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Shared secret facts for kids

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In cryptography, a shared secret is a piece of data only known to the parties involved in a secure communication. The shared secret can be a password, a passphrase, a big number or an array of randomly chosen bytes.

The shared secret is either shared before parties start to communicate; in this case it can also be called a pre-shared key. Or it is created at the start of the communication session by using a key-agreement protocol, for-instance using public-key cryptography such as Diffie-Hellman or using symmetric-key cryptography such as Kerberos.

The shared secret can be used for authentication (for instance when logging in to a remote system) using methods such as challenge-response or it can be fed to a key derivation function to produce one or more keys to use for encryption and/or MACing of messages.

To make unique session and message keys the shared secret is usually combined with an initialization vector (IV). An example of this is the derived unique key per transaction method.

  • Handbook of Applied Cryptography by Menezes, van Oorschot and Vanstone (2001), chapter 10 and 12.
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