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danneu danneu - 8 months ago 29
C Question

What data is being signed when you `git commit --gpg-sign=<key-id>`?

I'm trying to figure out how to sign/verify commits by hand, but I can't figure out what data is being signed to create the signature. In other words, I can't figure out what

gpg --verify <commit-sig> <data>
needs to be.

Here's the relevant bit of git's source code: but I'm also new to C.

Here's some example data:

In a fresh git repo, I create a file
and commit it with a signed commit:

git config --global user.signingkey 7E482429
git init
echo "EAC5-531F-38E8-9670-81AE-4E77-C7AA-5FC3-7E48-2429 1\n" > ledger.txt
git add ledger.txt
git commit -m "Initial commit" --gpg-sign=7E482429

And here it is in the log:

git log --show-signature

commit 876793da21833b5b8197b08462523fd6aad3e5ba
gpg: Signature made Fri May 9 20:01:55 2014 CDT using RSA key ID 7E482429
gpg: Good signature from "Dan Neumann <>"
Author: Dan Neumann <>
Date: Fri May 9 20:01:55 2014 -0500

Initial commit

Here's the pretty-printed commit object (which lives in

git cat-file -p 876793da21833b5b8197b08462523fd6aad3e5ba

tree 70e7c184c3a89c749174b4987830c287fd78952d
author Dan Neumann <> 1399683715 -0500
committer Dan Neumann <> 1399683715 -0500
gpgsig -----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
Version: GnuPG v1


Initial commit

And here are the actual contents of the commit object file:

hexdump .git/objects/87/6793da21833b5b8197b08462523fd6aad3e5ba | \
zlib-decompress | \

commit 671\0tree 70e7c184c3a89c749174b4987830c287fd78952d\nauthor Dan Neumann <> 1399683715 -0500\ncommitter Dan Neumann <> 1399683715 -0500\ngpgsig -----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----\n Version: GnuPG v1\n \n iQEcBAABAgAGBQJTbXqDAAoJEMeqX8N+SCQpTBIH/3zCpf0w0+xp8hkwz7dTV9Bw\n ercZp4UpxKV1HgqCxu2r/nGIuZyabLwTis1rcwXOVC4DgRxO0f2BiP0xnyL3OhJu\n CKh8l+HZvvGqVH3Dopm0D/kOxDAWHcjokbyzWBbYJX6WhvT8OI7SSYmwuF4r610h\n hkZ1xgjo4p1x9WegY296PzA1wEe6yy9BvvdIpJHoqBVKClgFrZvtE5PidbrAyLGF\n Kl/2f0K3peBdo6XP0Zaml8NyQlFmAlCV831hHgUmZsBSRpgh/WNvrDSNILTlFJgY\n BOPb2yPP+tiJOXYB66MsjQY9GlX7n43miu5wMtdk1AGqh+26OExbSrZcYVFLk4w=\n =sRee\n -----END PGP SIGNATURE-----\n\nInitial commit\n


After reading the code in commit_tree_extended, it seems the data used to sign is the part from "tree" to the end of the comment, of course excluding the signature.

In your example, it should be:

tree 70e7c184c3a89c749174b4987830c287fd78952d
author Dan Neumann <> 1399683715 -0500
committer Dan Neumann <> 1399683715 -0500
Initial commit

From the git source:

Init of buffer:

strbuf_init(&buffer, 8192); /* should avoid reallocs for the headers */
strbuf_addf(&buffer, "tree %s\n", sha1_to_hex(tree));

Parent commits traversing:

* NOTE! This ordering means that the same exact tree merged with a
* different order of parents will be a _different_ changeset even
* if everything else stays the same.
while (parents) {
    struct commit_list *next = parents->next;
    struct commit *parent = parents->item;

    strbuf_addf(&buffer, "parent %s\n",
    parents = next;

Person/date information:

if (!author)
    author = git_author_info(IDENT_STRICT);
strbuf_addf(&buffer, "author %s\n", author);
strbuf_addf(&buffer, "committer %s\n", git_committer_info(IDENT_STRICT));
if (!encoding_is_utf8)
    strbuf_addf(&buffer, "encoding %s\n", git_commit_encoding);

while (extra) {
    add_extra_header(&buffer, extra);
    extra = extra->next;
strbuf_addch(&buffer, '\n');

The comment & encoding check:

/* And add the comment */
strbuf_addbuf(&buffer, msg);

/* And check the encoding */
if (encoding_is_utf8 && !verify_utf8(&buffer))
    fprintf(stderr, commit_utf8_warn);

That's where the signing happens. Signature will be added after the header.

if (sign_commit && do_sign_commit(&buffer, sign_commit))
    return -1;

There would be parent information too if your commit had some.