Cryptography is the practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of third parties . More generally, it is about constructing and analyzing protocols that overcome the influence of adversaries and which are related to various aspects in information security such as data confidentiality, data integrity, and authentication. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is involved in a case in the Supreme Court of the United States, which may determine whether requiring suspected criminals to provide their encryption keys to law enforcement is unconstitutional. The EFF is arguing that this is a violation of the right of not being forced to incriminate oneself, as given in the fifth amendment.
Until modern times cryptography referred almost exclusively to encryption, which is the process of converting ordinary information into unintelligible gibberish . English is more flexible than several other languages in which cryptology is always used in the second sense above. In the English Wikipedia the general term used for the entire field is cryptography .
The study of characteristics of languages which have some application in cryptography, i.e. frequency data, letter combinations, universal patterns, etc., is called cryptolinguistics.
History of cryptography and cryptanalysis
Before the modern era, cryptography was concerned solely with message confidentiality —conversion of messages from a comprehensible form into an incomprehensible one and back again at the other end, rendering it unreadable by interceptors or eavesdroppers without secret knowledge . Encryption was used to ensure secrecy in communications, such as those of spies, military leaders, and diplomats. In recent decades, the field has expanded beyond confidentiality concerns to include techniques for message integrity checking, sender/receiver identity authentication, digital signatures, interactive proofs and secure computation, among others.
The earliest forms of secret writing required little more than local pen and paper analogs, as most people could not read. More literacy, or literate opponents, required actual cryptography. The main classical cipher types are transposition ciphers, which rearrange the order of letters in a message, and substitution ciphers, which systematically replace letters or groups of letters with other letters or groups of letters . Simple versions of either have never offered much confidentiality from enterprising opponents. An early substitution cipher was the Caesar cipher, in which each letter in the plaintext was replaced by a letter some fixed number of positions further down the alphabet. Suetonius reports that Julius Caesar used it with a shift of three to communicate with his generals. Atbash is an example of an early Hebrew cipher. The earliest known use of cryptography is some carved ciphertext on stone in Egypt, but this may have been done for the amusement of literate observers rather than as a way of concealing information. Cryptography is recommended in the Kama Sutra as a way for lovers to communicate without inconvenient discovery.
The Greeks of Classical times are said to have known of ciphers . Steganography was also first developed in ancient times. An early example, from Herodotus, concealed a message—a tattoo on a slave's shaved head—under the regrown hair. Another Greek method was developed by Polybius . More modern examples of steganography include the use of invisible ink, microdots, and digital watermarks to conceal information.
Ciphertexts produced by a classical cipher always reveal statistical information about the plaintext, which can often be used to break them. After the discovery of frequency analysis perhaps by the Arab mathematician and polymath, Al-Kindi, in the 9th century, nearly all such ciphers became more or less readily breakable by any informed attacker. Such classical ciphers still enjoy popularity today, though mostly as puzzles . Al-Kindi wrote a book on cryptography entitled Risalah fi Istikhraj al-Mu'amma, in which described the first cryptanalysis techniques.
Essentially all ciphers remained vulnerable to cryptanalysis using the frequency analysis technique until the development of the polyalphabetic cipher, most clearly by Leon Battista Alberti around the year 1467, though there is some indication that it was already known to Al-Kindi.
Although frequency analysis is a powerful and general technique against many ciphers, encryption has still been often effective in practice; many a would-be cryptanalyst was unaware of the technique. Breaking a message without using frequency analysis essentially required knowledge of the cipher used and perhaps of the key involved, thus making espionage, bribery, burglary, defection, etc., more attractive approaches to the cryptanalytically uninformed. It was finally explicitly recognized in the 19th century that secrecy of a cipher's algorithm is not a sensible nor practical safeguard of message security; in fact, it was further realized that any adequate cryptographic scheme should remain secure even if the adversary fully understands the cipher algorithm itself. Security of the key used should alone be sufficient for a good cipher to maintain confidentiality under an attack. This fundamental principle was first explicitly stated in 1883 by Auguste Kerckhoffs and is generally called Kerckhoffs's Principle; alternatively and more bluntly, it was restated by Claude Shannon, the inventor of information theory and the fundamentals of theoretical cryptography, as Shannon's Maxim—'the enemy knows the system'.