What is a Crypto Public Key
A cryptocurrency public key is a long string of alphanumeric characters that are used in public key cryptography to authenticate transactions, encrypt messages, and generate public addresses associated with a cryptocurrency wallet.
Let’s use some examples to explain the use cases of a public key:
The public key is used to prove that a specific private key has been used to digitally sign a transaction.
If Leo wants to send some Bitcoin to Lana, he must digitally sign a transaction using his private key.
His private key will never be revealed to the blockchain, but the public key will be revealed because the blockchain miners need to know Leo’s public key to verify that the transaction has been signed with Leo’s private key.
The public key is used to generate public addresses.
The public addresses, used as destination addresses for crypto assets transfers, are generated from the public key.
A public key can generate a nearly unlimited number of public addresses, allowing users to receive multiple transactions to different addresses without the need for a new public key each time.
The public key is used for authentication
The public key is a critical component of cryptocurrency security, as it enables authentication.
Because Leo sent the Bitcoin to Lana’s public address, only Lana’s private key, which was used to generate the public key, will have authority over that Bitcoin.
This ensures that only the intended recipient can access and control the cryptocurrency associated with a public address.
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The Public Key and Cryptocurrency Security
The public key is an important component of cryptocurrency security for the following reasons:
– Authentication: The public key is used to authenticate transactions on the cryptocurrency network. When a user sends a transaction, it is signed with their private key and broadcast to the network. The transaction can then be authenticated by other users on the network using the sender’s public key.
– Encryption: The public key is also used to encrypt messages on the cryptocurrency network. When a user wants to send a private message to another user, they can encrypt it using the recipient’s public key. The message can only be decrypted using the recipient’s private key, ensuring that the message remains secure and private.
– Address Generation: The public key is used to generate the public address associated with a cryptocurrency wallet. The public address is a string of characters that other users can use to send cryptocurrency to the wallet. The public address is derived from the public key and is unique to each wallet, ensuring that cryptocurrency can only be sent to the correct wallet.
– Non-Repudiation: Public key cryptography also provides non-repudiation, meaning that a user cannot deny having sent a transaction because their digital signature is linked to their public key.
Why you Should not Reveal your Public Keys
If someone knows your public key, this person can check what crypto assets you own or even the transactions you have made.
For example, Blockchair is a blockchain explorer that you can use to explore data stored in 19 blockchains.
And if you take one of your public keys or public addresses, with a Blockchain explorer you can discover all your transactions history and how much crypto that public key or public address holds.
If you make a transaction from a wallet containing your main portfolio, you must be aware that revealing the wallet’s public key to the blockchain. And the person receiving the transaction will have enough information to discover your public key using a blockchain explorer.
While revealing your public key to the Blockchain is harmless enough, you may not want that the receiver can check the portfolio you have associated with that public key.
When Possible, Share your Public Address Instead of your Crypto Public Key
You better share your public address if you need to receive crypto assets.
A wallet public key can generate a near-unlimited number of wallet addresses, and each wallet address can be used as a one-time destination address to receive crypto assets.
Nobody can find your wallet’s public key from a public address.
It is a good practice to use public addresses as a one-time destination address, or even for a few transactions, for privacy. Better if other people have limited information about what crypto assets you hold.
On the other hand, if you need to send crypto assets, you cannot avoid your public key being revealed to the blockchain and the receiver.
If you are concerned about revealing your public key because you hold many crypto assets, you may want to set up a new wallet and fund it with the assets you need for your day-to-day transactions.
This way, nor the receiver nor anyone snooping on the blockchain will be able to find out the whole extent of your crypto portfolio.
Where Can I Find my Wallet Public Key
Usually, wallets do not display the public key to the users, and finding your wallet’s public key is somewhat tricky.
But you don’t need to know the public key anyway:
– Your wallet automatically performs any task that requires to use of your public key.
– As mentioned, sharing your public key is not a good practice anyway, so you don’t need to know it.
If you are still curious about public keys and want a practical approach to learning more about them, try creating a Bitcoin paper wallet at bitaddress.org
You will see your Bitcoin paper wallet private key and public address details on the ‘Single Wallet’ tab. But you will notice that the Bitcoin paper wallet public key is missing.
But if you copy the private key and paste it into the ‘Wallet Details’ tab, you will be able to see the public key details.
Because with a private key, it is possible to derive a public key.
A final warning, while paper wallets generator is a very useful resource, you must only use them if you are a very advanced user. There are risks involved in creating and using paper wallets, so for 99% of the crypto users, there are much safer wallets available.
The safest crypto wallet
What is the Difference Between a Public Key and a Public Address?
While the public key is used for cryptography and generating public addresses, the public address is used solely for receiving cryptocurrency payments.
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