What are the private and public keys?

When talking about the security of your wallet, it is crucial to understand what are private and public keys. In this article, we explain the definition of private and public keys and elaborate on their importance. Check our educational article from Atomic Wallet Academy: What is blockchain?

What are Private Keys?

In the context of cryptocurrencies, Private Key is a combination of symbols that allows you to sign transactions. Signing transactions means sending your assets. Each private key is associated with a public address as a signature. It serves as proof of the ownership of the address. And allows you to access your funds and manage them. Private keys are tied to your 12-words mnemonic seed phrase and are well protected b your password.

Every address has its own private key. Your funds are not stored in the wallet itself - they are stored on the blockchain. Private Key gives you access to them from the wallet.

What are Public Keys?

A public key or public address - is an address that contains all history of transactions used as some sort of identification. It's publicly available. In Atomic Wallet, you can find an address of a coin in the Wallet section. Here's more about it: Where do I find my wallet address? You can freely give it to others and use it to receive assets in the wallet.

How are Private and Public Keys generated in Atomic Wallet?

Public/private key pairs are generated from the Mnemonic Seed (12-word backup phrase/recovery phrase). Here is how the process goes:

  1. When you install Atomic Wallet and set up a new account a small file is created directly on your device. It contains a randomly generated mnemonic seed phrase and is fully encrypted.
  2. Each word of the phrase is taken from a dictionary and assigned to a certain combination of numbers - like a single key.
  3. Then all private keys and public addresses are generated from those numbers through a standardized algorithm.

That single key does not replace other private keys but is rather used to generate them. All your addresses still have different private keys, but they can be all restored by the one seed phrase. And it’s almost impossible to hack it.

And since your recovery phrase is generating your keys and allows you to manage your assets, you should always keep it safe! Never share it with anyone. We recommend storing it on paper in two different places. 

Security of your Private Keys.

You should NEVER give your private keys to anyone (including us). Giving your private keys to someone means giving someone full access to your funds. It is like giving the key to your house or bank login to someone. That person would be able to come in and take everything. There is a lot of scam in the cryptocurrency world. Always be aware, no matter how safe it looks.

If you ever lose access to your keys or wallet itself - you can always regain it with your 12-word phrase. You can restore the wallet by backup phrase and have your private and public keys again. Learn how in this article.

How to find Private Keys in Atomic Wallet?

If you want to know how to find Private Keys in Atomic - have a look at this article.

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