Public key

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See also: Security | Cryptography | Public-Key Cryptosystem | Private key

A key file or block of text that is the first step in most of the Internet's secure communications. When you purchase an item from a Web site (SSL), this process is invisible, the public keys exchanged in the background without any user interface. When using PGP, public key exchange is not transparent, requiring posting it on a Web site, email attachment, or a text block such as the one below. The public key works in conjunction with a private key to enable secure communications.

The Public Key is one of three security features of the Public-Key Cryptosystem, working with the private key and user password to create a secure connection.

Various File Formats associated with Public Keys:

  • ASC - short for ASCII
  • PGP - commercial PGP files
  • GPG - GPG files
  • PK

Example:

An actual public key (test@test.com) created using GPG. Some are larger or smaller, depending on bit size, the following using 1024 bits:

-----BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----
Version: GnuPG v1.2.1 (MingW32) - WinPT 0.7.96rc1
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=4eTn
-----END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----