What is Cryptography?
Secret coding has been a part of worldwide operations such as the military for years. Since ancient times, the world has known the use of private communication pipelines that remain concealed from the masses.
That said, hidden language is undoubtedly a thing of the past that has only evolved in recent times.
A similar concept, cryptography, has gained attention worldwide. Defined as the practice of studying secret communications, while preventing malicious third parties from accessing the information.
Used in a variety of fields in the real world, cryptography uses encryption to hide information in a coded language that does not let adversaries (malicious third parties) access it anyhow. Simply put, cryptography prevents unauthorized access to information and keeps data secure and safe.
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Here is a list of characteristics of cryptography that will make you understand the concept in a better manner.
Any communication channel involves a receiver and a sender. For any communication channel to be safe and secure, it is important that authentic identities and locations of the receiver and sender be known.
Perhaps cryptography ensures this and prioritizes authentication over everything.
Once the authentic information about the receiver and sender is collected and stored, it is then ensured that data is kept private.
With an increasing number of data privacy issues pertaining to unauthorized access to data, information has become a harmful commodity that can lead to heinous crimes.
Therefore, cryptography is best to use as it keeps data private and does not involve any other entity other than the receiver and the sender of the communication channel.
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Protection against alteration
Since data is kept private and no entity other than the sender and the receiver is involved, cryptography is also characterized as a way to protect data against alteration.
For any unprotected communication channel, any third party can alter the data involved. However, this does not happen in cryptographic channels of communication.
Only the sender and receiver are able to alter the information exchanged.
Non-repudiated Transfer of Information
No person involved in a cryptographic channel cannot repudiate or deny the truth. This implies that data cannot be repudiated by the sender or the receiver.
Henceforth, one cannot deny his/her involvement in the process once the channel has already begun.
Unobstructed Channel of Communication
As it has already been stated that cryptographic channels do not involve any adversaries, the channel of communication only takes place between the sender and the receiver of the message.
That said, the channel of communication is unobstructed and does not have to pass through a third party's verification portal.
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Let us understand how whatsapp encryption works. Out of all the examples of cryptography in everyday life, this one is surely something we all know about. Whatsapp, a social media network, uses the end-to-end encryption technology in order to keep personal data private.
This means that every image, video, or text message that is exchanged on Whatsapp is encrypted. End-to-end encryption example of Whatsapp means that it is coded in such a manner that no one else is able to access it other than the people who were at the receiving and sending end.
"This is because with end-to-end encryption, your messages are secured with a lock, and only the recipient and you have the special key needed to unlock and read them."
Cryptography has become an essential part of data security in the contemporary scenario. As more and more hackers have taken to tearing into private chats and communication channels, it has become a necessity to preserve one's privacy and block out visibility for any third-party elements.
Therefore, cryptography algorithms have been developed to combat this problem. Cipher code or encryption algorithms are used as systems to encrypt end-to-end data and ensure data privacy.
Broadly used for symmetric-key cryptography, ciphers are cryptographic algorithms that help to encrypt and decrypt data from end to end. In real-world ciphering, a key is the most crucial element that helps to unlock encrypted data and perhaps is the only way to retrieve data from a secured communication.
"A cipher uses a system of fixed rules -- an algorithm -- to transform plaintext, a legible message, into ciphertext, an apparently random string of characters. "
Ciphers for Cryptography
Types of Cryptography
As we have learned about cryptography and how it works, we will now discover the various cryptography types.
Symmetric key cryptography refers to an encryption technique that uses one key to encrypt and decrypt data. Herein, it is easier to exchange this cryptography key between the sender and the receiver.
The most renowned symmetric key cryptography system is Data Encryption System (DES).
On the other hand, asymmetric key cryptography refers to an encryption technique wherein two different keys are used to encrypt and decrypt the data.
This is comparatively harder to use as the data can only be unlocked by using 2 different keys. The exchange of these keys perhaps can also be quite tough.
Another type of cryptography system is hash function. Hash functions use random input values and produce a fixed output value that can be used to identify the user for restoring private data.
It is a more complex mechanism and hash algorithms are more secure cryptographic systems to use.
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Applications of Cryptography
As we just looked into the various aspects of cryptography, we will now be looking at yet another aspect. Here is a short description of the top 3 applications of cryptography.
Applications of cryptography
A much-known application of cryptography is digital currency wherein cryptocurrencies are traded over the internet. Top cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple have been developed and traded over time.
With cashless economies emerging, digital currencies have grabbed the attention of the world. Unregulated by any government or banks, cryptocurrencies are our upcoming future.
Blockchain technology has a lot to do with this application. Several nodes in the blockchain are empowered with cryptography that enables the secure trade of a cryptocurrency in a digital ledger system.
These ledgers are protected, preserved, and cannot be accessed by any other person or organization.
With the current pandemic shackling us to our homes, the rise of e-commerce has been tremendous. Well, who wouldn't like to enjoy the comfort of shopping in your living room and receiving your hampers the next morning?
However, there's something we should know about e-commerce in order to understand how it works. E-commerce startups enable us to shop items online and pay for them online.
These transactions are encrypted and perhaps cannot be altered by any third party. Moreover, the passwords we set for such sites are also protected under keys to ensure that no hacker gets access to our e-commerce details for harmful purposes.
The applications of cryptography in the military are well-known. Military operations have also derived great use from cryptography for a long time. Used for encrypting military communication channels, military encryption devices convert the real communication characters so that the enemies cannot come to know about their upcoming plans.
Simply put, cryptography safely transmits messages from one end to the other without letting the enemy forces intercept the real meaning. This is a very important application of cryptology as it can be of both public and private use.
On the large scale, it can be widely used for declaring wars and sending crucial messages without the involvement of a messenger. Unlike traditional times, this technology can be precisely used to enhance the military strength of a nation.
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In the end, it would be imperative to state that cryptography has real-world applications that are inevitable. As a virtual world is being developed, it is becoming important for cryptography-enabled operations in many fields.
Be it financial transactions or military communication, cryptography is the talk of the town. A process of transmitting messages without letting access to any third-party cryptography has become indispensable.
That said, it is also being used for malicious purposes that have given way to ethical hacking operations. Perhaps time will tell if the righteous use of cryptography will outweigh its harmful purposes.