What is encryption and where is it used

Encryption is the practice of encrypting and decrypting data.
When data is encrypted, an algorithm is applied to encode it so that it no longer has the original format and therefore cannot be read. The data can only be decoded to the original format using a specific decryption key. Cryptography generally refers to the construction and analysis of protocols that prevent third parties, or the public, from reading private messages.

Many aspects of information security, such as confidentiality, data integrity, authentication and non-repudiation, are central to modern cryptography. Modern cryptography exists at the intersection of the disciplines of mathematics, computer science, electrical engineering, communication science and physics. Crypto applications include e-commerce, chip-based payment cards, digital currencies, computer passwords and military communications.

Cryptographic Key

A cryptographic key is a secret value that interacts with the encryption algorithm. The lock on the front door of your house has a series of pins. Each of these pins has multiple possible positions. When someone puts the key in the lock, each of the pins is moved to a specific position. If the positions dictated by the key are those that the lock needs to be opened, it opens.

Ancient Cryptography

We can say that the use of cryptography is as old as man’s need to hide information. Many researchers attribute the oldest known use of cryptography to the hieroglyphs used in ancient Egyptian monuments (around 4500 years ago). Various techniques of hiding messages were used by the Greeks and Romans.

The era of modern cryptography really begins with Claude Shannon, possibly the father of mathematical cryptography. In 1949 he published an article Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems with Warren Weaver. This article, together with other of his works that created the Information Theory area, established a solid theoretical basis for cryptography and cryptanalysis. After that, almost all the work done on cryptography became secret, done by specialized governmental organizations (like the NSA in the United States). It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that things started to change.

In 1976 there were two major milestones in cryptography for the public. The first was the publication, by the American government, of DES (Data Encryption Standard), an open symmetric encryption algorithm, selected by NIST in a contest where a variant of the Lucifer algorithm, proposed by IBM, was chosen. DES was the first encryption algorithm openly made available to the market

Quantum Cryptography

Development of the technique combining the concept of cryptography and quantum theory is older than imagined, prior to the discovery of Public Key cryptography. Stephen Wiesner wrote an article around 1970 with the title: “Conjugate Coding” that remained unpublished until 1983. In his article, Wiesner explains how quantum theory can be used to join two messages in a single quantum transmission in which the receiver could decode each message but never both simultaneously, due to the impossibility of violating a law of nature (Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle)

How to see if you are using encryption

Note if:

The webpage URL starts with “https”: this indicates that your data will be encrypted and transferred using a secure protocol.

A lock icon appears, usually in the lower left or lower right corner of the browser screen. By clicking on the lock icon, you can see the security details of the website.

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