

A factory reset erases all data on your card, including the private key material that the card stores.

$ oct system factory-reset --card ABCD:01234567

NOTE: you do not need a PIN to reset a card!

Set Identity

This command is specific to the Nitrokey Start.

The Nitrokey Start OpenPGP card can present as 3 separate "virtual" OpenPGP cards, each with a set of OpenPGP keys. To select identity "1", run:

$ oct system set-identity --card ABCD:01234567 1

Activate File

This command is not useful in normal operation. However, if your card has accidentally ended up in "terminated" state, you can use this command to activate the card again.

This command can only be used when exactly on card is connected to your system, and that card is in "terminated" mode. Otherwise the command prints an error and does nothing.

$ oct system activate-file

Directly entering PINs on card readers with pin pad

If your OpenPGP card is inserted in a card reader with a pin pad, this tool offers you the option to use the pin pad to enter the User- or Admin PINs. To do this, you can omit the -p and/or -P parameters. Then you will be prompted to enter the user or Admin PINs where needed.

Machine-readable Output (JSON, YAML)

This tool is can optionally provide its output in JSON (or YAML) format. The functionality is intended for scripting use.

For all commands that return relevant output, the parameter --output-format json chooses JSON as the output format.

For example, with the status command:

$ oct --output-format json status
  "schema_version": "0.9.0",
  "ident": "ABCD:01234567",
  "card_version": "3.4",
  "cardholder_name": "Alice Adams",
  "language_preferences": [],
  "certificate_url": "http://alice.example/alice.pgp",
  "signature_key": {
    "fingerprint": "A393 4505 BC51 1177 2E0B  845A 142C C9AB 7126 5C00",
    "creation_time": "2022-10-31 13:45:35 UTC",
    "algorithm": "Ed25519 (EdDSA)",
    "touch_policy": "Off",
    "touch_features": "Button",
    "status": "generated",
    "public_key_material": "ECC [Ed25519 (EdDSA)], data: 3A2B88EF788FA59575E3C4DB89EE367DBD0D9E93B6CE26B7686D32E94958F32A"
  "signature_count": 3,
  "user_pin_valid_for_only_one_signature": false,
  "decryption_key": {
    "fingerprint": "0643 F2A9 6605 4158 CCFA  B11F C7D2 0DBA DA64 84E0",
    "creation_time": "2022-10-31 13:45:35 UTC",
    "algorithm": "Cv25519 (ECDH)",
    "touch_policy": "Off",
    "touch_features": "Button",
    "status": "generated",
    "public_key_material": "ECC [Cv25519 (ECDH)], data: AF97CA49B2D89998605985AEDAA19097A0CE7E5CC681B1ABD1C8610933FDB320"
  "authentication_key": {
    "fingerprint": "2BA3 3B42 90DE 337D 1DF8  54B3 2E20 E550 3ABC 57A9",
    "creation_time": "2022-10-31 13:45:35 UTC",
    "algorithm": "Ed25519 (EdDSA)",
    "touch_policy": "Off",
    "touch_features": "Button",
    "status": "generated",
    "public_key_material": "ECC [Ed25519 (EdDSA)], data: 80178ECE7F16ACDFDB0A645C81E72287761F03488CE3AE01F74279AA88A9018C"
  "attestation_key": {
    "fingerprint": null,
    "creation_time": null,
    "algorithm": "RSA 2048 [e 17]",
    "touch_policy": "Off",
    "touch_features": "Button",
    "status": null,
    "public_key_material": null
  "user_pin_remaining_attempts": 3,
  "admin_pin_remaining_attempts": 3,
  "reset_code_remaining_attempts": 0

Non-interactive use

All commands that require PIN entry can be used non-interactively by providing PINs via files (see the section "Using file-descriptors to provide PINs" for a variation on this).

In almost all contexts, -p is used to provide the User PIN and -P to provide the Admin PIN (the exception is when changing a PIN on the card, then a different parameter is used to provide the new PIN).

Examples of non-interactive use

  • Setting the cardholder name:

$ oct admin --card ABCD:01234567 -P <admin-pin-file> name "Alice Adams"

  • Importing a key to the card:

$ oct admin --card ABCD:01234567 -P <admin-pin-file> import key.priv

  • Generating key material on the card:

$ oct admin --card ABCD:01234567 -P <admin-pin-file> generate -p <user-pin-file> --output <output-cert-file> cv25519

  • Creating a detached signature:

$ oct sign --card ABCD:01234567 -p <user-pin-file> detached <input-file>

  • Creating an inline signature:

$ oct sign --card ABCD:01234567 -p <user-pin-file> inline <input-file>

  • Creating a cleartext signature:

$ oct sign --card ABCD:01234567 -p <user-pin-file> cleartext <input-file>

Examples of non-interactive PIN management

  • Setting a new User PIN:

$ oct pin --card ABCD:01234567 set-user -p <old-user-pin-file> -q <new-user-pin-file>

  • Setting a new Admin PIN:

$ oct pin --card ABCD:01234567 set-admin -P <old-admin-pin-file> -Q <new-admin-pin-file>

  • Setting a new User PIN based on the Admin PIN (and unblocking the card, if needed):

$ oct pin --card ABCD:01234567 reset-user -P <admin-pin-file> -p <new-user-pin-file>

  • Setting the resetting code:

$ oct pin --card ABCD:01234567 set-reset -P <admin-pin-file> -r <resetting-code-file>

  • Setting a new User ID based on the resetting code (and unblocking the card, if needed):

$ oct pin --card ABCD:01234567 reset-user-rc -r <resetting-code-file> -p <new-user-pin-file>

Using file-descriptors to provide PINs

When using a shell like bash , you can pass User- and/or Admin PINs via file-descriptors (instead of from a file on disk):

$ oct sign --card ABCD:01234567 -p /dev/fd/3 detached 3<<<123456
$ oct admin --card ABCD:01234567 -P /dev/fd/3 generate -p /dev/fd/4 --output <output-cert-file> cv25519 3<<<12345678 4<<<123456


Yubico implements a proprietary extension to the OpenPGP card standard to "cryptographically certify that a certain asymmetric key has been generated on device, and not imported".

This feature is available on YubiKey 5 devices with firmware version 5.2 or newer.

Attestation key/certificate

"The YubiKey is preloaded with an attestation certificate and matching attestation key issued by the Yubico CA. The template and key are replaceable, which permits an individual or organization to issue attestations verifiable with their own CA if they prefer. If replaced, the Yubico template can never be restored."

This tool does not currently support replacing the attestation key on a YubiKey. It only supports use of the Yubico-provided attestation key to generate "attestation statements".

The attestation certificate on a card can be inspected as follows:

$ oct attestation cert

Generating an attestation statement

For any key slot on the card you can generate an attestation statement, if the key material in that key slot has been generated on the card.

It's not possible to generate attestation statements for key material that was imported to the card (the attestation statement certifies that the key has been generated on the card).

To generate an attestation statement, run:

$ oct attestation generate --key SIG --card 0006:01234567

Supported values for --key are SIG, DEC and AUT.

Generation of an attestation requires the User PIN. By default, it also requires touch confirmation (the touch policy configuration for the attestation key slot is set to On by default).

Viewing an attestation statement

When the YubiKey generates an attestation statement, it gets stored in a cardholder certificate data object on the card.

After an attestation statement has been generated, it can be read from the card and viewed in pem-encoded format:

$ oct attestation statement --key SIG

Supported values for --key are SIG, DEC and AUT.


This project is licensed under the terms of the Apache-2.0 OR MIT licenses. Contributions to this repository are automatically dual-licensed under the terms of the aforementioned licenses.


This project has been funded in part through NGI Assure, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet program.

NGI Assure Logo

Learn more at the NLnet project page.


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