A Primer on Private Keys

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Not your ████, not your crypto

What is a private key?

Think of a private key as a password to your crypto wallet.

In the same way that giving someone your email password grants them access to all your emails, giving someone your wallet’s private key grants them access to all your crypto.

Technically, a private key is a secret string of numbers and letters that proves your ownership of a bitcoin wallet address, allowing you to access and send your crypto.

Why would I use a private key?

“Not your keys, not your crypto” is more than just a meme.

It’s a half-warning, half-reminder that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies belong to those who control the private keys.

If you don’t have the private keys to the wallet where your crypto lives, then you do not technically control the crypto at that moment. You’re trusting a third party.

Example: You put some crypto on an exchange to trade. The exchange will store your crypto at an address held by the exchange, not you. This means that if the exchange goes offline due to heavy traffic or disables withdrawals due to a volatility spike, you will not have full, uncompromised access to your crypto assets.

The only way to get full control? Using an account where you have the private keys.

So, what’s a public key address?

A public key address is like an email address: you can send crypto to it, and you send crypto from it.

While anyone can send crypto to a public key address,…

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