The private key is crucial to assure that your coins are kept safe. It is the counterpart to your public key, and the only way to recover your digital assets if you lose access to your wallet.
What is a Private Key?
The private key is the alphanumeric string that gives you personal access to your digital assets.
Because of this, you should NEVER share your private key with anyone else and you should NEVER store your private key online.
A public key can be used publicly and is expressed, at times, as a wallet address. The private key, however, is something that should never be shared with another party. Here is what to remember about your private key:
- It is an alphanumeric string that signs a digital communication once hashed with your public key.
- It should be kept private at all times.
- It is never to be published anywhere that others could access it.
You should NEVER keep your private key in any of the following places:
- On a shared computer.
- On the internet.
- On a sheet of paper that is shared with others.
You SHOULD keep it:
- In a Cryptosteel.
- On a laminated sheet of paper and kept in a safe inaccessible to others.
- In a safety deposit box.
If you are interested in a more technical explanation, you may learn more here.
Another way that a private key is expressed is referred to as the recovery seed, a twelve to twenty-four-word phrase that allows you to access your coins through any wallet or device.
If you have lost your hardware wallet or your current wallet provider does not support a coin held by your address, it is important that you have responsibly kept your backup seed phrase to restore the wallet.
You'll find the recovery wallet option from the third-party service you are using and the seed will allow access after entering the random words from your seed. The interface may ask for a password or PIN. After you enter this information, your new device/wallet should show your funds.
Why the Private Key Must be Private
As we have explained, the private key or recovery seed can be expressed to recover your digital assets. If someone else is able to use this key or recovery seed, they are able to claim your digital assets as their own.
ShapeShift encourages our users to stay safe and protect their private keys.