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The Evolution of Cryptography
Written by Grant Hunter, 15 October 2017
The word, cryptographie, was first recorded in France in the 1650’s. It is the study, practice and art of sending or solving coded messages and secret communications.

cryptographie - fr. Latin, cryptographia

From the elements: 

crypto - fr. Latin, crypta meaning ‘vault, cavern’ / Greek, kryptos meaning ‘hidden’;
-graphy - fr. French, graphie / Latin, graphia; meaning ‘writing’ and ‘field of study’. 
In cryptography, encryption, is a process of scrambling data (message, image, video etc…) in such a way that only third parties can access it. In an encryption scheme the intended data, referred to as plaintext, is encrypted using an encryption algorithm – a cipher – generating ciphertext that can only be read if decrypted. It is, in principle, possible to decrypt the message without possessing the key; but, for a well-designed encryption scheme, considerable computational resources and skills are required. An authorized recipient can easily decrypt the message with the key provided by the originator to recipients but not to unauthorized users.
Codes and Ciphers
A code is way of mapping information from a meaningful unit (such as a word, sentence or phrase) into a much smaller group of symbols. An example of this is a code where we write the phrase ‘meet at the usual place’ as ‘42’. A well known code is the Morse Code. Codes were developed to save time with early telegraphic communications and the codes were kept in a Codebook. 

A cipher is a mechanical operation - an algorithm - that is applied to data for the purpose of encryption and decryption, which will follow a set of steps for its procedure. 

There are two main differences between codes and ciphers. 1) Codes generally substitute different length strings of characters in the output where ciphers generally output the same number of characters as input, 2) a cipher doesn’t necessarily involve meaning. However in common usage both words are used synonymously. 
Used primarily by the Spartans to communicate during military campaigns, the Scytale (pronounced - ‘Italy’) consisted of a cylinder with a strip of parchment wound around it on which was written a message. It performs a transposition cipher. What is written down the length of the rod is written across the widths of the parchment strip, creating an illegible string of letters down the parchment. All that was required was to ensure sender and receiver both have the same diameter rod, for the message to be decoded.
Caesar Cipher
The method is named after Julius Caesar, who used it in his private correspondence. According to Suetonius, he used it with a shift of three to protect messages of military significance. A Caesar cipher is one of the simplest and most widely known encryption techniques. It is a type of substitution cipher in which each letter in the plaintext is replaced by a letter some fixed number of positions down the alphabet. For example:

Plain:                 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Cipher:              X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W

Plaintext:          attack the eastern camp at sunrise
Ciphertext:       xqqxzh qeb bxpqbok zxjm xq prkofpb

The replacement remains the same throughout the message, so the cipher is classed as a type of monoalphabetic substitution, as opposed to polyalphabetic substitution.
Vigeneré Cipher
The Vigenère cipher is a method of encrypting alphabetic text by using a series of interwoven Caesar ciphers based on the letters of a keyword. It remained unbroken for nearly 3 centuries earning it the French name chiffre indéchiffrable (French for 'the indecipherable cipher'). It is a form of polyalphabetic substitution. 

The Vigenère cipher was an improvement upon previous historical encryption techniques, but is still vulnerable brute force attacks and frequency analysis, though to lesser degree than the Caesar Cipher. To encrypt, a table of alphabets can be used, termed a tabula recta, Vigenère square, or Vigenère table. It consists of the alphabet written out 26 times in different rows, each alphabet shifted cyclically to the left compared to the previous alphabet, corresponding to the 26 possible Caesar ciphers.

Plaintext:         ATTACKATDAWN
Key:                  LEMONLEMONLE
Ciphertext:      LXFOPVEFRNHR
Zodiac Cipher
The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who operated in Northern California in the late 1960s. The killer's identity is still unknown. The name "Zodiac", was originated in a series of taunting letters sent to the press. These letters included four cryptograms (or ciphers). Of the four cryptograms sent, only one has been definitively solved.
For anyone interested in cryptography or anyone who grew up in Western culture, this cipher is likely the most widely known. The word Enigma was derived from Latin, aenigma meaning ‘riddle’, derived from the Ancient Greek, ainos meaning ‘fable’. 

The Enigma machines were a series of electro-mechanical rotor polyalphabetic cipher machines developed and used in the early- to mid-20th century to protect commercial, diplomatic and military communication. It was invented by the German engineer Arthur Scherbius at the end of World War I.
Kerckhoff’s Principle
"A cryptosystem should be secure even if everything about the system, except the key, is public knowledge."
Stated by Dutch cryptographer Auguste Kerckhoffs in the 19th century.

This was published the principle in an 1883 article, La Cryptographie Militaire (Military Cryptography). The mathematician Claude Shannon further refined Kerckhoff’s principle. According to Shannon’s maxim, "one ought to design systems under the assumption that the enemy will immediately gain full familiarity with them."
Modern Cryptography
  •  Standardization of cryptographic protocols
  •  Revolutionary Public Key Cryptography 
  •  Modern Advancements in computing and the internet 
  •  Liberalization of restrictions on the technology thanks to the Cypherpunks winning the “Crypto-Wars"
Lucifer (DES)
National Bureau of Standards (now National Institute of Standards and Technology - NIST), asked for submissions of a new cryptographic protocol to be vetted and passed as the commercial standard for encryption. 

In 1974 an IBM researcher submitted Lucifer for review and only after the NSA altered the code and shrank the key size was it approved as the international standard. 

The new Data Encryption Standard (DES) was less than trustworthy to say the least which is why it was broken and subsequently replaced with a far more secure encryption protocol… (AES).
Rijndael (AES)
In 2002, the Rijndael cipher was selected as the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Rijndael is a symmetric encryption algorithm created by Joan Daemen and Vincent Rijmen. 

It is a block cipher, with variable block size, variable key length and variable round number. Block length and key length can be independently specified to any multiple of 32 bits from 128 bits to 256 bits. AES has been adopted by the U.S. government and is now used worldwide. 

It supersedes the Data Encryption Standard (DES),which was published in 1977. In the Rijndael AES variant, the block size is restricted to 128 bits and key length to 128, 192 or 256 bits only.
RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman)
RSA is an asymmetric algorithm for public-key cryptography that is based on the presumed difficulty of factoring large integers - this is the factoring problem. The acronym RSA is made of the initial letters of the surnames of Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman, who first publicly described the algorithm in 1977. 

The RSA algorithm involves four steps: 1) key generation, 2) key distribution, 3) encryption and 4) decryption. RSA involves a public key and a private key. The public key can be known by everyone, and it is used for encrypting messages. The intention is that messages encrypted with the public key can only be decrypted in a reasonable amount of time by using the private key.
PGP (Pretty Good Privacy)
PGP was developed by Phil Zimmermann in 1991. It uses a serial combination of hashing, data compression, symmetric-key cryptography, and finally public-key cryptography. Each step uses one of several supported algorithms. It’s used for signing, encrypting / decrypting texts, emails, files, directories, whole disk partitions, and to increase the security of email communications.

As PGP develops, versions that support newer features and algorithms are able to create encrypted messages that older PGP systems cannot decrypt, even with a valid private key. Therefore, it is essential that partners in PGP communication understand each other's capabilities or at least agree on PGP settings.
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About Author: Grant Hunter

Blogger, privacy advocate and content contributor. Grant is a deep philosophical thinker, an arm-chair economist, a cryptocurrency expert and a Cypherpunk! 
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