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Definition: private key

A large random number that is used in a two-part cryptographic system such as RSA. The private key is used to create its public key counterpart, and although the private key is kept hidden, the public key can be published anywhere (website, email, etc.).

Private Key vs. Secret Key
Sometimes the terms private key and secret key are used synonymously because the private key is kept in secret. However, secret key cryptography is a different system that uses the same key at both ends (see secret key cryptography). See public key cryptography and RSA.

                Encrypt       Decrypt

 Public Key     Private key   Public key
  Cryptography  Public key    Private key

 Secret Key
  Cryptography  Private key   Private key