Keys

To recap the previous block in the Crypto 101 series, a blockchain is a public database which is held by multiple entities and visible to everyone who has a copy. In essence, it’s a record of who owns what. However, this creates a new problem, if we can see every transaction, how do we maintain privacy? This is accomplished by using an account number rather than personal information. Each account has a public key/account number and a signing/private key. In asymmetric encryption, it’s possible to create cryptographic pairs.

For example:

1 hashes to 6B86B273FF34FCE19D6B804EFF5A3F5747ADA4EAA22F1D49C01E52DDB7875B4B

12 hashes to 6B51D431DF5D7F141CBECECCF79EDF3DD861C3B4069F0B11661A3EEFACBBA918

Note that adding the 2 onto the 1 doesn’t mean it changes a little. It completely changes. If someone were to ask the most advanced supercomputer on the planet what digit creates the first long hash, it couldn’t tell the answer (which is 1). This is what we mean by asymmetric encryption. It’s easy to go one direction but almost impossible to go the other way. Let’s take a look at a bitcoin wallet as an example:

Note there’s a public key and a private key. If someone wanted to send this account holder some bitcoin, they would send it to the public address. The account holder would access their funds through the private key which is a SECRET! The asymmetric encryption is used because the account holder only needs to know their private/signing key in order to access the funds, not necessarily the public key.

When working with cryptocurrency, NEVER SHARE YOUR PRIVATE/SIGNING KEY WITH ANYONE.

TheNewBoston blockchain uses the same principles as Bitcoin. There is an account number and a signing key.

Note that the signing key is hidden. It’s possible to copy it without seeing it and also download it. When working with crypto, it’s important to always backup your signing key to multiple places.

Now that we understand blockchains and keys, try surfing a blockchain! Bitcoins blockchain can be seen at https://www.blockchain.com/explorer and Ethereums is https://etherscan.io/.

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