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Public Key Encryption

Public key encryption is a very significant recent development that has played a major part in adding to eCommerce popularity. It allows people to encrypt and decry-pt messages without having to share a password to unlock them.

Also known as asymmetric-key encryption, public-key encryption uses two different keys at once -- a combination of a private key and a public key. The private key is known only to your computer, while the public key is given by your computer to any computer that wants to communicate securely with it.

To decode an encrypted message, a computer must use the public key, provided by the originating computer, and its own private key. Although a message sent from one computer to another won't be secure since the public key used for encryption is published and available to anyone, anyone who picks it up can't read it without the private key. The key pair is based on prime numbers (numbers that only have divisors of itself and one, such as 2, 3, 5, 7, 11 and so on) of long length.

This makes the system extremely secure, because there is essentially an infinite number of prime numbers available, meaning there are nearly infinite possibilities for keys.

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