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Author Topic: Best way to explain to someone how private key is not exposed...  (Read 608 times)
SeeBettor
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January 14, 2016, 12:09:41 AM
 #1

What is a good analogy to use to explain to someone who is new to Bitcoin?

I attempted by trying to say that it's like a combination lock; where you first assume the lock is only usable if it's unlocked. You can pass the lock around, publicly, and nobody can use it, everyone can see it. Then, when it comes time to spend it (use it), it's only the owner of the key that knows the key, and it can be taken out of public (offline) unlocked, then put back into public and used (spent). In this example, the key is never at risk of being exposed in public.

Does someone have a better or cleaner analogy to use to explain to someone (ehhm, my 60 year old mother)?

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January 14, 2016, 12:34:28 AM
 #2

The public key is the wallet address. This is safe like an email address, hence public key. The private key is analogous to your bank account number plus the routing number plus your PIN. It is enough info to send funds out of that address. As long as the private key is kept a secret, your friend is safe.
The public key gives no access to the funds contained. Only a place to send funds to, and anyone can check the address on blockchain sites to see the balance. But again, without the priv_key, they cannot steal the funds.

Not really an analogy, but it is a concise way to explain it.

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January 14, 2016, 12:52:16 AM
 #3

The lock analogy is for encryption/decryption, not signatures. I personally can't think of a good analogy for signatures other that it's like real life signatures, but you can't modify the document after someone signs it and you can't "copy" a signature and use it on another document. As for how it works? Unless they know university level math, say it's math magic.

It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

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January 14, 2016, 12:57:21 AM
 #4

A private key is like a compilation lock with two buttons, a 1 and 0. To unlock the combination lock you need to type in the right combination. But the length of the combination is 256 so it is not feasible to find someone else's combination.

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_Miracle
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January 14, 2016, 01:47:15 AM
 #5

A password.
The longer and more random/complicated the better ;-)
But don't forget what it is, because no one can help you retrieve it .

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January 14, 2016, 03:54:47 AM
 #6

The public key is the wallet address.

Technically the wallet address is a hash of the public key.

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January 14, 2016, 04:51:17 AM
 #7

I think you're on the right track, don't use analogies, explain how it really works in steps. 

There exists a mathematical relationship between a 2 numbers, a private key and a public key where you can prove you have the private key without showing it.  This proof is called a signature.   If they believe that is a real thing Smiley go further down the rabbit hole.   The fact that you cannot determine the private key from a public key and the fact that these are massively large numbers are important.   Not sure you need more than that, could go into some details on how transactions are relayed and verified, leave it up to them.

The details are complex but the concepts have to be agreed on for the most part, not understood in detail.  Let's agree my car moves when I push the gas. Ok, now you can dig as far as you want into the details of how that happens, but for our lesson today let's move on to the fact that the wheels turn when I rotate this wheel.
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January 14, 2016, 05:55:11 AM
 #8

I like the analogy where you paint the picture that there are planets filled with small boxes and you lock one of these boxes with a key and hide it in another box on one of these planets. If a person finds your key, he has to go to every box on all these planets to find the box that will be unlocked by that key.

The key is there for everyone to see, but you do not know which box it unlocks. The process of finding that combination between box and key will take him centuries to solve, if ever.  Roll Eyes

If you used a passphrase, then he has to figure out the combination to the box before he can use the key.

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January 14, 2016, 06:01:40 AM
 #9

Like a lock inside the lock?  Grin How about a locked door then a vault inside the locked door where inside the vault is a large treasure chest where the combination is 0-9 that is why the owner will only open it. And it will take so much time before you unlock it. Tongue

I got nothing bro!  Tongue





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January 14, 2016, 06:25:44 AM
 #10

public key = email address.. give to anyone if they want to send you something
private key= password.. keep it safe so that only you can access your stuff and forward/send whatever you have received

dont get complicated if they are not programmers and will never need to know about using sha256, ripend, ecdsa manually.

afterall the general public dont need to know what ISO standard of paper and cotton is usd to create a bank note.
afterall the general public dont need to know that paypal hashes passwords and uses sql databases..

all they need to know is how to use it

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January 14, 2016, 08:42:49 AM
 #11

then, they would ask to you(it's almost certain) what if they hack/crack my private key? simply respond that bitcoin is secured by the laws of universe

i like the analogy, of the safe box = block and private key = the combination for that safe box, and until your wallet.dat is safe your private key is also
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January 14, 2016, 07:37:39 PM
 #12

I think the part she really got stuck on, the part where I couldn't give a good enough answer, was:

"Well if I have to enter my "password" to spend it, then somebody is gonna be able to see it, right?"

Of course, this perspective is coming from the way that we trust a centralized party, who stores our password, to log-in to an online account of some sort, where it is decently likely that the centralized party does indeed know, or have the ability to retrieve, one's password.

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