Unlocking the Secrets of Cryptography: Understanding Private and Public Keys


Have you ever wondered how secure communication is possible over the internet? How can you be sure that your messages and data are not intercepted and read by someone else? The answer lies in the fascinating world of cryptography, where complex algorithms and mathematical formulas encode and decode information. One of the most popular methods for protecting your data uses public and private keys. But what are they and why are your keys so important?

The Basics of Cryptography

Cryptography is the process of using mathematical algorithms to secure and protect your sensitive data. It involves encoding information so that it can only be read by someone with the right password to decrypt it. Cryptography is used extensively in online transactions, secure messaging, and other applications that need to keep information secure. 

What is A Public Key?

In asymmetric encryption, a public key is a large numerical value that is used to encrypt data. As seen from the name, a public key is accessible by anyone online. 

When someone wants to send you encrypted data, they use your public key to encrypt it before sending it to you. This makes it possible to send sensitive information securely without worrying about it being intercepted by unauthorized parties.

What is A Private Key?

A private key is the counterpart of the public key. Just as a public key encrypts data, a private key can decrypt it. But since a private key acts as a password to sensitive data, it cannot be shared with anyone. 

A public key and a private key are intrinsically linked together. Of these, the private key is created first. Next, the public key is generated from it using complex algorithms. These two keys are created as a pair and are specifically designed to work together. The mathematical relationship between the public and private keys ensures that only the owner of the private key can decrypt data meant for them.

Difference Between Public Key And Private Key

Key TypePrivate KeyPublic Key
DefinitionA key that is kept secret and known only to the ownerA key that is freely shared with others
UsageUsed to decrypt data that has been encrypted with a public keyUsed to encrypt data that can only be decrypted by a private key
Encryption/DecryptionUses symmetric key cryptographyUses asymmetric (public key) cryptography
GenerationCreated using a long numerical sequenceCreated from the private key using a mathematical algorithm
SecurityMust be kept secret and protected to ensure secure communicationCan be freely shared without compromising the security of the communication
LengthUsually longer than public keysUsually shorter than private keys


Private keys must be kept secret at all times to ensure communication is not compromised. If a private key falls into the wrong hands, an attacker can use it to decrypt any of your sensitive data. Therefore, you must use proper security practices to guarantee the safety of your data. 

On the other hand, public keys can be freely shared without compromising communication security. The security of a public key lies in the mathematical algorithm used to generate it. Safe algorithms make it virtually impossible to derive the private key from the public key. 

Read more: What is A Phishing Attack In Crypto


Your public key can be thought of as a username. It can be seen and accessed by anyone on the network. If someone wants to send you data securely, they can use this public key to encrypt it, protecting it from potential attacks. 

The private key is like your password. Any data encrypted using your public key can be decrypted and read using your private key. Just as you should always protect your passwords, you must never share your private key with anyone. 

Key Management

You can manage your public and private keys in many ways. Typically, the most widely-used method is to store them in a crypto wallet. A crypto wallet safely stores your public-private key pairs online or on a physical device. They can still be used as and when you need to decrypt messages or make transactions. 

Best Practices for Using Private and Public Keys

Best Practices for Using Private and Public Keys

Here are some ways to manage your keys:

  • Keep your private key secure: Private keys should be kept secure and protected at all times. You can store your private keys on a hardware device or an application with appropriate encryption. 
  • Back up your keys: It is vital to back up your private keys in case they are lost or become corrupted. You can store your backup keys in a secure location, such as a safe.
  • Use a key management tool: A key management tool can help you use your keys more efficiently. These tools can help you generate, store, and manage your keys securely.
  • Rotate your keys: Rotating your keys regularly can help to improve the security of your communications and data. You can generate a new key pair and retire the old key pair periodically.


The public key and private key algorithms are fascinating security tools. They allow us to protect and share sensitive data across the internet. This is done using complex mathematical tools that encrypt and decrypt information, tailored for each individual. You must use secure practices to protect your information, including backing up your keys and never sharing them with anyone. 

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FAQs on Private Key Vs Public Key

What is a Private Key and Public Key

Public and private keys are encryption tools that are used to transmit data safely. A public key is like a username that can be used by anyone to encrypt a message to you. The private key, on the other hand, is a password used to decrypt the message.

What is Public Key Vs Private Key Cryptography

Also known as symmetric key cryptography, private key cryptography only involves one key. The sender and receiver must have the same key, which is used to encrypt and decrypt the data. 
Public key cryptography is also known as asymmetric key encryption. It is a system with two keys, public and private. The public key is used to encrypt data while the private key is used to decrypt it. Public key vs private key encryption is applied based on the use case.

What is the Difference Between Encryption and Decryption?

Encryption is the process of converting plain data into “ciphertext” data using a mathematical algorithm and a key. Decryption converts ciphertext data back into plaintext data using a decryption algorithm and the required key.

Public Key And Private Key Security Measures

To secure your private key, there are some essential steps you can follow:
1. Never share your private key with anyone, whether online or offline.
2. Store your key securely, either physically in a safe or digitally in a wallet. 
3. Cycle your keys and replace them regularly.

Disclaimer: Crypto products and NFTs are unregulated and can be highly risky. There may be no regulatory recourse for any loss from such transactions. Each investor must do his/her own research or seek independent advice if necessary before initiating any transactions in crypto products and NFTs. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not to ZebPay or the author’s employer or other groups or individuals. ZebPay shall not be held liable for any acts or omissions, or losses incurred by the investors. ZebPay has not received any compensation in cash or kind for the above article and the article is provided “as is”, with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy, timeliness or of the results obtained from the use of this information.

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