What is Cryptography?
Cryptography is the art of encrypting and decrypting messages. This allows for secure data transfer. It also prevents unauthorized parties from gaining access. Originally used in the military, it is now widely used in the private and public sectors to safeguard confidential information. In modern times, cryptography is also utilized to keep personal identifiable information (PII) protected on the internet.
As a result of the Internet, a whole host of cryptographic techniques have been developed to protect information. The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol, for instance, protects the majority of the modern web. Similarly, digital signature systems provide an added layer of authentication. These systems help parties remotely execute contracts.
While encryption is not new, it has only become commonplace in recent years. Previously, encryption methods were more simplistic. Since the advent of computers, the field has become more complex. Modern cryptography utilizes several rounds of ciphers to create a secure, reliable, and irreversible data storage system.
One of the earliest and most important uses of cryptography was the encryption of messages. Caesar’s Cipher, for example, is the earliest known encryption method. His system used a secret rule to replace letters in a message. However, the true gizmo was a key, which could be used to read the hidden messages.
Other early examples of cryptography include the Enigma machine, which the Germans used during World War II. The machine was an electromechanical device that scrambled a message based on the state of the machine. Using this technique, the Germans were able to send messages to the enemy without being intercepted.
A more advanced form of cryptography is quantum cryptography, which employs the principles of quantum mechanics. This involves using the “quantum bits” to perform two calculations at the same time. Such devices are currently limited in size and may not be built in the next decade. Currently, NIST is soliciting proposals for secure quantum algorithms.
Many of these same technologies are now used for online banking and e-commerce. Keeping sensitive information safe and secure is an important factor in any business venture. And while computers have revolutionized the industry, it has also introduced additional avenues for data compromises. Thankfully, encryption is an essential tool in protecting such sensitive data.
Although the concept of cryptography has been around for thousands of years, the development of technology has accelerated its evolution. Now, it is used to protect not just personal information but also data at rest. Whether it be employee PII, customer PII, or any other data, encryption is a critical component of ensuring a secure connection.
It is also useful to know that cryptography is a symbiosis of math, engineering, and computer science. The term “cryptography” actually originates from Greek words that mean to hide. During the Egyptians’ era, hieroglyphics, or pictures, were used to communicate. Ancient Egypt’s tombs also exhibited cryptographic symbols. Fortunately, the meaning of these symbols was known only to a small elite.
A modern example of the cryptic is the End-to-End encryption protocol, which ensures that only the sender and receiver of a message can read it. This has become a standard in messaging applications.