A Beginner’s Guide to Cryptography

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Cryptography, also known as the art of encrypting sensitive was once used for government, academia and military exclusively. However, thanks to the recent technological advancements, this art has begun to permeate our daily facets of life. From the locking our smartphone to banking, we use cryptography for almost everything.

But, what is cryptography really? Why do we need it? How is it used and how you can use it to secure yourself digitally? Keep reading for more details about each of these points.

Read iTMunch's latest tech blog about cryptography.

What is cryptography?

To understand the real meaning of cryptography, consider this: every day lots of sensitive financial information is transmitted between banks, payment processors and their customers. If any of this information was not encrypted, it would be an open season for hackers and your bank account would quickly reduce to $0.

This is when cryptography comes into use. Banks and other financial institutions have an extensive process that uses advanced encryption methods. These methods are used to keep your information safe and out of the hands of hackers.

What is the basis of cryptography?

At its most fundamental level, cryptography has two steps: encryption and decryption. The first step is used to convert plain text into cipher text. While the second one is used to turn the cipher text into plain text.

For a better understanding of this, look at the following example.

You want to encrypt a plain message “Hello”.
To encrypt this (so that not everyone is able to decode your message), we can use one of the simplest forms of encryption; which is “Caesar’s Cipher”.
This cipher is used to shift each letter to a set number of spaces up or down the alphabet.
Means:
A=D
B=E
C = F
D = G
E = H
F = I

By using this cipher, your “Hello” will be encrypted into ciphertext “Khoor”. When you think about it, “Khoor” looks nothing like Hello”. However, with knowledge about decoding “Caesar’s Cipher”, anyone can decrypt this message.

Why does cryptography matter?

After your human resources, information within your organization is the most important asset. To protect this sensitive information from any kind of threats, it becomes necessary to adopt cryptography. Cryptography can be described as the science that applies complex mathematics and logic to design strong encryption methods.

In a world that is moving towards virtualization and cloud, the need for cryptography has become even more important. Here are top five reasons that make it clear why every organization needs encryption:

Top 5 benefits of cryptography

1. Helps move to the cloud
2. Helps achieve secure multi-tenancy in the cloud
3. Prevents service providers from accessing your data
4. Helps you meet regulations
5. Provides safe harbour from breach notification

SEE ALSO: Everything You Need to Know About Data Anonymization

Types of cryptography

Today, there are four primary types of cryptography, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. They are as follows:

1. Hashing

This type is used to turn a plain text or message into an unreadable string of text. Hashing is used for verifying the message contents specifically, and not for hiding the message itself.

2. Symmetric cryptography

The second type is the one which almost everyone is familiar with. Symmetric cryptography uses a single key encrypt a plain message and then decrypt the same message upon delivery. This type is generally used for hard drives and databases.

3. Asymmetric cryptography

The third type is a complete opposite of the second one. This means it uses two keys for encryption and decryption each. Asymmetric cryptography is used during transmitting email files, remotely connecting to servers, etc.

4. Key exchange algorithms

Key exchange algorithms are used to safely exchange encryption keys with a third or an unknown party. Here, the end goal is to create an encryption key with another party, which can later be used in combination with the other types mentioned previously.

These are a few points that give you a brief understanding of the meaning, importance and types of cryptography. By developing a more detailed understanding of common methods for encryption, you will be able to protect your organization against potential cyber attacks and breaches in data security. Keep reading iTMunch for more such tech-related blogs!