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Encrypted Git remotes with git-remote-gcrypt

Encrypted backup of your repositories

On my personal Git server I have a lot of repositories. In order not to loose these repositories, a backup policy is important.

I keep copies of my Git repositories on several machines in my home network. However, a catastrophic power-event like a lightning bolt or some other high-voltage peak could wipe all those machines. Therefor I wanted to have a copy outside my house, and thus at a third party. Because of the confidentiality of a part of the data, this has to be an encrypted backup.

Create GNU Privacy Guard-encrypted git remotes with git-remote-gcrypt

The open source GnuPG tools provide very strong encryption and is easy to implement. (GnuPG is also known under the names gpg and OpenPGP).

git-remote-gcrypt handles gcrypt:: URLs that will access a remote repository encrypted with GnuPG. On Debian, it is easy to install:

apt-get install git-remote-gcrypt

... and you are ready to go!

git-remote-gcrypt is a shell-script, so an other easy way to install is:

git clone
cd git-remote-gcrypt

This can be handy on other Linux distributions. The git-remote-gcrypt is a shell-script that uses curl among other things, and it will not be easy to get it working properly on OpenBSD.

GnuPG key

Before starting to use git-remote-gcrypt to set up encrypted remotes, it is useful to think about which GnuPG key we are going to use.

We set up the remote encrypted repositories as a backup for the case our entire home network is foobar. When we want to access the contents of the remote repository, we will need the private gpg-key to do the decryption.

So you will have to store this gpg-key on a remote position, probably at a third party (which is, of course, not the same third party as where the remote repository is located). This can be on an USB memory-stick, or as a file stored by some cloud provider.

For this reason, I choose to use a separate key, only to be used for the encryption and decryption of the Git repositories, and not my "normal" key for everyday use, like signing email messages.

How to set up an encrypted remote Git repository

Preparation on the remote machine

On the remote machine, create a bare, empty repository:

mkdir -p /opt/git/<new repository>
cd /opt/git/<new repository>
git init --bare .   

This results in a normal, remote empty repository.

In the example above, the remote repository is located in the /opt/git directory. This is just an example, you can choose any other path.

Preparation on the local repository

In the directory of our local Git repository we enter the following commands:

git remote add cryptremote gcrypt::rsync://<remote-machine>:/opt/git/$mydir
git config remote.cryptremote.gcrypt-participants "<gpg-key-id>"

With this, we add an encrypted remote repository to the git config. Also, we tell git which GnuPG key to use for the encryption. The gpg-key-id is a long string, you can get this string f.e. with "gpg -K", which lists all your secret keys.

When you want to share the encrypted remote with other people, you can also add their gpg-keys in the list of gcrypt-participants.

Push encrypted data to the git remote

Now all we have to do, is to push the contents of our local repository to the remote, git-remote-gcrypt will do all the encryption for us:

git push cryptremote master

The name of the repository, and the git config and so on will not be encrypted, only the data. So if your repository name is sensitive too, you have to come up with some mechanism to replace this with something else. In the above example, the local repository got pushed to a remote in /opt/git, followed by a directory-name. You can of course replace this directory-name with something else.

Cloning from the remote repository

So there has been some catastrophic event, and no we want our data back from the remote encrypted repository. How do we approach this?

It turns out to be very simple. Of course we need the GnuPG key for decryption, so both the public as well as the private part of the key.

git clone gcrypt::rsync://<remote-machine>:/opt/git/<repository>

You will be prompted to enter the passphrase for the gpg-key and a local, decrypted clone will be made.

Test the recovery of the backup

Remember, that a backup that is not tested, is not a backup. Test the recovery process on a regular basis, to be sure it is working OK.


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