My goal is to set up an Ubuntu Server installation via debootstrap from another Ubuntu installation and to be sure that this new installation is a correct Ubuntu installation without modifications. When I execute

debootstrap trusty /mnt http://de.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu

I get the response

 Valid Release signature (key id 790BC7277767219C42C86F933B4FE6ACC0B21F32)

But how does this release signature is checked? Against what other key? Or to ask in a different kind: How can I be sure that the downloaded package for debootstrap is valid and was not modified on its way?


The validity of the packages is checked against a keyring which can be explicitly specified with the --keyring=KEYRING option of debootstrap (see man debootstrap for details).

If omitted debootstrap uses system keyrings which you can easily install with [name]-keyring packages in synaptic/apt-get and (only slightly more complicated) from source.

If debootstrap tells you that the package is valid there's a high change that it is. If you mistrust debootstrap or a library which it uses for the validation, you need to perform a sophisticated security review based on the source code.

  • So if I omit the --keyring option, Ubuntu will use the system keyring from /usr/share/keyrings/ubuntu-master-keyring.gpg? How can I verify this key, is there another site to download it from (maybe with SSL-encryption), to compare it with the one provided by apt-get? – Chessmaster Apr 26 '15 at 16:56
  • It must have been installed either during installation of Ubuntu (like ubuntu-keyring) which can be verified in the boot menu of the live distribution or is is installed with apt-get which verifies packages (including the -keyring packages) with PGP. – Karl Richter Apr 26 '15 at 16:59
  • It has been installed during installation of Ubuntu, but this installation was done by the hoster of the server, which I don't trust. So I'm searching for a way to verify this key... – Chessmaster Apr 26 '15 at 17:07
  • I see. Sounds like a tricky scenario. Maybe you'll get more input if you ask/search for existing answers for a more abstract question, like "How to verify a PGP key on an untrusted system?". I'm pretty sure that you have to do it outside the system, e.g. in a live system, which is definitely out of the scope of debootstrap. – Karl Richter Apr 26 '15 at 17:14
  • That sounds like a good idea, I'll try that. Thanks for your input! – Chessmaster Apr 26 '15 at 17:30

If someone searches for more details: I solved my problem with the fingerprints of the keyfiles (you can get them with apt-key finger) and compared them with other (secure) systems.

Maybe helpful is this thread: How do I know my system updates are trustworthy?

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