History of Cryptography
This article is dedicated to a short history of cryptography, from ancient times to our days, without the ambition of being complete and exhaustive. The history of cryptography can be broadly divided into three phases: (1) From ancient civilizations to the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century, with relatively simple algorithms that were designed and implemented by hand. (2) Extensive use of encrypting electro-mechanical machines, around the period of the Second World War. (3) Ever more pervasive use of computers, about in the last fifty years, supported by solid mathematical basis.
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everyone except whom you want to communicate with. Cryptography was already used in ancient times, essentially in three kinds of contexts: private communications art and religion military and diplomatic use There are examples of funeral engravings from ancient Egypt in which words' transformations used to give some sense of mystery, of occult, of magic, and gave dignity and honor to the dead person. In the Bible there were three encryption techniques:
Atbah. A few English words transformed into other English words according with Atbash: "hob"="sly". reversing the alphabet. beth (the second) for shin (one before last). It used a numerical relation between the original letter (let's call it x) of the alphabet and the one you have to put in place of it (let's call the new letter y): x + y = 10 if x is one of the first 9 letters x + y = 45 if x is one of the last 8 letters x + y = 28 otherwise For example.
. "holy"="slob". "glow"="told". "zoo"="all". with rows and columns. "irk"="rip". Sheshakh is Atbash for Bavel (Babylon). So that. 'f' into 'i'. Even in India cryptography wa advocated in order to help women conceal the details of their liaisons. in the Book of Jeremiah. but let's come to more recent times. it beforehand divided the alphabet in two and then applied the Atbash rule. 'z' into 'c'.Atbash. "hold"="slow". "horn"="slim". It consisted of substituting aleph (the first letter) for tav (the last).. instead of considering the whole alphabet. The antique cipher of the Greek historian Polibio used a table.. that is. It was similar to Atbash but. and so on. Albam. based on a three positions' shift. and "grog"="tilt".
Other examples of encryption techniques could be remembered. Famous is the Caesar Cipher. we could have: et writing. to associate a letter to a pair of numbers. "low"="old". mathematically (considering the English 26 letters alphabet): y = (x + 3) mod 26 For example 'a' is transformed into 'd'.
A. which is the first letter of the key. is enciphered using the alphabet in row L. the combined efforts of some researchers led to the design of some cryptoanalysis techniques capable of breaking this cipher with little effort. Queen of Scotland. At the end we obtain: Plaintext: ATTACKATDAWN Key: LEMONLEMONLE Ciphertext: LXFOPVEFRNHR
. was sentenced to death for having conspired against her cousin Elizabeth. suppose that the plaintext to be encrypted is: ATTACKATDAWN The person sending the message chooses a keyword and repeats it until it matches the length of the plaintext. proved that Mary had taken part in the conspiracy by deciphering her communications with Sir Babington. Secretary of State. just to confuse other people. and also some more symbols with no real meaning. The secret messages were hidden inside beer barrels and were written making use of several symbols that substituted letters. This is done with the help of the Vigenère square. To encipher. The French diplomat Blaise de Vigenère published his description of a polyalphabetic cipher before the
Between the end of the nineteen century and the beginning of the twentieth century. For example. the keyword "LEMON": LEMONLEMONLE The first letter of the plaintext. each letter of the alphabet is shifted along some number of places.In 1586 Mary Stuart. words or phrases. The Vigenère cipher consists of several Caesar ciphers in sequence with different shift values. and so on with all the letters. That was possible because Sir Francis Walsingham. for example. In a Caesar-like cipher. Queen of England.
a polygraphic cipher performs substitutions with two or more groups of letters. This has the advantage of masking the frequency distribution of letters. and a stepping mechanism to turn one or more of the rotors with each key press. substitution cipher worth mentioning in our history of cryptography was The Hill cipher. was a cipher system using 26 wheels. Let's begin with the first rotation device. Instead of substituting one letter for another letter. In the Second World War an important role was played by the Enigma Machine (figure 2). or Wheel Cypher as the third US President Thomas Jefferson named it. The Jefferson Disk. at first simple and then more complex ones. (2) ciphering operations could be made no more by hand but with the help of machines. Cryptography is very. going back in time to the end of the eighteenth century. arranged adjacently along a spindle. As time passed. spell out the encrypted message by rotating the wheels. Enigma was a family of related electro-mechanical rotor machines. and then look around the rows until he sees the plaintext message. The mechanical parts acted in such a way as to form a varying electrical circuit: the actual encipherment of a letter was performed
.Another important. We'll cite two kinds of rotation ciphering machines: the Jefferson disk and the Enigma Machine. Some historians consider the fact that the Allies succeeded in breaking the code so important that they think it was one of the main reasons of the Allies' victory. very important: it can change history. Then the user can copy a row of text on the wheels other than the one that contains the message. in our history of cryptography. it was the first polygraphic cipher in which it was practical to operate on more than three symbols at once. each with the letters of the alphabet arranged randomly around them (figure 1). more modern. a polygraphic substitution cipher based on linear algebra (and so matrix theory). The recipient simply has to put the discs in the agreed-upon order. an encryption and decryption machine used by Germans to communicate important military messages in a secure way. Invented by Lester S. which makes frequency analysis attacks much more difficult. Once the order of wheels along the axis has been devised. the user can rotate each wheel up and down until a desired message is spelled out in one row. The mechanical mechanism consisted of a keyboard. a set of rotating disks called rotors. people began to understand that (1) complex ciphering could be obtained by concatenating a certain number of simpler ciphering phases. Hill in 1929.
with the work he did during the Second World War on communications security. arguably the father of mathematical cryptography. In contrast to confusion. But we can also speak of key diffusion. He established a solid theoretical basis for cryptography and for cryptanalysis (the study of methods for obtaining the meaning of encrypted information). with Warren Weaver. In 1949 he published the paper Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems in the Bell System Technical Journal and a little later the book. in which changing
Figure 2 Enigma Machine. we want to remember here two important principles: confusion and diffusion: The purpose of confusion is to make the relation between the key and the ciphertext as complex as possible. in which changing a tiny part of the plaintext data may affect the whole ciphertext. Normally we speak of data diffusion. diffusion spreads the influence of a single plaintext bit over many ciphertext bits. Ciphers that do not offer much confusion (such as Vigenère cipher) are susceptible to frequency analysis (a technique based on the fact that inside a text certain letters and combinations of letters occur with varying frequencies).
Figure 1 Jefferson's Disk Cipher.electrically. Mathematical Theory of Communication. In particular.
The era of modern cryptography really begins with Claude Shannon.
Federal Register on 17 March 1975. In fact. The article also stimulated the birth of a new class of enciphering algorithms. and has become known as Diffie-Hellman key exchange. at the invitation of the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST). GCHQ. The proposed DES was submitted by IBM. in which the same cryptographic key is used with the underlying algorithm by both the sender and the recipient. and more secure variants of it (such as Triple DES). After some modification by the NSA. By designating one key of the pair as private (always secret). having been incorporated into many national and organizational standards. such as Blowfish. Before that. cryptography more or less disappeared into secret government communications organizations such as the NSA. all useful modern encryption algorithms had been symmetric key algorithms. Generally these algorithms have the additional property that one of the paired keys cannot be deduced from the other by any known method other than trial and error.S. The release of its specification by NBS stimulated an explosion of public and academic interest in cryptography. a very significant step in the history of cryptography. each of which decrypts the encryption performed using the other. only one key pair is needed per user. the asymmetric key algorithms. in 1976. asymmetric key encryption uses a pair of mathematically related keys. efficient alternatives to AES. After that. In contrast. NIST selected Rijndael. However. non-secret) advances. The aging DES was officially replaced by the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) in 2001. Very little work was again made public until the mid 1970s. Using such an algorithm. studies secret. its 56-bit key-size has been shown to be insufficient to guard against brute force attacks. the most recent trend is not to keep algorithms. it was adopted and published as a Federal Information Processing Standard Publication in 1977. This was the publication of the paper New Directions in Cryptography by Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman. no secure channel is needed for key
. The second development. to be the AES. It introduced a radically new method of distributing cryptographic keys. key distribution. which went far toward solving one of the fundamental problems of cryptography. An algorithm of this kind is known as a public key or asymmetric key system. submitted by two Belgian cryptographers. and equivalents elsewhere. who must both keep it secret. in an effort to develop secure electronic communication facilities for businesses such as banks and other large financial organizations. are still used today.even a tiny part of the key should change each bit in the ciphertext with given probability. principles. There are also some valid. was perhaps even more important.e. when everything changed. but only the encryption/decryption keys. DES. After an open competition. and the other as public (often visible). First was the publication of the draft Data Encryption Standard in the U. The mid-1970s saw two major public (i.
of the mathematics behind it. This led to important applications we often hear of today.exchange. so this will be the subject of another article. use of public public key cryptography. PGP. Digital signatures. Trying to understand public key cryptography can be difficult and maybe frustrating if one is not conscious.
. the public key can be widely known for a very long time without compromising security. at least to a certain point. designed thanks to that important discovery. So long as the private key stays secret.