What is a Secure Shell key?

A Secure Shell key, often just called an SSH key, helps you create a secure connection over an unsecured network.

An SSH key actually consists of two parts:

  • A public key, which is widely available.

  • A private key, which is kept secret. The private key is used to unlock messages encrypted with a corresponding public key.

The advantage of using an SSH key to create a connection between computers is that only the Public key needs to be sent over the network. Transmissions encrypted with a Public key can only be decoded by unlocking them with the corresponding Private key and a password. Because only the public key is sent over the network, the key's password is kept secret.