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Cryptography Essay

7926 words - 32 pages

Does increased security provide comfort to paranoid people? Or does security provide some very basic protections that we are naive to believe that we don't need? During this time when the Internet provides essential communication between tens of millions of people and is being increasingly used as a tool for commerce, security becomes a tremendously important issue to deal with.
There are many aspects to security and many applications, ranging from secure commerce and payments to private communications and protecting passwords. One essential aspect for secure communications is that of cryptography, which is the focus of this chapter. But it is important to note that while ...view middle of the document...

Some experts argue that cryptography appeared spontaneously sometime after writing was invented, with applications ranging from diplomatic missives to war-time battle plans. It is no surprise, then, that new forms of cryptography came soon after the widespread development of computer communications. In data and telecommunications, cryptography is necessary when communicating over any untrusted medium, which includes just about any network, particularly the Internet.
Within the context of any application-to-application communication, there are some specific security requirements, including:
* Authentication: The process of proving one's identity. (The primary forms of host-to-host authentication on the Internet today are name-based or address-based, both of which are notoriously weak.)
* Privacy/confidentiality: Ensuring that no one can read the message except the intended receiver.
* Integrity: Assuring the receiver that the received message has not been altered in any way from the original.
* Non-repudiation: A mechanism to prove that the sender really sent this message.
Cryptography, then, not only protects data from theft or alteration, but can also be used for user authentication. There are, in general, three types of cryptographic schemes typically used to accomplish these goals: secret key (or symmetric) cryptography, public-key (or asymmetric) cryptography, and hash functions, each of which is described below. In all cases, the initial unencrypted data is referred to as plaintext. It is encrypted into ciphertext, which will in turn (usually) be decrypted into usable plaintext.
In many of the descriptions below, two communicating parties will be referred to as Alice and Bob; this is the common nomenclature in the crypto field and literature to make it easier to identify the communicating parties. If there is a third or fourth party to the communication, they will be referred to as Carol and Dave. Mallory is a malicious party, Eve is an eavesdropper, and Trent is a trusted third party.

There are several ways of classifying cryptographic algorithms. For purposes of this paper, they will be categorized based on the number of keys that are employed for encryption and decryption, and further defined by their application and use. The three types of algorithms that will be discussed are (Figure 1):
* Secret Key Cryptography (SKC): Uses a single key for both encryption and decryption
* Public Key Cryptography (PKC): Uses one key for encryption and another for decryption
* Hash Functions: Uses a mathematical transformation to irreversibly "encrypt" information

FIGURE 1: Three types of cryptography: secret-key, public key, and hash function. |

3.1. Secret Key Cryptography
With secret key cryptography, a single key is used for both encryption and decryption. As shown in Figure 1A, the sender uses the key (or some set of rules) to encrypt the plaintext and...

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