Key is a cryptography term where it, quite literally, is used to unlock encryptions and cyphers. An algorithm is created and a message or file is encrypted according to that algorithm. The ‘key’ is what’s used in order to reverse the process and make the data accessible again. The key getting lost or compromised can mean that the data remains encrypted or, alternatively, can be made publicly accessible, neither of which is particularly ideal.
Technipages Explains Key
Some forms of cryptography use two keys, a public and private one. The public one is shared with other users and used to encrypt messages, while the private one is not shared – it is only used to decrypt messages by the recipient.
This way many parties can send encrypted messages that only one recipient can decrypt again. This is referred to as public-key cryptography. Over the years, encryption technology has become more and more elaborate in order to be difficult to crack – it is possible to access encrypted data without the relevant key, but it takes time and resources to do so, and the better the encryption, the harder it is to accomplish this.
Since the purpose of encryption is to keep things as secure as possible, keys and algorithms are kept as private as possible, to avoid compromising data – especially in the business and finance world, badly encrypted data can cause immense damages.
Alternative uses of the term include database key, where key means a unique value or field that helps identify unique entries in a database. This could be a membership number for example. Names aren’t unique but membership numbers usually are.
Of course, the term can also refer to the physical keys on a computer keyboard.
Common Uses of Key
- Public encryption keys may safely be shared with third parties while private keys should not ever be shared.
- Key-based encryption technologies are used across all sorts of communication technologies.
- Database keys are always unique values that set apart potentially similar records in the database.
Common Misuses of Key
- Keys are used to encrypt data so that algorithms can then decrypt it again.