What is the difference between private key and public key in SH?

Cheerag Nundlall

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I use SSH to login to my VPS server. It offers a public key & private key. Which should I really be using to login? What is the difference between private key and public key in SH? Does anyone explain me?
 

LJSHost

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Hi Cheerag,

Key based encryption can seem complex but it's really quite simple.

Public Key

Think of a public key as being the lock rather than a key, it's a padlock you can make lots of copies of and distribute wherever you want. For example, if you want to put your ‘padlock' on an ssh account on another machine, you would copy it to ‘authorized_keys' in the ~/.ssh folder.

Private Key

The private key is the actual key. This is what you use to open the padlock that is stored on the other machine. Anyone who has this key will be able to authenticate via key based SSH authentication.
 

Luxin Host

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In a basic term
In order to be able to access an account on a Secure Shell server a copy of the public key needs to be uploaded. The client's machine needs to have the public key so when the client tries to connect to the server it checks if it has the public key to that server, then the server will allow the access.
But the private key is very secure, since it cant be stolen or guessed. This is becuase private key never leaves the client's machine. And it has a passphrase which improves the security of it. The public key will never grant any access until the client has the private key.
 
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