WHAT ARE PRIVATE AND PUBLIC KEYS ?

Fredrik Grothe-Eberhardt

CEO of WeMoveCoins.

Essential software components
Public and private keys are part of the complex software that allows Bitcoin users to complete transactions in a decentralized and distributed network. As indicated by their names, one key is private while the other key is publicly accessible.

Private keys
Every Bitcoin wallet contains one or more private keys, which are saved in the wallet file on your device of choice. Private keys are generated as a random series of letters and numbers and are mathematically related to all the public Bitcoin addresses your wallet generates. A private key should only be known by you, as it allows for exclusive access to your Bitcoins.

A private key typically looks like this: 5Kb8kLf9zgWQnogidDA76MzPL6TsZZY36hWXMssSzNydYXYB9KF

 

Notice!
Because your private key provides access to your bitcoins, it’s very important that you keep your private key safe at all times and don’t hand it over to any third party. Should anyone get ahold of your private key, they’ll be able to empty your Bitcoin wallet in seconds. In such cases, we refer you to Chainanalys, the leading provider of anti-money laundering software for Bitcoin.

A Bitcoin wallet helps you keep your private keys safe, but it’s still your responsibility to backup your private keys in case your computer breaks down or you lose your phone.

 

Public keys
The other part of the cryptographic puzzle is the public key which compares to an IBAN or bank account number. It’s generated from your private key and is used to receive bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies. As the name would have it, the public key is public, which means that it can be shared with anyone of interest.

A public key typically looks like this: 1B9D6q52V6XPVKepT6xxSnAvA3i7ZhTntP

 

Notice!
A public key is case-sensitive. This means that if you want to send bitcoins to another user and type the key manually with just a single typo, your bitcoins will be send to the wrong wallet. From there, it’s very hard to get your bitcoins back. As such, it’s good practice to copy and paste the public key using the Copy & Paste-function on your device. A public key also comes in the form of a QR code that you can scan with your phone.