Public Key

What Does Public Key Mean?

A public key is created in public key encryption cryptography that uses asymmetric-key encryption algorithms. Public keys are used to convert a message into an unreadable format. Decryption is carried out using a different, but matching, private key. Public and private keys are paired to enable secure communication.

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Techopedia Explains Public Key

A public key may be placed in an open access directory for decryption of the digital signature of the sender, the public key of the message recipient encrypts the sender’s message. Public key infrastructure (PKI) produces public and private keys.

The open access public key may also be e-mailed to trusted contacts and users. Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) is a popular form of public key cryptography. Public PGP keys are housed in a public key server directory to allow public key sharing. PGP server directory keys may be updated but not removed.

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.