|Introduction and History of Its Development
Many times when data is exchanged electronically the privacy of the data is a requirement. The use of encryption restricts unintended recipients from viewing the data, which are deemed confidential and potentially dangerous if made known to irresponsible parties.
Today, encryption is the procedure of transforming plaintext, data that can be read by anyone, to ciphertext, data that can only be read by someone with a secret decryption key.
A message before being changed in any way is called plaintext. Plaintext messages are converted to ciphertext via some encryption method. A particular such method is called a cryptosystem.
In its earliest form, people have been attempting to conceal certain information that they wanted to keep to their own possession by substituting parts of the information with symbols, numbers and pictures. (See Basic Concepts in Encryption for further details)
Ancient Babylonian merchants used intaglio, a piece of flat stone carved into a collage of images and some writing to identify themselves in trading transactions. Using this mechanism, they are producing what today we know as 'digital signature.' The public knew that a particular 'signature' belonged to this trader, but only he had the intaglio to produce that signature.
Of course, technology today has evolved at such rapid pace that the need to protect information grows with the lessening reliability of older encryption techniques. Basic modern encryption is not much different from the ancient civilisations' substitution using symbols. Translation table, lends itself very well in making a piece of data generally unreadable. However computers today are much too advanced that translation table is easily broken and thus no longer viable. Instead encryption today has grown into such specialised field that involve mathematical, non-linear cryptosystem that even a relatively powerful computers take months or even years to break the ciphertext.
Industrial espionage among highly competitive businesses often requires that extensive security measures be put into place. And, those who wish to exercise their personal freedom, outside of the oppressive nature of governments, may also wish to encrypt certain information to avoid legalities that entailed possession of such.
With respect to the Internet, there are many types of data and messages that people would want to be kept secret. Now that commercial trading on the Net is a reality, one of the main targets of data encryption is credit card numbers. Other information that could otherwise benefit or educate a group or individual can also be used against such groups or individuals.
Copyright ©1999 ThinkQuest Team 27158 Developed for ThinkQuest 1999