Public-Key Algorithms

Public-key (asymmetric) algorithms use two different keys: the public key and the private key. The private key is kept private to the owner of the key pair, and the public key can be distributed to anyone who requests it. If one key is used to encrypt a message, then the other key is required to decrypt the message.

Public-key algorithms are very slow, on the order of 1000 times slower than symmetric algorithms. Consequently, they are normally used only to encrypt session keys. They are also used to digitally sign messages, as discussed in the next section.

One of the most common public-key algorithms is the RSA Public-Key Cipher.

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