Lesson 18

Public-Key Cryptography

Lesson 18

Public-Key Cryptography

Public-key cryptography is a class of cryptographic algorithms which requires two separate keys, one of which is secret (or private) and one of which is public. The public key is used to encrypt plaintext or to verify a digital signature; whereas the private key is used to decrypt ciphertext or to create a digital signature. The public key is widely distributed, while the private key is known only to its owner. The keys are related mathematically, but the parameters are chosen so that calculating the private key from the public key is either impossible or very expensive.

Public-key algorithms are based on mathematical problems (one way functions with trapdoor) which currently admit no efficient solution and that are inherent in certain integer factorization, discrete logarithm, and elliptic curve relationships. It is computationally easy for a user to generate their own public and private key-pair and to use them for encryption and decryption. The strength lies in the fact that it is "impossible" (computationally infeasible) for a properly generated private key to be determined from its corresponding public key. Thus the public key may be published without compromising security, whereas the private key must not be revealed to anyone not authorized to read messages or perform digital signatures.

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