What is a Public Key?

What is a Public Key

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In cryptography, a public key is a large numerical value used to encrypt data. It is called a “public” key because it can be shared with anyone. When someone wants to send you an encrypted message, they use your public key to encrypt the message. Only someone with the corresponding private key can decrypt the message.

The private key is a secret that is not shared with anyone. It is used to decrypt encrypted messages with the corresponding public key.

Public and private keys allow for secure communication without exchanging secret keys beforehand. This is known as public key encryption.

Public key encryption is an important tool for secure communication on the internet and is used in various applications, including email, file sharing, and online transactions.

How Does It Work?

Here is a simple example of how public key encryption could be used:

  • Alice wants to send Bob an encrypted message. So sheshe starts by looking up Bob’s public key. Let’s say that Bob’s public key is a large number, such as “78963524398562834768593475”.
  • Alice then uses Bob’s public key to encrypt her message. Let’s say that her message is the word “hello.” She might use an encryption algorithm to turn the word “hello” into a long string of characters like “3475893465938475698345”.
  • Alice then sends the encrypted message (“3475893465938475698345”) to Bob. When Bob receives the message, he uses his private key to decrypt it. Only Bob has the private key, so only he can read the message.
  • After decrypting the message, Bob sees that the message says “hello.” He can then respond by sending an encrypted message to Alice using her public key.
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This is a simple example, but it illustrates how public key encryption works. In practice, the public keys and encrypted messages are much longer and more complex, and the encryption algorithms are much more sophisticated.

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