Tdd Apps Blog

How to use your Keybase key for ssh

Jan 15, 2017 3 minute read

Extracting an RSA key out of Keybase is not straightforward for security beginners. These are the steps I took to automate the process.

The problem

Manually managing usernames and passwords for ssh into servers can be a difficult task. All those different passwords need to be backed up, synchronized across multiple computers, and typed every single time. Although password managers mitigate the credentials problem there’s a better mechanism to remote into boxes without typing passwords. The process involves generating public and private RSA key files.

These RSA keys need to be backed up and shared across different computers. While some use Dropbox to keep their keys synchronized others use Keybase. It is an online service to store PGP keys and map them to public identities such as Twitter accounts and domain registrations.


  1. Have a Keybase account.

  2. Install Git, Keybase, GnuPg and MonkeySphere.
    Homebrew users can run the following command

     brew install git keybase gpg monkeysphere

TL;DR; Run the following command

git clone ./ && sh

Your public key will be the file and your private key will be id_rsa

How does it work?

This gist automates the process of exporting your Keybase PGP keys into RSA keys.


echo "Start Export Process"

echo "Log into Keybase..."
keybase login

echo "Exporting your PGP keys..."
# Exporting your Keybase public key to keybase.public.key
keybase pgp export -o keybase.public.key
# Exporting your Keybase private key to keybase.private.key
keybase pgp export -s -o keybase.private.key

echo "Importing your Keybase keys..."
# Import your Keybase public key
gpg -q --import keybase.public.key
# Import your Keybase private key
gpg -q --allow-secret-key-import --import keybase.private.key
# The key import process produces a short hexadecimal hash
# We need to extract this hash and use it to generate the RSA key
# The hash is temporarily saved into hash.key
gpg --list-keys | grep '^pub\s*.*\/*.\s.*' | grep -oEi '\/(.*)\s' | cut -c 2- | awk '{$1=$1};1' > hash.key

echo "Generating RSA keys..."
# Generate the RSA private key using the hexadecimal hash
# The private key will be saved in the id_rsa file
gpg --export-options export-reset-subkey-passwd,export-minimal,no-export-attributes --export-secret-keys --no-armor `cat hash.key` | openpgp2ssh `cat hash.key` > id_rsa
# Secure the private RSA key file  
chmod 400 id_rsa
# Generate the public RSA key file  
ssh-keygen -y -f id_rsa >

echo "Cleaning up..."
# Remove all the temporary files  
rm *.key

echo "Success"

Bonus: Replace the default ssh key

# Delete any pre-existing key  
rm -f ~/.ssh/
rm -f ~/.ssh/id_rsa

# Create symbolic links to the default  
ln -s ~/.ssh/
ln -s id_rsa ~/.ssh/id_rsa

Want to know more?