Crypto Basics: Private Keys, The Keys to Your Crypto
Today, we're talking about public and private keys, which are wildly different in nature. In this article, we break down the differences, and cover public key cryptography and the role of private keys in crypto wallets.
What Is Public Key Cryptography?
Public key cryptography (PKC) refers to a system in cryptography that leverages a pair of corresponding but unique keys: the public key and private key.
A public key, as you may have guessed because of the name, is public and can be shared with anyone. A private key, however, must be kept secure to ensure the security of the framework.
PKC is sometimes referred to as asymmetric cryptography. This is an allusion to the fact that a public key and a private key are different. This framework allows the user to encrypt information, using their public key, and broadcast it to the world while simultaneously ensuring that only the intended recipient can decrypt it, using the corresponding private key.
The first asymmetric cryptography scheme was publicly described in 1977 by a trio of computer scientists called Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman. Their system, called RSA (after the initials of their last names), describes a scheme in which a suite of complex mathematical computations would generate two asymmetric keys.
The Role of Private Keys in Your Crypto Wallet
Each cryptocurrency wallet has public and private keys.
Private keys are used to authenticate asset ownership and encrypt the wallet, while public keys are used to derive public addresses used to identify the wallet and to receive funds.
When you are setting up a crypto wallet, you will typically be presented with a twelve-word seed phrase. These words are a human-readable representation of infinite combinations of public keys and their corresponding private keys.
The twelve-word seed phrase is a representation of your private key (but not the actual private key) and is used to restore your wallet should you lose access to your wallet.
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