Educational Byte: Cryptography and Its Connection to Cryptocurrenciesby@obyte

# Educational Byte: Cryptography and Its Connection to Cryptocurrencies

by ObyteAugust 18th, 2024

Cryptography is the science of securing digital information and communications through complex mathematical techniques. It ensures that data (often digital data) remains confidential, authentic, and unaltered. Public key cryptography plays a vital role in ensuring the security and integrity of transactions for cryptocurrencies. In cryptocurrencies, private keys are used to sign transactions, and public keys to verify the signatures.

Cryptography comes from Ancient Greek, and it means something like a secret or hidden writing. That’s how this discipline started: someone would write a message for another party but use various techniques to keep it secret from others. For instance, they might change the usual order of letters or words, with the correct order known only to the recipient. Things have evolved a lot from that point, but that’s the gist.

In more modern times, we can define cryptography as the science of securing digital information and communications through complex mathematical techniques, but it's also an intersection with computer science, information security, physics, and even more. It ensures that data (often digital data) remains confidential, authentic, and unaltered.

Practical uses of cryptography in our era include protecting personal information on devices, ensuring the privacy of emails and messages, safeguarding sensitive material, enabling secure access to online accounts, and securing online transactions. As you may imagine, that’s where cryptocurrencies enter this topic.

The “crypto” bit comes from cryptography, because cryptocurrencies are, basically, digital coins made of pure cryptography (complex mathematics). Beyond what we can or need to see, their inner workings are full of algorithms and long alphanumeric strings, sometimes only readable and understandable by machines. In the end, this is the reason why they exist at all.

## Public Key Cryptography

There are numerous existing cryptographic techniques, and even new ones being developed right now. Cryptocurrencies use several of those techniques already, but maybe the main one for the absolute majority is public key cryptography or asymmetric cryptography. This method involves a pair of "keys": a public key, which can be shared with anyone, and a private key, which is kept secret.

By "keys" here, we mean long strings of characters typically represented as sequences of bits (binary digits). In cryptocurrencies, private keys are used to sign transactions, and public keys are used to verify the signatures. This ensures that only the owner of a cryptocurrency address can authorize transactions from that address.

Public key cryptography plays a vital role in ensuring the security and integrity of transactions for cryptocurrencies. For instance, when Alice wants to send five coins to Bob, she signs the transaction with her private key, generating a unique digital signature that proves she authorized it. She then broadcasts the signed transaction to the cryptocurrency network. Nodes in the network receive the transaction and use Alice's public key to verify the signature. Once verified, the transaction is added to the chain, reducing Alice’s balance by five coins and increasing Bob’s balance by the same amount. This process prevents unauthorized access and tampering, ensuring the transaction’s security.

All of this happens in the background, though. Final users see public keys as crypto addresses (shareable with anyone) and private keys in the form of private seeds (strings of random words to keep private and recover wallets). Beneath what we can see in our apps, they both look like long and barely legible alphanumeric strings. Crypto addresses are, let’s say, the shorter version. Even if they still are sort of long and complex.

## Simplifying Cryptos

Obyte simplifies cryptography in cryptocurrencies with textcoins, making digital currency accessible without a steep learning curve. Textcoins allow users to send and receive funds through familiar methods like email, instant messaging, or even on paper. A textcoin is essentially a string of twelve random words or a link that contains cryptocurrency. This means someone can carry a piece of paper with these words and redeem the funds later when they have access to the Internet and an Obyte wallet.

Textcoins work seamlessly for people without the use of any crypto address, even if they don’t have a wallet yet. For example, Bob can create a textcoin in his Obyte wallet, which generates a string like "together-orange-pelican-tooth-fox-lucky-half-cup-window-coil-radar-pen" or a link. He can then send this textcoin via email or chat to Alice. Alice, upon receiving it, can claim the funds by clicking the link or entering the words into her Obyte wallet once she has Internet access. This simplicity allows even those unfamiliar with cryptocurrency to use it easily.

Moreover, textcoins are refundable, adding a layer of security. If Alice doesn’t claim the textcoin for any reason, Bob can reclaim the funds by accessing the textcoin details in his Obyte wallet’s history. This feature ensures that funds aren’t lost if the recipient fails to claim them, providing both flexibility and security. Obyte’s textcoins effectively bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds, making cryptocurrency transactions straightforward and accessible for everyone.

Featured Vector Image by Freepik

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