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History of Cryptography Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 22nd, 2022

Introduction

Cryptography is an integral part of almost everyone’s life, even if people are not aware of it. Encryption is used in commerce, technology, business, and criminology; however, it was only in the last century that such opportunities for using cryptography became possible for regular people. At the same time, one must know the origins and the first variants of ciphers to understand the complexity and features of modern cryptography. For this reason, this paper will discuss and analyze the history of cryptography to demonstrate its development and significance in modern life of society.

History of Cryptography from its Origins

Cryptography is an ancient science, although its development peaks during the 15th and 20th centuries. The origins of cryptography were found in Egyptian civilization’s culture, since only kings and their scribes used secret hieroglyphs to convey messages. Later, different types of simple monoalphabetic ciphers were used in Assyrian, Greek, and Roman cultures for the same purpose of transmitting secret messages (Verma et al., 2017).

Although today such ciphers are simple for almost every person who can read and write, at that time, they were considered complex and were more efficient. For this reason, monoalphabetic ciphers in different variations were used until the 15th century, although during the Dark Ages in Europe, they were practically forgotten (Dooley, 2018). The flourishing of culture, politics, and diplomacy in the 15th century marked new stages in the history of cryptography, as kings, cardinals, and courtiers needed ciphers that would be difficult to break but easy to use, which led to the development of polyalphabetic ciphers that used a key phrase or word (Verma et al., 2017). Their variations with complications are still used today.

Nevertheless, it took cryptography several more centuries to reach a new development stage, which fell at the beginning of the twentieth century. The First and Second World Wars forced the military to look for new ways of transmitting secret messages, and as a result of the search, machines that could generate complex combinations were created (Verma et al., 2017). These machines were the prototypes of computers that today can process information hundreds of times faster. Over the years, computer programs have allowed people to encrypt information and use them daily, but at the same time make them unbreakable because of their complexity. Thus, one can say that the advent of modern technology, the Internet, and the use of encryption for commercial purposes has progressed cryptography in a few decades much further than in previous millennia.

The Use of Cryptography Through the Ages

The use of cryptography has changed together with its development, although the use of ciphers and codes was a government advantage for a long time. The first ciphers appeared 4000 years ago, at a time when Egyptians, Assyrians, and later Ancient Greeks and Romans could convey a message only on wooden or stone tablets, leather ribbons, or parchment (Verma et al., 2017). Cryptography was used to send a message to allies or rulers about troops’ disposition or plans, so that information would not reach the enemy. Since enemies could easily intercept a letter, a sender’s main task was to make it unreadable to the enemy.

During the Dark Ages in Europe, cryptography was practically not used due to the fall of general literacy. Only monks studied cryptanalysis to decipher the Bible’s messages and some religious writings, and, eventually, different available manuscripts (Dooley, 2018). However, during the early Renaissance, cryptography again began to actively develop as, during this period, diplomacy and political intrigue flourished between city-states and empires.

Kings, courtiers, and aristocrats used encrypted messages to negotiate and build politics while avoiding the spread of information to the public and enemies (Verma et al., 2017). In the early 19th century, the invention of cryptography was the telegraph, which transmitted information between cities using encrypted signals (Dooley, 2018). However, in this case, the code was open, and the messages did not maintain confidentiality, so the cipher was aimed only at simplifying the transfer of information.

During the First and Second World War, cryptography was an essential means for military affairs and espionage, since the transmission of radio messages was the primary way of communication between units of troops. For this reason, codes and ciphers have been used to convey strategic information that opponents cannot decipher. The militaries’ needs led to the development of computers and then the Internet, which led to the emergence of a new purpose of cryptography. At the end of the 20th century, data encryption took on commercial goals as companies wanted to encrypt their data and protect it from theft.

Advances in commercial cryptography have led to the use of automated codes to encrypt financial transactions; thus, today, every person can shop online without worrying that frauds can steal his or her bank account details. Nevertheless, cryptography also has its original purpose and is used to encrypt and transmit information, such as evidence for criminal investigations, and avoid leak or corruption of important information.

Growth and Development of Cryptography

Scientists can observe the history of cryptography development by the complication of codes and ciphers used to encrypt messages. One of the first and simplest was the Caesar ciphers, which was practiced during the Gallic Wars, and the essence of which was to shift the letters of the alphabet forward by three (Qadir & Varol, 2019). A slightly more complex variant was the monoalphabetic cipher, in which letters of the alphabet were replaced by any other letter of the same alphabet (Qadir & Varol, 2019).

This kind of cryptography’s main feature was that the recipient knew what letters replaced the original letters. The next stage in the development of cryptography was the use of polyalphabetic substitution ciphers, one of the most famous was the Vigenere cipher. Such a code used numerous Caesar ciphers, which greatly complicated the search for a keyword and made the cipher unbreakable for 300 years (Nasution et al., 2017). However, the mystery was solved by identifying patterns.

A new stage in the development of cryptology was the use of computers that could perform calculations in minutes, while people needed hours or days to do this. One of the most famous cryptographic inventions of the First and Second World War was the ENIGMA machine. ENIGMA used three scramblers and a plugboard and created ciphers so that the total number of keys rises to over 1015, which made the cipher practically unbreakable (Verma et al., 2017). However, after years of work, in 1939, Alan Turing was able to unravel the structure and logic of message creation and build a machine that could solve the code in an hour (Dooley, 2018). However, at the time, these machines were not much like computers, since they were room-sized and took much longer to calculate.

Currently, the Internet and computers allow more sophisticated encryption algorithms to be created; thus, people can encrypt, transmit and decrypt data on the other side of the world in a few seconds. Today, the most secure and unbeatable ciphers are The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and asymmetric fonts, as they use a complex encoding system. For example, an asymmetric cipher means that the sender and the recipient have a public and a private key, and they only need to know only each other’s public key to send information (Verma et al., 2017). Thus, the recipient and the sender do not need to exchange information that gives access to the cipher, making it almost impossible to break it.

Thus, the development of cryptography becomes evident if we compare just the Caesar cipher for breaking, which a person only needs to know the alphabet and modern encryption methods that the human brain cannot unravel without the help of computer programs.

Conclusion

Therefore, the history of cryptography analysis demonstrates that this science has an ancient origin, although its development was slow and inconsistent. The reason for this uneven development was that the study of cryptography was available to few people due to the high level of illiteracy and lack of educational resources. Although ciphers have been used for centuries by the aristocracy, the increasing demand for secret methods of transmitting information, as well as the development of technology, have become an impetus for the growth of cryptography. At the same time, the science of information encryption has made the most ambitious leap in the last century, as the means for transforming text have changed significantly.

References

Dooley, J.F. (2018). History of cryptography and cryptanalysis: Codes, ciphers, and their algorithms. Springer.

Nasution, S.D., Ginting, G.L., Syahrizal, M., & Rahim, R. (2017). Data security using Vigenere cipher and Goldbach codes algorithm. International Journal of Engineering Research & Technology (IJERT), 6(1), 360-363.

Qadir, A. M., & Varol, N. (2019). A review paper on cryptography. 2019 7th International Symposium on Digital Forensics and Security (ISDFS). Web.

Verma, A., Kaur, S., & Chhabra, B. (2017). Design and development of robust algorithm for cryptography using improves AES technique. International Journal of Computer Science and Information Security (IJCSIS), 15(3), 66-82.

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