There are three primary types of keys that need to be kept safe and secure

Symmetric keys – typically used to encrypt bulk data with symmetric algorithms like 3DES or AES; anyone with the secret key can decrypt the data

Private keys – the secret half of public/private key pairs used in public-key cryptography with asymmetric algorithms like RSA or ECDSA; anyone with the private key can impersonate the owner of the private key to decrypt private data, gain unauthorized access to systems or generate a fraudulent digital signature that appears authentic

Hash keys – used to safeguard the integrity and authenticity of data and transactions with algorithms like HMAC-SHA256; anyone with the secret key can impersonate the originator of the data/transactions and thus modify the original data/transactions or create entirely false data/transactions that any recipient will believe is authentic


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