What are private keys and public keys? How do they work?

Before we get into what a public key and a private key are, let's review encryption.

Encryption is the process of converting data into a secret code that can be used to protect it. Encryption has become a requirement in the face of the growing threat posed by hackers and other cybercriminals. To make sense of or decrypt data received by an authorized individual, he or she would require a public or private key, or both.

So, how does the encryption process come into play? To encrypt (transform information into a scrambled secret code) and decode data, public and private keys are utilized (turn it back to its original and readable format).

A public key can be accessed by multiple persons in an online directory. A private key, on the other hand, will be accessible only to the data owner and those with whom he or she distributes it.

What Is a Private Key?

A private key, similar to a password, is a secret number used in cryptography. In bitcoin, private keys are also used to sign transactions and establish ownership of a blockchain address.

A private key is an important part of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and its security features protect users against identity theft and unauthorized access to their funds.

A collection of digital keys and addresses regulate cryptocurrency, indicating virtual token ownership and control. To deposit bitcoin or other tokens, any public address can be used. Even if tokens are deposited in a user's address, they cannot be withdrawn without the user's unique private key.

A private key in regular base-ten notation would be hundreds of digits long–so lengthy that brute-force cracking would take years. For the convenience of usage, private keys are usually presented as a string of alphanumeric characters.

A sophisticated mathematical procedure is used to generate the public key from the private key. However, establishing a private key from a public key is nearly hard to reverse the procedure. The public key is then used to generate a receiving address using a similar process. Consider the address to be a mailbox and the private key to be the box's key.

Letters and small items can be inserted through the opening in the mailbox by the mail carrier, or anybody else for that matter.

Only the individual with the unique key gets access to the contents of the mailbox. As a result, it's critical to keep the key safe since if it's stolen or lost, the mailbox's security could be jeopardized.

What Is the Most Effective Method for Storing Private Keys?

Private keys can be kept on computers, smartphones, USB drives, specialized hardware wallets, or even a piece of paper. The optimal sort of bitcoin storage will be determined by how frequently you want to use it. The most practical option to keep cryptocurrency for regular use is on a password-protected mobile phone or computer. Private keys should always be stored offline for long-term or "cold" storage, ideally on devices that have never connected to the internet. Printers, too, can be hacked.

What Is a Public Key?

A public key, which is a cryptographic code, is used by users to accept cryptocurrency into their accounts. The tools required to secure the security of the crypto economy are the public key and the private key.

How Does It Work?

When a user makes their first transaction with bitcoin or altcoins, they create a unique pair of public and private keys. Each key is made up of a long string of alphanumeric characters that work together to keep a user's digital assets safe.

The user's digital ID is based on the private key, which is only known by the user.

The user's private key allows them to spend, withdraw, transfer, and perform any other transaction from their account. To generate the public key, a complicated algorithm is applied to the private key, and both keys are kept in a digital wallet.

Before the transaction is broadcast, the private key is used to digitally sign it. Despite the fact that the signature certifies that the private key is in your possession, it does not provide any information about the key.

Because a public key is produced from a private key, the user's public key is used to prove that his private key was used to create the digital signature. After the transaction has been confirmed as valid, the funds are sent to the recipient's public address.

The public address is the hashed version of the private key. Because it is made up of an abnormally long string of digits, the public key is compressed and reduced to generate the public address. The public key, in turn, generates the public address, which is generated by the private key.

When two people agree to give each other tokens or currencies, they must disclose to each other their public addresses.

The public address is similar to the account number on a bank statement. The sender requires the number in order to send funds to the receiver, who will subsequently be able to use his private key to spend or withdraw the funds. The recipient can also use the sender's public address, which will be displayed on his or her screen, to validate the sender's batch of coins.

Difference between Private Key and Public Key

Following are the key differences between public key and private key −

Private key Public key
The speed of a private key is faster than that of a public key. It is more time-consuming than using a private key.
The communication is encrypted and decrypted using the same key (secret key) and algorithm. Two keys are utilized in public-key cryptography: one is used for encryption and the other is used for decryption.
In this cryptography, both the sender and the receiver must use the same key. The sender and recipient do not need to share the same key in this cryptography.
The key is secret in this cryptography. The public key can be public and the private key can be private with this cryptography

Updated on: 10-Aug-2022


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started