The History And Applications Of Cryptography

1612 words - 7 pages

Cryptography is the study of secure or secret communications. Cryptography has been around for thousands of years. Cryptography has been around for thousands of years. Cryptography deals with authentication, confidentiality, and integrity of data. There are many different implementations of cryptography in information systems. This paper will cover hashing, encryption, digital signatures, and digital certificates.

Cryptography dates back as early as the Egyptian Hieroglyphs that were carved into the Pyramids and other Egyptian artifacts. They are necessary designed to be secret but do pose the intrigue of anyone who wants to read them. Unless you understand the glyphs you would not be able to understand the code. This is similar to cryptography today. Unless a person has a key to unlock the code, they are left with cipher text. Julius Caesar came up with one of the very first substitution ciphers. This was a simple shift cipher. The letters of the alphabet were shifted based on a predetermined number known only to those involved in the conversation. The Scytale was another early device used for cryptography. A leather strap was wound around a stick of a specific diameter. The message was then stamped into the leather. If the message was intercepted, the leather strap was useless without the stick with the specified diameter. Cryptography was used in both World Wars. The Germans had the Enigma machine which allowed the Germans to communicate securely with other German forces. This was very difficult to crack, but ultimately the code was broken. The United States and other Allies used several Native American tribes to use their native language to convey messages. The Navajo were very popular due to their language not being documented. The 2002 movie, Windtalkers, goes into this use of the Navajo during World War II. “Navajos spoke over the radio in their native tongue during World War II to keep enemy Japanese from getting American secrets.” (Kahn, 2008) Today many moderns systems use cryptography such as VPNs, SSL web sites, as well as email.
Hashing is not encryption, but is included in the cryptography discussion. A hash function is based on a one-way mathematical function that is relatively easy to compute, but significantly harder to reverse. “Hash algorithms are public functions that create a hash value, also known as a message digest.” (Whittman, 2011) A hash algorithm will take a variable length of data and produce a fixed length value which is called the hash. Hashing comes in many forms. Some of the most command hash functions are MD5 and SHA. Hashing is used to verify the integrity of data as well as provide authenticity of the sender of the message when it is used in conjunction with some symmetric encryption key. When sending a message a user would attach the hash, or message digest, to the original message to ensure that it has not changed in transit. This does not provide any form of confidentiality. ...

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