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Cryptography Explained

Cryptography Explained

Cryptography is associated with the process of converting ordinary plain text into unintelligible text and vice-versa. It is a method of storing and transmitting data in a particular form so that only those for whom it is intended can read and process it.

It is all about securing data and communication strategies which are derived from a network of rule-based calculations and mathematical theories known as ‘Algorithms’. This process results in the transformation of messages in distinct ways which are not easy to decode. These deterministic algorithms play a vital role in the generation of a cryptographic key, digital signing, and verification. This ultimately shields data, browsing on the internet. It also helps in protecting confidential communications like transactions through credit cards, email, etc.

The Definition

The concept of preventing data and communications by embracing codes with an aim to create a platform whose information is intended should have the access to read and process it is called Cryptography. Here, the term ‘Crypt’ refers to ‘hidden/vault’, while the term ‘graph’ means ‘writing’.

Understanding

Cryptography is an application to achieve safe and secured information and communication processes from numerous suspicious as well as malicious third parties – adversaries. Here, encryption and a key are chosen to transfigure an input – plaintext into an output – ciphertext that is encrypted. A particular algorithm will always generate the same ciphertext by efficiently transforming the same plaintext, as many times as the same key is being used.

The traditional cryptography wasn’t that capable to quench the needs of the organisations when it comes to securing its data and other confidential issues. But the new-age cryptography has the capabilities to stand tall and perform proficiently with the following four objectives:

1. Privacy

The data can be acknowledged by any other individual for whom it was and is unintended. Securing sensitive data which even includes personal information of the people is one of the significances of using cryptography. This firmly holds the reins of privacy and other anonymity related issues, thereby mitigating the opportunities offered to the criminals and fake surveillance entities to decode the confidential information.

2. Maintaining Integrity

Without the detection of any suspicious activity, the data cannot be altered in storage or transit with respect to the sender as well as the intended receiver. Identifying confidential information, a hacker cannot only misuse it but can also drive it to commit a severe fraud. Cryptography enables professionals with the skillsets to modify encrypted information. This medication can be recognised by the recipients the moment it gets modified. This helps in maintaining integrity across an enterprise and empowers it to make a quick response to this cyber-crime.

3. Prominent Non-Repudiation

With cryptography, the source of the information can never deny its intentions regarding the creation/transmissions of the data, at a later stage.

4. Protecting Authentication and Data across Devices

Cryptography offers the sender and receiver with the ability to identify and confirm the identity as well as the origin/destination of the data. In today’s modern world, mobile devices have come a long way in becoming an essential part of humans by providing them with information transfer and storage features. Cryptography helps to protect and store information across all types of mobile devices, whenever transferred. Apart from all this, it also enables security procedures such as advanced authentication that helps to deter unauthorised customers.

Types of Cryptography

As cryptography evolves from the discipline of computer science, mathematics, electrical engineering and more, it is applied in various sectors like e-commerce, digital currencies, chip-based payment card and lot more! Based on functionality, there are different kinds of cryptography algorithms and keys:

1. Secret-Key Cryptography: Mainly used to maintain privacy and security, it uses a single key for encryption and decryption. This is also commonly known as symmetric-key cryptography. In this process, by using a key, the sender can encrypt a plaintext that goes as a ciphertext. At the receiver’s end, using the same key, the message is decrypted to plaintext.

2. Public-Key Cryptography: Mainly it is used for the purpose of authentication, Public-Key or asymmetric encryption is performed by using one key for encryption and a different key for decryption. In this scenario, the public key is used for encrypting messages and the receiver has the private key for decrypting the message.

3. Hash Functions: Mostly implemented for the purpose of message integrity, instead of keys, this functionality uses a mathematic algorithm to encrypt a message. The most common examples of hash algorithms in today’s environment are SHA-1 along with MD5.

An example

Let’s build a scenario to understand the cryptography concept. Assuming a person A - Steve has sent a text message to his friend B - Mike who lives in a different country via a public platform. However, a person named C - Victor hacks the security of the communication course and changes the message from Steve and redirects it to Mike. This is where the concept of cryptography comes into the picture.

Now Steve uses a key to encrypt the same message and sends over the same public platform however this time no one would be able to decode the message as its encrypted. The receiver, Mike will be using his decrypting key to again transform the message into a readable format. And even if Victor hacks the communication channel midway, and he alters the message, Mike will get error information when he tries to decrypt the same message.

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How is Cryptography Used?

The basic objective of cryptography is to secure the authenticity and integrity of a message. The concept of having electronic keys in a communication network is to ensure that the transmitted data reaches the receiver without any disruption. By the assistance of secured computer systems, the sender is now able to decipher the information with the cryptographic keys and algorithms.

Why do we Need Cryptography?

Whenever there is communication happening over an electronic network, the mandatory security requirements are fulfilled by cryptography. The essential elements that create the platform for cryptography are:

  • Privacy
  • Non-repudiation
  • Authentication
  • Integrity

Different cryptographic keys and algorithms are available to suit the needs of different actions. Financial transactions, security-related information’s, administration, law and more, wherever electronic communication takes place, cryptography has a major role to play.

Conclusion

Todays world is advancing faster than ever before and it’s easy to lose sight of the foundational elements of technology that enable us to live our lives the way we do. Cryptography went from being a technique used to communicate with the military to be one of the cornerstones of the modern world. With innovations and advancements, cryptography has the potential to propel the world to new levels.

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