Geek Alert: Keys in Cryptocurrency

My past two posts have been on the topic of cryptocurrency. The first, on bitcoin. The second, on cold storage as a means of protection. My final post on this series will be on private and public keys in cryptocurrency.

First off, public and private keys form a link to allow a transfer of information, or some form of communication, to be done securely. They are sets of codes that are used in the methods of encryption and decryption. Both public and private keys are encrypted, or scrambled, to render sensitive information unreadable to ensure the ultimate privacy. They can only be unlocked by the holder of the private key.

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A public key can be obtained by anyone and can be listed in a variety of directories. It does not need to be kept a secret. It is simply a series of numbers that is used as an address to send messages or information to someone.

A private key, which does have to be kept a secret, is then linked to the public key. The person with the private key is the only one able to access the information once it has been sent. They two keys form a sort of passage between the sender and the recipient.

Both types of keys are pretty much a variety of completely random, but highly important, numbers. With bitcoin, private keys are 256-bit numbers that can be presented in a variety of ways. Public keys, however, range from 1,024 to 4,096-bits (bit meaning numbers and letters.)

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I’ve heard the keys be compared to a postal system. The public key is your mailing address or encryption. Anyone can mail you whatever they like. However only you have the key, which is the private key or decryption, to open the mailbox and view the contents. As such, the two keys must be corresponding in some way.

People use private and public keys to send messages in secret, among other things. It is used in both illegal transactions as well as every day, perfectly legal transactions. To find out more about the subject, click here.


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