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bsign(1) General Commands Manual bsign(1)


bsign - embed and verify secure hashes and digital signatures


bsign [ options | FILENAMES ]


The goal purpose of bsign is to verify and authenticate data files, especially executables and other binaries.

The program reads all of the options and FILENAMES from the command line and then begins to operate on the input files. In one invocation in can only one of either hash files, sign files, check hashes, or check signatures.

At present, it only works with the ELF (Execution and Link Format) files used by several flavors of UN*X including GNU/Linux, and it only supports gpg for creating and verifying signatures. It embeds a secure hash of the file contents in the file and optionally signs this hash value. Any change in the file contents will be easily discovered. Either the hash value does not match the file contents, the hash is absent, the signature (optional) of the hash value is invalid, ir the signature (optional) is absent.


One of these commands must be present. Only the last one on the command line will be recognized.

Verify the embedded hash value.
Rewrite the input files with a hash.
Rewrite the input files with signed hash data. Note that the while rewriting process will fail if generation of the digital signature fails. If no supported facility for creating signatures is available, only the --hash method will work.
Verify the embedded hash value and digital signature.
Display program version.
Display program options and usage information.


Enable the display of debug messages.
Add PATH to the list of directories to exclude for input files, it may be used more than once. A trailing path separator ('/') will be ignored.
Process filenames in FILE, one per line. Use filename - for standard input. This options has the same effect as putting each line in FILE on the command line as a distinct word.
By default, bsign will not resign a file if there is already a signature section present. Note that this means it won't resign a file that has been hashed without a signature, too. This option will override that behavior, replacing the existing signature block.
Inhibit information messages about finding good signatures. This option is helpful when verifying from a cron script where all files are expected to have good signatures. Messages about missing or broken signatures are unaffected by --ignore-good-sigs.
Add PATH to the list of directories to search for input files, it may be used more than once. This method will tend to be faster and simpler than using the find program to generate a list of filenames.
Ignore directories and non-ELF files in error messages. This option reduces bsign output.
Treat symlinks as an unsupported file type. This prevents some files from being signed redundantly.
Write signed, rewritten version of the input file to FILE. Without this option, the input file is replaced by the rewritten version. The --output option only works when there is a single input filename on the command line.
Pass OPTS to gpg as command lines options. This is helpful for telling gpg where to find keys.
Inhibit informational messages. With this option, the result of executing bsign is known only by checking the return status.
Print a summary after processing the last input file. At the moment, it only tracks the total number of input files reviewed.
Report details about program progress.


The program return value reflects the result from the last file processed. Therefore, it is most useful when processing a single file. It returns zero when successfully signing or hashing a file, or when the signature or hash is found to be present and valid. Return codes less than 64 are errno values.

0 no error
1 permission denied
2 file not found
12 no memory
21 is directory
22 invalid argument
24 too many open files
26 file busy
28 no space on device
36 name too long
64 no hash found
65 no signature found
66 bad hash found
67 bad signature found
68 unsupported file type
69 bad pass phrase
70 rewrite failed


you intend to use bsign only to protect the contents of the filesystem against corruption, there is little that must be done aside from hashing the files and performing periodic checks for correct hash values. Refer to the EXAMPLES section for some possible invocations.

If you intend to use bsign to detect intrusion, the way is less clear. First, the usual reminder: the security of a system is only as strong as the weakest link. More detailed instructions on how to use bsign in this mode may be found in the /usr/share/doc/bsign/README file.


rewrite file with a hash
verify the hash in file
rewrite file with a hash and sign it with the default secret key in keydir
verify the hash and signature in file using the key in keydir
sign the unsigned files in the whole filesystem
verify signatures for all files in the filesystem and only report those that have been tampered or are unsigned.


bsign should use environment variables to select the method for generating digital signatures. It doesn't.


It supports only one hash algorithm, an insignificant bug if one at all. It supports only GNU Privacy Guard for creating and verifying digital signatures. It can embed only in ELF format files, others would be helpful.


Marc Singer <>

16-Jan-2001 Debian