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Public Key

A public key is half of an encryption key pair, the other being a private key. Using asymmetric encryption, whatever one key in such a pair encrypts, the other -- and only the other can decrypt, and vice-versa. In this system, what a given key encrypts, that same key cannot decrypt -- only the matching key can decrypt it. Normally one of the key pair is made public -- i.e., shared with others, while the other is kept strictly private, hence the keys are called private and pubic. The creation and management of private and public key pairs is called a public key infrastructure, or PKI for short.

Use of private and public key pairs allows for various logical functions, such as:

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