Modern Cryptography


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Modern cryptography is the cornerstone of computer and communications security. Its foundation is based on various concepts of mathematics such as number theory, computational-complexity theory, and probability theory.

Characteristics of Modern Cryptography

There are three major characteristics that separate modern cryptography from the classical approach.

Classic Cryptography Modern Cryptography
It manipulates traditional characters, i.e., letters and digits directly. It operates on binary bit sequences.
It is mainly based on ‘security through obscurity’. The techniques employed for coding were kept secret and only the parties involved in communication knew about them. It relies on publicly known mathematical algorithms for coding the information. Secrecy is obtained through a secrete key which is used as the seed for the algorithms. The computational difficulty of algorithms, absence of secret key, etc., make it impossible for an attacker to obtain the original information even if he knows the algorithm used for coding.
It requires the entire cryptosystem for communicating confidentially. Modern cryptography requires parties interested in secure communication to possess the secret key only.

Context of Cryptography

Cryptology, the study of cryptosystems, can be subdivided into two branches −

  • Cryptography
  • Cryptanalysis
Cryptography Types

What is Cryptography?

Cryptography is the art and science of making a cryptosystem that is capable of providing information security.

Cryptography deals with the actual securing of digital data. It refers to the design of mechanisms based on mathematical algorithms that provide fundamental information security services. You can think of cryptography as the establishment of a large toolkit containing different techniques in security applications.

What is Cryptanalysis?

The art and science of breaking the cipher text is known as cryptanalysis.

Cryptanalysis is the sister branch of cryptography and they both co-exist. The cryptographic process results in the cipher text for transmission or storage. It involves the study of cryptographic mechanism with the intention to break them. Cryptanalysis is also used during the design of the new cryptographic techniques to test their security strengths.

Note − Cryptography concerns with the design of cryptosystems, while cryptanalysis studies the breaking of cryptosystems.

Security Services of Cryptography

The primary objective of using cryptography is to provide the following four fundamental information security services. Let us now see the possible goals intended to be fulfilled by cryptography.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is the fundamental security service provided by cryptography. It is a security service that keeps the information from an unauthorized person. It is sometimes referred to as privacy or secrecy.

Confidentiality can be achieved through numerous means starting from physical securing to the use of mathematical algorithms for data encryption.

Data Integrity

It is security service that deals with identifying any alteration to the data. The data may get modified by an unauthorized entity intentionally or accidently. Integrity service confirms that whether data is intact or not since it was last created, transmitted, or stored by an authorized user.

Data integrity cannot prevent the alteration of data, but provides a means for detecting whether data has been manipulated in an unauthorized manner.

Authentication

Authentication provides the identification of the originator. It confirms to the receiver that the data received has been sent only by an identified and verified sender.

Authentication service has two variants −

  • Message authentication identifies the originator of the message without any regard router or system that has sent the message.

  • Entity authentication is assurance that data has been received from a specific entity, say a particular website.

Apart from the originator, authentication may also provide assurance about other parameters related to data such as the date and time of creation/transmission.

Non-repudiation

It is a security service that ensures that an entity cannot refuse the ownership of a previous commitment or an action. It is an assurance that the original creator of the data cannot deny the creation or transmission of the said data to a recipient or third party.

Non-repudiation is a property that is most desirable in situations where there are chances of a dispute over the exchange of data. For example, once an order is placed electronically, a purchaser cannot deny the purchase order, if non-repudiation service was enabled in this transaction.

Cryptography Primitives

Cryptography primitives are nothing but the tools and techniques in Cryptography that can be selectively used to provide a set of desired security services −

  • Encryption
  • Hash functions
  • Message Authentication codes (MAC)
  • Digital Signatures

The following table shows the primitives that can achieve a particular security service on their own.

Primitives Service

Note − Cryptographic primitives are intricately related and they are often combined to achieve a set of desired security services from a cryptosystem.



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