public key vs private key

Private Keys and Public keys are some of the commonly used terms in cryptography and Blockchain development. In cryptography, there is a method that involves facilitating communication between sender and receiver. This method in cryptography involves encryption and decryption using a unique key.

This is where the concept and role of private and public keys come in. Now, what are the roles of private and public keys and what are some of the differences between these keys? We will be considering these questions in detail below:

What is a private key?

The term private key is usually referred to as a secret key. It is an essential element used in cryptography in encrypting and decrypting data. Private keys are used along with an algorithm to encrypt and decrypt data.

While in use, private keys are primarily shared among only the user who generates them and the user who has the authority to decrypt the data. In simple terms, a private key is a unique password consisting of a number of letters and numbers.

In Cryptocurrency, private keys are typically used by the wallet to protect its assets. For instance, when one creates a Bitcoin wallet, a private key is generated alongside it for protection.

A private key is typically generated randomly. The keys are generated by the user and are usually sequences of bits that a non-user or other users cannot easily guess. The keys are generally long and complex, which makes it different for an outsider or a potential attacker to access the protected data.

How do private keys work?

We’ve considered what a private key is and confirmed its significant role in data encryption. But how does private key work? A private key is just like a very large number applied for cryptography. These applied numbers look like the structure of a regular password.

However, the function of a private key serve goes beyond a regular password. How is this? The function a private key performs can sometimes depend on its applications. That is to say, the way a private key works varies in different applications.

It’s unique to applications like digital signature authorization and verification systems. A private key is also used on Cryptocurrency transactions to show ownership.

What is a public key?

Private and public keys work hand in hand. To consider the differences between both concepts, it is also essential to consider what a public key is and how it works. What is a public key? A public key is quite similar to a private key. However, it is a large numeric value generally used to encrypt data.

Public keys can be generated through any software program by an authorized user. But it is commonly provided by a reliable source directly responsible for the availability of the keys to the public. This key is made available through an easily accessible channel.

It is important to note that public keys are essentially used to encrypt a message or verify the authenticity of a digital signature. The procedure applied in this concept is quite different from that used in private keys.

In private keys, a single key is used between the sender and receiver. Private keys are primarily used to decrypt a message generated using public keys to develop digital structures. In contrast, public keys function as two different keys. One of these keys is used to encrypt data, while the other is used for decryption.

How do public keys work?

Public keys use an algorithm mechanism known as an asymmetric mechanism to perform its function. It employs this mechanism for encryption and decryption using two different keys. One of the keys is used for encrypting messages, while the other key is used for decoding them.

How are private and public keys used?

Public keys and private keys have their distinct functionalities and features and, as such, are used for various purposes. They can also be used side by side. Here are some of the most common applications of both private and private keys:

  1. Verification of digital signatures
    Verifying digital signatures is one of the most common private and public key applications. Since private and public keys are integral to cryptography, it is commonly associated with Blockchain technology.Private and public keys are used by organizations to perform functions, such as the authentication of a message, validation of software, digital documentation, or check authentication. Creating a digital signature requires public key encryption.To facilitate this, the sender must digitally sign the message with a private key. Next, the receiver uses a public key to decrypt the messages. This simply shows that public and private keys play a vital role in facilitating and verifying both sender and digital receiver signatures.
  2. It facilitates safe and secure communication between sender and receiver
    In addition to verifying digital signatures, private and public keys facilitate secure and safe communication. This is because public and private keys ensure the confidentiality of sensitive data. In encryption, it is very important to secure data, and private, and public keys play a vital role in achieving this.In encryption, people use public-key cryptography to ensure the confidentiality of sensitive data. The message’s sender must lock the sensitive data with their public key, and the receiver with the private key can access the sent data.
  3. It enables password authentication key agreement
    While private and public keys are essential in verifying digital signatures and aiding secure communication, it also helps enable password authentication key agreement. One might wonder, what is a password-authenticated key agreement? It refers to the method where two or more parties can make cryptographic keys from words belonging to one or multiple parties.To understand it better, let’s take, for instance, a person who wants to communicate a secret message to someone. The sender takes the password that belongs to that person, encrypts the message and then uses it for a private key. This way, when the sender sends a message encrypted with that unique key, the receiver can decrypt the message with the same password.
private key: Public Key VS Private Key
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Differences between public and private keys

Public and private Keys play a vital role in data encryption and share some other similar functions. However, both keys differ in also features and functionalities. To understand the differences between these keys, it is essential to understand each key’s role and functions. Here are some notable differences between private and public keys:

  • Speed 

One of the most common differences between private and public keys is speed. A private key is a lot faster than a public key.

  • Uniqueness

Another difference between private and public Keys is the quality of distinctiveness. Each key is used uniquely. A private Key is used for the encryption and decryption of messages. It is generally used for symmetric key cryptography. On the other hand, the public key uses two different keys for asymmetric key cryptography. One of the keys is used for encryption, and the other is used to decrypt on the receiver’s side.

  • Confidentiality factor

When considering the functions of public and private keys, it is quite necessary to address their role in ensuring confidentiality and security. Using a private Key makes it much easier to keep the confidentiality of messages or sensitive data. This is because it is shared only between the sender and the authorized receiver. When it comes to the public key, the case is different. Unlike the private key, the public key is open and free for everyone.

  • Main function

Each key’s primary function can also be seen as the major difference between both keys. For the private key, when performing a test, it usually checks its scalability, system speed and reliability. While in the public key, it carries out a loading check test. Also, a user would require a private key to decrypt data received from the sender’s side.

  • Cryptography Category

The private keys and public keys differ based on the cryptography category. The private key is commonly used for symmetric cryptography. In this type of cryptography, a single key is required to transmit data between the receiver and the sender. While for the public key is under the asymmetric mechanism. Which means the key is open for everyone to view. This is quite different from the Private Key.

  • Algorithm Mechanism

Lastly, another difference between private and public Keys is the mechanism they use. A private key is used for both the encryption and the decryption of data, so it is openly shared with only the receiver and sender. While in the case of a public key, it is also used in data encryption, it cannot be used to decrypt data, as a private key is needed for that.

How do public and private keys work together?

When generating a bitcoin address, one also generates a private key. From the private key, its corresponding public Key is derived using a known algorithm. Next, the address which can be used in transactions is a short form of the public Key.

It is essential to note that the private key grants cryptocurrency user ownership of the data or funds on the given address. Automatically, the Blockchain wallet develops and stores a private key for the user.

Whenever you send from a Blockchain wallet, the software signs the transactions with the Private Key, it does this without disclosing it. This process indicates to the network that you are an authorized user, granting you access to transfer funds. It is impossible to derive the public from the address, and it is also impossible to derive a public Key from a public key.

safe keys: Public Key VS Private Key
Credits: gstudioimagen by Freepik

Why are private keys used for encryption?

Private keys provide users with many useful features compared to public keys. As a result, a private Key is more applicable for encryption purposes. Here are some of the reasons why private keys are ideal:

  1. Private keys offer better security
    This is one of the notable features of private keys, and as such, it is a better option for encryption. Because private keys allow only the sender and authorized user the keys, it is a lot safer compared to public keys.
  2. Faster and convenient
    Another good reason why a private Key is best for encryption is that it facilitates the entire process and makes it faster. It uses symmetric key encryption, so it computes more quicker than other encryption modes.
  3. Useful for data transmission
    Private keys are great for encryption because it also complements the needed algorithm. For this reason, many cryptographic processes employ private key encryption to aid data transmission. This way, it helps user transfer data at a faster rate and with better security features.

What is the ideal way to store private keys?

It is essential to protect your private keys from outsiders. What is the ideal way to store these keys? Private keys can be stored in various devices, including computers, mobile phones, specialized hardware wallets and USB drives. They can also be stored on a piece of paper in the form of note-keeping.

However, the ideal way of storing your keys largely depends on how often you use your Cryptocurrency or other protected data. One of the most common and convenient ways of storing private keys is in a password-protected mobile phone or computer.

This is quite convenient for the day-to-day use of your Cryptocurrency or data. The private keys should be stored offline for long-term or ”cold storage”. Devices not connected to the internet are ideal for long-term storage.

Public key vs private key: Conclusion

Cryptography has obtained significant growth over the years, and one such growth is the application of private and public keys. With the need to secure and confirm digital signatures, the role private and public keys play is quite notable.

We’ve considered some of the basic functions of keys, how they are used and some of the major differences between them. We are confident that this article has provided a clear idea of what private and public keys are and their differences.

See you soon,

Scaling Parrots

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