Introduction

All of us know that the tech- giant WhatsApp has ‘end-to-end encryption’. But do we know what the word encrypted means? Let us understand what it means. Encryption is one half of the process- cryptography. You must be wondering what’s the other half; it’s called decryption. Let us understand the history of cryptography. The word can be traced back to the greek root Kryptos which means ‘hidden’. To understand this in simple terms, cryptography is a method of protecting information and communications using codes. Let us dive deeper into understanding the basics of cryptography. 

In this article let us look at:

  1. What is Cryptography
  2. Cryptography Techniques
  3. Cryptography Types
  4. Application of Cryptography
  5. Examples of Cryptography
  6. Uses of Cryptography

1. What is Cryptography

We all have grown up watching movies for entertainment. In movies where two detectives or investigators are meeting outside and exchanging information, they always use certain code words. Only when both of them confirm the code word do they proceed with the transaction. Now if you are wondering what is cryptography- it’s exactly that.

By definition, cryptography is a way of conducting a protected communication between two parties using mathematical concepts and various rule-based calculations which in computer science terms are called algorithms. These algorithms transform ordinary plain text, information, messages in a series of text that is hard to decipher using a sequence of code so that it can only be accessed by those for whom it is intended to read and process.

2. Cryptography Techniques

So how does this work? Let’s understand the different cryptography algorithms. As we have understood so far, cryptography involves two parts namely, encryption and decryption using a cipher aka the key. A cipher suite uses a unique algorithm for encryption- encoding while sending and uses another algorithm for message authentication at the receiver’s end. The entire process, embedded in protocols and software codes that are written to run operating systems and electronic devices, needs the generation of public and private keys for encryption and decryption. There are three types of cryptographic algorithms. Let us understand how cryptography works

3. Cryptography Types

  1. Symmetric key cryptography:  In this type of cryptography, both the sender and receiver use a single key during the communication or transfer of information. The sender uses this key for encrypting plain text and sends the ciphered text to the receiver through the communication channel. The receiver uses the same key for decrypting the ciphered text on the other end. Upon deciphering he recovers the plain text. 
  2. Asymmetric key cryptography: this type of cryptography is also referred to as public-key cryptography. Here we use two related keys; public and private. The public key is used for encryption and the private key is used for decryption. Both keys are different. Even if the public is known by everyone, only the intended individual will be able to decipher the text as only he has the unique private key. Asymmetric cryptography algorithm is used in WhatsApp communication. 
  3. Hash function: In this type of cryptography, no key is used during the transfer of information. A fixed length of the hash value is used depending on the plain text which makes it impossible for contents of plain text to be recovered.  Hash functions are commonly used by many operating systems to encrypt passwords. To put it in simple terms, the major difference between symmetric and asymmetric cryptography is in the key used by the sender and the receiver. If both of them use the same key for transmission and receiver, then it is Symmetric key cryptography and if they use different keys then it is called asymmetric key cryptography. 

4. Application of Cryptography

  1. To maintain confidentiality in the storage of information: It allows the users to share confidential information securely without having to worry about an interception by hackers. 
  2. Reliability in transmission: traditionally, a conventional approach used to be taken to carry out a checksum of the information to be transferred and communicate this respective checksum in an encrypted format. Upon receiving both the checksum and the encrypted data the data is again checksummed and compared to the original data after completing the deciphering at the receiver’s end. 
  3. Authentication of identity: It is highly useful as confirmation of individual identity.  Innovative systems make use of strong cryptographic methods along with physical methods of individuals resulting in a highly secure and reliable way of verification of identity. 

5. Examples of Cryptography 

One of the most commonly used and seen examples of cryptography is WhatsApp that promises end-to-end encryption. It involves asymmetry methods of cryptography. I.e. only the intended individual has the private key. Upon installation of Whatsapp on the devices, public keys are registered with the server and the messages are communicated securely using unique private keys. 

With the increasing usage of digital transactions using UPI, digital wallets, internet banking, end-to-end secure payments is a need of the hour. The respective banks and the payment gateways use cryptography for these transactions to avoid the risk of malware and hackers. cryptography technology protects sensitive and confidential information of users such as account details, CVV, etc. Generation of one time passwords- OTP helps in confirming the identity of the user. 

6. Uses of Cryptography

Imagine this as a lock and key mechanism, wherein you need a unique key to unlock a lock- likewise, a unique sequence of code is mixed in the input and output can only be deciphered using this key. Cryptography is used for creating a digital signature, cryptographic key generation, banking transaction cards, computer passwords, e-commerce transactions, web browsing, confidential communications, etc.

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Conclusion

This article gave you an in-depth understanding of the concept of cryptography, its origin, types of cryptography, techniques, and algorithms that are used in cryptography. The importance of cryptography in today’s world is beyond description with data breaches, cyber-attacks getting more and more frequent.  With an increase in digitization and influence of the internet, cryptography becomes of utmost importance as it provides a secure way of transactions. 

So, have you made up your mind to make a career in Cyber Security? Visit our Master Certificate in Cyber Security (Red Team) for further help. It is the first program in offensive technologies in India and allows learners to practice in a real-time simulated ecosystem, that will give you an edge in this competitive world.

Also, Read

Elliptic Curve Cryptography: An Overview

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