Cryptography is the study of techniques and implementation dedicated to the solving of complex problems. Today, its primary use is to protect sensitive information by maintaining the privacy of communications. In general, the secret information is transformed into an altered text by a process referred to as encryption, thus preventing the message from being read by anyone besides the intended receiver. It is this cipher text that is transmitted to the intended recipient, who must use the proper key to reverse the process, that is convert the encoded message back into its plain text form. Cryptography has seen a recent rise in popularity due to the expanding nature of communications technology, the Internet, and the inherent security needs of such systems.
Cryptography has many practical uses besides providing a code for secret communications. A major contributor to the many current applications of cryptology is the status of computers. Cryptology provides the tools to create a large-scale network of individuals who can communicate with each other confidentially without the threat of an unintended party being able to receive the transmission. The electronically intangible nature of e-mail messages makes them particularly susceptible to attack. Cryptography provides encryption for e-mails, so that only the intended recipient can access the plain text.
Cryptographic applications have been augmented with the recent increase of business conducted over the Internet, otherwise known as e-commerce. Online banking, brokerage accounts, and shopping have increased the need for protection against fraud, theft and corruption of the vital information that is sent via the Internet with each electronic transaction . Cryptography is used to encrypt the credit card number along with any other private data before it is sent through the World Wide Web. Only the retailer or web-server maintains the ability to decrypt the data, thus preventing unwanted parties from viewing the sensitive information. Currently, the most commonly used cryptographic mechanism in the technology industry is the RSA public key encryption scheme, which is integrated into operating systems and software packages by Microsoft, Apple, Sun, Lotus, Netscape and others .
Ronald Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman developed RSA in 1977. RSA, which stands for the first letter of each inventor’s last name, is a public-key cryptosystem, which means that the cipher text and the way it is encrypted are not kept secret . Despite this amazing feature, the code remains nearly impossible to break. RSA Data Security, now a subsidiary of Security Dynamics, which owns RSA, cites “the primary advantage of public-key cryptography is increased security and convenience: private keys never need to be transmitted or revealed to anyone” .
The inability to crack the RSA cipher without the proper key relies on the difficulty of factoring large...