However, the challenge of this new computing environment may be met byinnovatively adapting one of the oldest techniques in cryptology: the one-time pad (OTP).
In OTP encryption each character from a plaintext message is encrypted to a ciphertext by a modular addition with a character from a secret random key (or pad) of the same length asthe plaintext using successive characters in the pad. If the key is truly random, never reused inwhole or part, and kept secret, it is demonstrably mathematically impossible to decipher theciphertext without a copy of the pad. Because OTP encryption (sometimes called "the Vernamcipher") adds no information to the enciphered text, only random noise, it represents a perfect,unbreakable encryption method.
Despite its undisputed security, one-time pad cryptography faces notorious practicaldifficulties.
First there is the problem of size and portability of storage. The pad must contain atleast one character for each character that it encrypts or decrypts and each character may only beused once. The more data to be communicated, the larger the OTP must be. This problem iscompounded by the number of communicants since each sender and recipient must maintain adifferent one-time-pad shared only between the two of them.
Another notorious vulnerability of one-time pad cryptography is the problem of thesecure distribution of one-time pads: interception and copying of a pad by a third party willentirely compromise the security of the method.
To decrypt a message encrypted with an OTP it is not sufficient simply to possess acopy of that pad. It is also necessary to determine which segment of the sender's OTP was usedfor its encryption. If this location is not known or determinable the message will not bedecipherable.
One solution to this problem would be for the sender and the recipient to each keeprecords of the last location the sender has used to encrypt a message and to increment these
Cf. Shannon, Claude (1949), "
Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems
". Bell SystemTechnical Journal 28 (4): 656-715.