What Exactly is Cryptography and How Does it Work?

When they would unwind it, it contained a meaningless string of letters. The only way to make sense of it was to wind it on an identical Scytale. But with time, there was a shift toward information protection. For instance, some cryptic clay tablets from Mesopotamia protected commercially valuable recipes. Let us consider the early beginnings of cryptography, its current use and how to apply it to personal digital security.

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It was used to protect confidential political, military, and administrative information. It consisted of 3 or more rotors that scramble the original message typed, depending on the machine state at the time. It is to be noted that cryptography isn’t entirely limited to the 21st century. There have been several occasions in history where cryptography has helped create secure channels of communication.

While the sender encrypts the message with the public key, the recipient utilizes his private key to decrypt it. The first is symmetric-key or single-key cryptography, where the same secret key is used for both encrypting and decrypting the data. As they share the same key, the sender and the recipient have to trust each other to ensure that third parties are unable to access their communications.

The basics of cryptography

The Health Services Executive healthcare system for Ireland suffered an attack from a ransomware gang. Encryption is simply the process by which we protect a message or file with a password. By implementing the process, only certain people will be able to view the message or file. Encryption is first done by encrypting or encrypting the input data. The receiver then decrypts the data using a password called decrypt. It is believed to have originated in Ancient Egypt, where hieroglyphs were used to create secret messages.

Hybrid certificates allow systems that do not yet support quantum-safe cryptography to simultaneously work with new systems that do. Once all systems can support quantum-safe cryptography, the hybrid certificates can be dropped in favor of entirely quantum-safe certificates. The Advanced Encryption Standard is the official encryption standard of the U.S. government. Different encryption schemes use different algorithms and different block lengths and make use of different combinations of mathematical transforms. Robust digital schemes don’t work on letters and characters one at a time as serial ciphers do.

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It then automatically decrypts it on the bank’s end so as to validate the transaction. A common example of digital encryption involves fictional characters, Alice and Bob. During the Renaissance period, more methods of encoding came into existence. Sir Francis Bacon came up with binary encoding in 1623 – masking letters under sequences of As and Bs.

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They do this by scrambling communication between your PC and the website to reduce susceptibility to hacking. In developing or using e-commerce or financial software, this function is particularly important. Users in this arena often face challenges when customers transact then refute transactions.

Hashing is mainly used in databases to index and retrieve objects, and it also encrypts and decrypts messages using two distinct keys. Sensitive data stored in company IT architecture such as servers, discs, or cloud storage services is known as data-at-rest. You can impose access control by only issuing decryption credentials to authorized staff by encrypting data while it is being stored. Anyone attempting to access your data at rest will be presented with encrypted data rather than plaintext. The importance of symmetric key cryptography in today’s internet sphere and its value in safeguarding our privacy and security is clear. With many bases to cover in the world of cybersecurity, cryptography is crucial, even though there are multiple more topics essential to excel in, as a cybersecurity expert.

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What can I do to make use of cryptography?

On the other hand, if the recipient has the secret key, he can use it to access the data in its original, non-encrypted form. Companies should deploy data security solutions that enable consistent protection of sensitive data, such as encryption and cryptographic key management for cloud data. The vital advantage of asymmetric encryption is that neither the sender nor the receiver is required to share their own keys. In fact, they hold the personal keys and only the locks are moved.

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This is especially true if you have a wide cloud footprint where data could cross several different cryptographic protections. Cryptography uses ciphers, hashing, salting and other methods to create encryption keys, that keep data secure. The encryption function works by taking any original text, password or message and expanding it, using the encryption key.

Under this encryption model, there are two different keys for encryption and decryption. In spite of being different, the two keys bear a mathematical relationship. And this makes it possible to retrieve plaintext from ciphertext. Then, there’s the benefit of understanding how each cloud application or other service uses encryption. Some applications are heavily secure, while others provide minimal levels of protection. Any company might need to invest in some extra cryptography security, but others throw large sums that they’re wasting on overly-complex protection.

In other words, cryptography encrypts information in a way that allows the intended receiver to decrypt and understand the information. Cryptographic algorithms, also called ciphers, are used to code messages . Processing the asymmetric algorithm is much slower compared to the symmetric algorithm due to its mathematical complexity, and it’s therefore not suitable to compute vast amounts of data. For example, imagine that the email conversations between my friends and I are encrypted. But, unfortunately, my friend is careless with their key and a hacker obtains their private key. Then, the two parties agree that a specific key will be used to secure all the information and messages exchanged in the future.

Symmetric Vs. Asymmetric Cryptography

Depending on the cloud service provider you select, your company may use several cryptographic key types or different encryption keys. Your key management system should assist you in keeping track of all of your encryption keys if you deal with many cloud service providers or in various cloud environments. Authorized users can access data at rest and in transit using this encryption algorithm, eliminating manual encryption and decryption. Once login credentials are provided, the method automatically encrypts essential information.

  • You have to generate your ciphertext that is to be sent to the recipient of the message.
  • This is a chance for an attacker to compare them and crack the encryption.
  • Passive attacks involve an attacker simply listening on a network segment and attempting to read sensitive information as it travels.
  • As our business processes become increasingly more digitalized and web-based practices like online shopping became more mainstream, much bigger amounts of sensitive information circulate.
  • In blockchain networks, the same process is used for verifying transactions and generating new blocks.
  • However, in this case, the user’s private key is the basis from which the public key gets generated.

But each would keep a private key that they can use for deciphering the message. Checking the authentication of people and devices so they have the right to access files or data. Cryptographic techniques such as MAC addresses and digital signatures help fight against digital forgeries and attacks such as spoofing . Substitution ciphers change plaintext into ciphertext based on the encryption key. Then, when we need to use this text again or once it is being sent to the recipient, the opposite happens with a decryption algorithm and key.

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Now it is possible for two different messages to get the same hash value as if a very small key is used or if a hacker is trying a collision attack. This is not really something to worry too much about, but do be aware that even hashes can be cracked. The most important thing to remember is that hashing is one way you cannot derive the plaintext from a hash value. You cannot recreate the how does cryptography work document from the hash, even if you have the key so instead of confidentiality, hashing is used for integrity. If data is changed, then taking the second hash will result in a different value, some uses for hashing our message, digests, which really is just a name for the hash value off. So digital signatures, which we will talk about next and message, authentication codes or ma is ma.


This scrambling is done using specific mathematical calculations and steps, often collectively known as ciphers. Along with the cipher, it uses an encryption key to encrypt the message. Encryption is the process by which a message that can contain any type of data is encrypted using an expression called a key.

In the year 1465, Leone Alberti found the solution to Al-Kindi’s analytic approach. The polyalphabetic cipher would make use of two distinct alphabets to encode messages. Interestingly, this forms the basis for a majority of modern-day cryptographic approaches. Historians consider this hieroglyph to be the oldest instance of cryptography and the earliest technique. The code they used was only familiar to scribes who would transmit messages from kings. As we can see, as long as the data remains the same, the digests will still match.


Do not forget that moving the common key in symmetric encryption increases the likelihood of spying and data theft. Imagine the recipient and sender using a regular mail service to exchange shared keys, with someone copying the shared key. Another important point is that if, for example, the recipient lowers his personal key in asymmetric encryption, only his messages will be spy. In fact, the sender’s messages are not readable to other people, as they are each sent with the same lock as the recipient. Cryptography is the practice of secure communication in the presence of third parties.

Symmetric key cryptography is the category where the same key is used for both the encryption and decryption of information. Cryptography is a way of taking information or data and hiding it behind a set of algorithms and procedures which are so complex that it would take an incredibly long time to crack them. In layman’s terms cryptography is the study of making information secure and trying to get that information back based off of an algorithm. It then sends this data over to another party who uses the same algorithm and key to get this now encrypted piece of data back out and use it. If you use the internet to carry out tasks such as filing your taxes, making purchases, renewing your driver’s license, or conducting any other personal business, visiting sites using SSL is a good idea.

This time, the ciphertext and key are run through the algorithm, and results back to our plaintext again. The receiver must already possess the private key generated from the same pair. The OSI model defines the layered structure of how computers exchange data https://xcritical.com/ on a network. Provide router security when sending data across the public internet. Should this option become activated, companies will lose the option for decryption and will only have the option to buy back their data from attackers or restore from backups.

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