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S00609530

3 October 2016

There are many reasons for keeping something a secret, and encryption is one method of

ensuring that only those with permission are able to access that secret. In particular, one method of

encryption uses a mathematical structure called a matrix to encode and decode messages.

A matrix (plural: matrices) is an array of numbers arranged in rows and columns inside square

brackets. A message can be written as a matrix and then multiplied by another matrix to produce a third

matrix that contains the encoded message. Finally, this encoded matrix can be multiplied by yet another

matrix to undo the encryption and get back to the original message.

By itself, matrix multiplication as a method of encryption is relatively easy to break, but it is

sometimes used along with other techniques in ciphers even today. The following sections explain the

basic steps involved in matrix encryption: preparing the message, choosing an encoding matrix,

performing the encryption, and decoding.

Preparing a Message for Encryption: The first step in preparation for encoding a

message is to turn that message into a matrix. This can be done by assigning each letter of the alphabet

to a number and filling a matrix with the numbers that correspond to the letters in the message. One

way to associate the letters of the alphabet with numbers is as follows (_ represents a space):

_ 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

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Once you have replaced all the letters and spaces, you should have a, possibly long, string of

simple numbers between 0 and 26. The next thing to do is to arrange them in a matrix. However, before

you do, you must decide how many columns your matrix should have. Generally, you want your

message matrix to have either two, three, or four columns. Choose only one column and your matrix

wont encrypt well, but choose too many columns and it will become tedious to work with by hand.

16 1 19 19

23 15 18 4

0 9 19 0

11 9 13 3

8 9 0 0

Once you have decided on the number of columns, you should arrange the numbers from your

message string into a matrix with the chosen number of columns, adding as many rows as necessary.

Even if you dont have an exact number of rows, you can fill out the last row with zeros since the

spaces that they represent will not change the message.

matrix encryption is that some matrices have inverse versions of themselves, and that multiplying a

matrix by its inverse causes the matrices to cancel each other. So, multiplying a message matrix by an

encoding matrix and then multiplying that result by the inverse of the encoding matrix cancels it out,

leaving you right back where you started with the message matrix!

In order to proceed, we must find a matrix and its inverse matrix that will serve as our encoding

and decoding tools. While the matrix is mostly arbitrary, there are two requirements: first, it must be

square-shaped (have the same number of rows and columns); second, the number of rows must be

equal to the number of columns that we chose for our message matrix.

4 10 8 5

3 9 12 7

1 0 7 4

Example: 3 7 6 10 is an arbitrary square matrix with number of rows equal to the number of

columns in the example message matrix (4).

Next, we must find the inverse of the encoding matrix that we chose. To do this, we must use a

special type of matrix called an identity matrix and a little bit of magic. An identity matrix is just a

square shaped matrix that has ones on a diagonal line from the top left corner to the bottom right, and it

has zeros everywhere else. This special arrangement makes it so that multiplying an identity matrix by

another matrix doesnt change that matrix at all. Kind of like multiplying a number by one.

Now for the magic part. Say we chose a square encoding matrix with a certain number of rows

and columnssay n rows and columns. Then we need to take a square identity matrix with the same

dimensions and we need to attach it on the right side of the encoding matrix to obtain one single matrix

with n rows and 2n columns. To help us keep track, we can draw a dashed line down the center of this

new matrix where the encoding and identity matrices were joinedlike a stitched seem.

4 10 8 5

3 9 12 7

1 0 7 4

Example: 3 7 6 10

matrix.

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1 encoding matrix adjoined to corresponding identity

Next, we have to play a kind of game using only three rules to accomplish a goal. Our goal is to

rewrite the combined matrix so that the side of the matrix to the left of the dashed line is an identity

matrix, and to do this we can use any of the following three rules on the entire stitched matrix as if it

were a single matrix:

1. We can swap the order of any of the rows.

2. We can multiply every entry in a row by a constant value.

3. We can add all the entries in one row to the corresponding entries in another row to create a

new row that can replace either of those two rows.

Typically, you start by multiplying one row by the reciprocal of its value, so that the first entry

in the row becomes one. Then, obtain zeros in the first entries in all the other rows by multiplying one

row by a constant that makes its first entry the negative of the first entry of another row. That way,

when you add them together, their first entries cancel. Continue this process until you have obtained

ones on the diagonal with zeros everywhere else in the left matrix. However, remember you must apply

the operations to the entire matrix.

The magic part is that if we are able to accomplish this, the other part of the adjoined matrix is now the

inverse matrix of our encoding matrix, and it can serve as our decoding matrix. However, if we were

not able to accomplish the goal of rewriting the left side as an identity matrix, then we have to choose a

new square encoding matrix and try again.

0 1 0 0 57/562 125/562 150 /562

1/ 562

0 0 1 0 17/562

57/562

44/ 562 49/562

12 /562

90/ 562 is the final result.

Example: 0 0 0 1 72/562 10/562

Because the left side could be written as an identity matrix, it is given that the right side is the inverse

of the original matrix. Of course, this can involve an enormous amount of arithmetic, so it is highly

advisable not to exceed three columns.

message matrix, encoding matrix, and decoding matrix we can encrypt our message matrix by

multiplying it by the encoding matrix. The problem is that a matrix contains multiple different

numbers, so multiplying two matrices isnt as straightforward as multiplying two individual numbers.

So, mathematicians have developed a standard definition of what it means to multiply two matrices.

First, matrix multiplication can only be applied when the number of columns in the left matrix

is the same as the number of rows in the right matrix. That is why we chose an encoding matrix with

the same number of rows as the number of columns in the message matrix. This also means that the

order of multiplication is fixed; for message encryption and decryption, always place the message on

the left and the encoder or decoder on the right.

Second, multiplication is applied in a row by column pattern. To elaborate, we multiply each

of the entries in the first row of the left matrix by each of the corresponding entries in the first column

of the right matrix, then we sum all of these products. The final result becomes the entry in the first

row and first column of the new product matrix. Then we simply repeat this process for every pair of

row from the left matrix and column from the right matrix. Needless to say, this can involve a lot of

arithmetic, but thats part of what makes it good for encrypting things.

Example:

][

][

16 1 19 19

143

4 10 8 5

23 15 18 4

167

3 9 12 7

= 46

0 9 19 0

1 0 7 4

11 9 13 3

93

3 7 6 10

8 9 0 0

59

302

393

81

212

161

387

514

241

305

172

353

332

139

200

103

Note that the number of columns in the message matrix (first) equals the number of rows in the

encoding matrix (second). The first entry 143 was calculated as the sum of the products of the entries in

the first row of the left matrix and the entries of the first column in the second matrix:

(164)+(13)+(191)+(193)=143 .

Lastly, once we have our encrypted message matrix, we can remove the square brackets and

rewrite it as a plain string of numbers to make it even harder to decrypt. This is the final step in the

encryption process, and we now have a secret message that we can give to someone without worrying

about anyone else reading the message without permissionunless they manage to break the

encryption that is!

Example: 143 302 387 353 167 393 514 332 46 81 241 139 93 212 305 200 59 161 172 103.

we couldnt decrypt it when needed. In order to do this, we can use the inverse of our encoding matrix

to undo its effect and get back to our original message matrix.

First, we must rewrite our string of encoded numbers as a matrix again. If you forgot the

dimensions of the message matrix, recall that we chose the encoding matrix and decoding matrix to

have the same number of rows as the number of columns in the message matrix so that matrix

multiplication would work. So, all we need to do is arrange the string of numbers in the encoded

message into a matrix with the same number of columns as the number of rows in either the encoding

matrix or its inverse; they should have the same number.

Second, we simply perform matrix multiplication of the message matrix by the decoding matrix

(inverse of encoding). Recall, that matrix multiplication should be done with the message on the left

and the decoder on the right, and that the entry in a particular row and column of the product matrix is

found as the sum of the products of every entry in the same row of the left matrix with the entries in the

same column of the right matrix.

Example:

143

167

46

93

59

302

393

81

212

161

387

514

241

305

172

][

][

353

16 1 19 19

407/ 562 439/ 562 302/ 562 17/562

332

23 15 18 4

57/562 125/562 150/ 562

1 /562

= 0 9 19 0

139

17/562

57/562

44 /562 49 /562

200

11 9 13 3

72 /562

10/562

12/ 562

90 /562

103

8 9 0 0

Here, the encoded message matrix is multiplied by the inverse of the encoding matrix to undo the

encryption. The result is the original message matrix.

Lastly, simply take the decoded message matrix and rewrite it as a string of numbers. Then

replace the numbers with the corresponding letters from the chart above where 0 = _ and 1-26 = A-Z.

After this last step, you should have the original message intact. Since this last step of decoding can be

completed with just the decoder and the chart for translating letters to numbers, you can pass encrypted

messages to anyone you have given those two things prior, and they will be able to decode their

meaning.

This entire process can be tedious to say the least; fortunately, the operations involved do not

necessarily have to be done by hand as they can be performed by computers instead. You can easily

find websites with built-in calculators for the various parts of this encryption process. Alternatively,

you could simply use a program to automate the entire process, but where's the fun in that?

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