gpg refresh keys failed

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Tags: gpg dirmngr linux

Trying to --refresh-keys my gpg key-chain, but gpg doesn’t let me.

$ gpg --refresh-keys
gpg: refreshing 42 keys from hkp://
gpg: keyserver refresh failed: No keyserver available

Things tried

Maybe my firewall log can give me some hints.

$ gpg --refresh-keys 2> /dev/null
# journalctl --since "30 seconds ago"
Mar 01 14:33:55 user kernel: [UFW AUDIT] IN= OUT=lo SRC= DST= LEN=60 TOS=0x00 PREC=0x00 TTL=64 ID=37191 DF PROTO=TCP SPT=50354 DPT=9050 WINDOW=43690 RES=0x00 SYN URGP=0
Mar 01 14:33:55 user kernel: [UFW AUDIT] IN= OUT=lo SRC= DST= LEN=60 TOS=0x00 PREC=0x00 TTL=64 ID=37186 DF PROTO=TCP SPT=35828 DPT=9150 WINDOW=43690 RES=0x00 SYN URGP=0

Every time I run the command, something tries to connect to on port 9050, then 9150. Looking up those ports on Wikipedia tells me these two ports are used by Tor. ~/.gnupg/dirmngr.conf specifies a .onion address as a keyserver, so this makes sense now. Moving on!

# My ~/.gnupg/dirmngr.conf
keyserver hkp://jirk5u4osbsr34t5.onion
keyserver hkp://

Debug the dirmngr program

Killing off existing instances pkill dirmngr. Then starting gpg with --debug to get some verbose output.

$ gpg --debug 1024 --refresh
gpg: reading options from '/home/user/.gnupg/gpg.conf'
gpg: enabled debug flags: ipc
gpg: DBG: chan_3 <- # Home: /home/user/.gnupg
gpg: DBG: chan_3 <- # Config: /home/user/.gnupg/dirmngr.conf
gpg: DBG: chan_3 <- OK Dirmngr 2.1.19 at your service
gpg: DBG: connection to the dirmngr established
gpg: DBG: chan_3 -> GETINFO version
gpg: DBG: chan_3 <- D 2.1.19
gpg: DBG: chan_3 <- OK
gpg: DBG: chan_3 -> KEYSERVER
gpg: DBG: chan_3 <- S KEYSERVER hkp://
gpg: DBG: chan_3 <- OK
gpg: refreshing 11 keys from hkp://
gpg: DBG: chan_3 -> KS_GET -- <a list of keys>
gpg: DBG: chan_3 <- ERR 167772379 Server indicated a failure <Dirmngr>
gpg: keyserver refresh failed: Server indicated a failure
gpg: DBG: chan_3 -> BYE
gpg: secmem usage: 0/32768 bytes in 0 blocks

After searching around for the number after ERR 167772379 and gpg, I came to [a bug posted to Arch Linux][arch] describing a proposed work-around to start dirmngr with --standard-resolver.

–standard-resolver This option forces the use of the system’s standard DNS resolver code.

echo "standard-resolver" >> ~/.gnupg/dirmngr.conf

Kill the dirmngr process if it’s running to make sure new config is used

$ pkill dirmngr

Now retrying

$ pkill dirmngr
$ gpg --refresh-keys
gpg: refreshing 42 keys from hkp://
[output redacted]
gpg: Total number processed: 42
gpg:              unchanged: 21



I suspect this problem may be due to [my strict iptables] rules as well. Will maybe get back to this in the future with a different fix.


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