Cryptography in cybersecurity is similar to a strong key that opens the access doors to digital domains. Hi! My name is Vaibhavi, and I’ll be your guide throughout this hands-on exploration. Together, we will discover the practical uses of cryptography, an essential tool for safeguarding our online communications.


What is Cryptography?

Cryptography, derived from the Greek word for secrecy writing, transcends ancient codes, emerging as the modern shield of our digital era. This guide delves into the utilitarian aspect of cryptography, safeguarding electronic transactions, preserving information integrity, and reinforcing communication lines.


Components of Cryptography:

Plaintext: Crafting Confidential Messages

For instance, crafting a confidential email involves composing an unencrypted message known as plaintext—your primary communication content.

Encryption: The Elaborate Lock

Much like an elaborate lock, symmetric encryption converts your clear text into ciphertext, ensuring content protection in transit.

Ciphers: The Choreography of Symmetric Encryption

In the realm of symmetric encryption, a choreography unfolds, transforming your message into code and vice versa, allowing a secure exchange of information between sender and recipient.

Practical Example: Symmetric Encryption Algorithm (AES)

Let’s take “CRYPTOGENIUS” as our plaintext and “SECRETKEY5678” as our shared secret key.

  1. Applying the AES algorithm to plaintext in 128-bit blocks.
  2. Substitution, permutation, and mixing operations transform plaintext into ciphertext.
  3. The encrypted message (ciphertext) arrives securely at its destination.


Secret Key: Unlocking with the Backstage Pass

The backstage pass serves as your secret key, held only by your intended reader to open and decrypt your encrypted message.

Ciphertext: Travelling in Code

Encrypted emails—ciphertext—travel over digital channels, preserving content until reaching the recipient with the secret key.

Decryption: Unveiling the Message

Using the secret key, the recipient performs the decryption dance, unveiling the plaintext message in clear language.


Objectives of Cryptography:

Confidentiality / Privacy: Securing Messages in Apps

Symmetric encryption in messaging apps ensures only the key holder can decode and understand secret messages.

Reliability / Integrity: Safeguarding Online Transactions

Authenticated encryption protects data integrity, ensuring credit card details remain unaltered in online transactions.

Non-repudiation: Authenticating Senders

Asymmetric encryption authenticates senders through digital signatures, preventing them from denying involvement in various activities.

Authenticity: Securing Financial Communications

Asymmetric encryption reinforces online authentication, providing secure financial communications between people and banks.


Types of Cryptography:

Symmetric Encryption: Channel Security

Communication channels secured by algorithms like AES with a shared key for both encryption and decryption.

Asymmetric Encryption: Key Pairs for Enhanced Security

Utilizing different keys for encryption and decryption, exemplified by algorithms like RSA, ensuring secure digital signatures and non-repudiation.

Hash Functions: Ensuring Data Integrity

One-way functions like MD5, SHA-1, and SHA-2 protect content integrity, providing a fixed-size string that verifies data.

Quantum Cryptography: The Future Frontier

Exploring quantum mechanics for secure communication, leveraging the principles of quantum superposition and entanglement.

Homomorphic Encryption: Performing Computations on Encrypted Data

Allowing computations on encrypted data without decrypting it, maintaining privacy in cloud computing and data processing.

Elliptic-Curve Cryptography (ECC): Efficient Security

Utilizing elliptic curves over finite fields to achieve strong security with smaller key sizes, enhancing efficiency.

Post-Quantum Cryptography: Preparing for Quantum Advances

Developing cryptographic algorithms resistant to quantum attacks, addressing potential threats from quantum computers.


Data Encryption: Two Types of Ciphers: Substitution and Transposition

Practical Example: Substitution Cipher

  • Original Message: “CRYPTOGENIUS”
  • Substitution: Replace each letter with the next in the alphabet.
  • Result: “DSZPUHPFOJVT.”

Practical Example: Transposition Cipher

  • Original Message: “CRYPTOGENIUS”
  • Transposition: Rearrange the letters.
  • Result: “GTSCRPYUEOIN.”

Data Integrity & Authenticated Encryption: Ensuring Security and Integrity

In this phase, the focus is on guaranteeing both the security and integrity of transmitted data during reliable online transactions.

Asymmetric Encryption with Public/Private Key Pairs: RSA and Secure Digital Signatures

Utilizing asymmetric encryption, specifically the RSA algorithm, involves the use of different encryption and decryption keys for secure digital signatures.

  1. Key Generation:
    • Two keys are generated: a public key and a private key.
    • The public key is shared openly, while the private key is kept secret.
  2. Encryption:
    • The sender uses the recipient’s public key to encrypt the message.
    • Only the recipient, holding the private key, can decrypt the message.
  3. Digital Signatures:
    • The sender uses their private key to create a digital signature for the message.
    • The recipient uses the sender’s public key to verify the signature’s authenticity.


Conclusion: Navigating the Cryptographic Landscape

In the upcoming chapters, we’ll delve into how these methods prove useful in real-life situations. Join me as we explore the intricate use of cryptography—a vital skill needed in cybersecurity.