Cryptography, the study of encrypting and decrypting secret messages, has a long and intriguing history. For thousands of years, humans have wanted to exchange information in a private and secure manner.
Cryptography allowed that to happen.
The earliest known examples of secret writing date back to 1900 BCE in ancient Egypt. Fast forward to today, and cryptography is deeply embedded in technologies we use every day. Encryption has become more important as the volume of digital data we transmit continues to grow exponentially.
Some current examples include:
• Blockchain technology for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Cryptocurrency transactions are recorded on the blockchain, which uses encryption to maintain the integrity of the ledger and protect users' identities and digital wallets.
• Secure messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram use end-to-end encryption to protect communications. They encode your messages so that only you and the recipient can read them.
• TLS or SSL encryption is used to protect internet communications and secure websites. It establishes an encrypted link between a web server and a browser, ensuring all data passed between them remains private.
• Password managers like LastPass and Dashlane use encryption to store your passwords and other login credentials securely. They help generate complex random passwords and remember them for you.
• Hardware encryption is embedded in technologies like self-encrypting SSD drives. It automatically and constantly encrypts data on the drive to protect your information, even if the drive is physically stolen.
• Homomorphic encryption is an advanced encryption method that allows computing directly on encrypted data without decrypting it first. It enables new applications like encrypted machine learning and secure genetic testing.
Cryptography, the study of encrypting and decrypting secret messages, has a long and intriguing history. For thousands of years, humans have wanted to exchange information in a private and secure manner. Cryptography allowed that to happen.
Quantum Cryptography: The Future of Secret Messages?
Advances in quantum computing threaten many of the traditional encryption methods we use today, like RSA and ECC. That's because quantum computers are extremely adept at factoring large numbers and solving discrete logarithm problems—the cryptographic techniques at the heart of today's public-key encryption. Quantum cryptography aims to solve this problem using quantum mechanical principles to enable ultra-secure communication.
The most well-known quantum cryptography method is quantum key distribution (QKD). QKD enables two parties to produce a shared random secret key known only to them, which they can then use to encrypt and decrypt messages. Unlike traditional key exchange, QKD allows the two parties to detect if any part of the key has been compromised or eavesdropped on by a third party. This could foil even an attack from a quantum computer.
Some experimental QKD networks already exist, but the technology is limited to relatively short distances. As more powerful quantum computers come online, interest in QKD and other "post-quantum" encryption methods will increase. The race is on to develop new cryptographic techniques resistant even to the code-cracking power of quantum systems.
Cryptography's long history is a story of continuous progress in the quest for secure communication. Quantum cryptography could well represent the next revolution in cryptography, enabling secret messages to remain hidden and protected even in a world of quantum supercomputers. The future of encryption is wide open as codemakers face off against the threat of vastly more powerful quantum codebreakers. With each battle won and lost, the march of progress in cryptography continues.