An Introduction to Cryptography

How Cryptography Works and Its Applications

Cryptography is the practice of securing communication from unauthorized access or manipulation. It involves techniques that are used to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of data transmitted over communication channels.

The basic idea behind cryptography is to convert plaintext (a message that is easily readable) into ciphertext (a message that is unreadable without a key or password). This process is known as encryption. The ciphertext can then be transmitted securely over a communication channel.

The recipient of the message can then use a key or password to decrypt the ciphertext back into the original plaintext. This process is known as decryption.

Cryptography uses various techniques to achieve its objectives. These techniques include:

  1. Symmetric-key cryptography: This type of cryptography uses the same key for encryption and decryption. The sender and receiver both have access to the same key, which is used to encrypt and decrypt messages.
  2. Asymmetric-key cryptography: This type of cryptography uses two keys: a public key and a private key. The public key is known to everyone and is used to encrypt messages. The private key is known only to the receiver and is used to decrypt messages.
  3. Hash functions: A hash function is a mathematical function that takes an input (plaintext) and produces a fixed-size output (a hash). The hash is unique to the input, meaning that any changes to the input will result in a different hash. Hash functions are commonly used to verify the integrity of messages.

Cryptography has numerous applications in modern technology. It is used to secure communication between computers and devices, protect personal and financial information, and secure sensitive data in government and military operations. For example, encrypted messaging apps like Signal and WhatsApp use cryptography to protect user messages and calls from interception and snooping. Similarly, e-commerce websites use cryptography to secure customer information during online transactions.