In symmetric key cryptography, both parties must possess a secret key which they must exchange prior to using any encryption. Distribution of secret keys (key distribution) has been problematic until recently, because it involved face-to-face meeting, use of a trusted courier, or sending the key through an existing encryption channel. The first two are often impractical and always unsafe, while the third depends on the security of a previous key exchange.
In public key cryptography, the distribution of public keys is done through public key servers. When a person creates a key-pair, he keeps one key private and the other, public-key, is uploaded to a server where it can be accessed by anyone to send the user a private, encrypted, message.
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