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What Is Cryptography: Definition and Common Cryptography Techniques

A close-up of code on a computer screen representing cryptography techniques taught by the Tulane School of Professional Advancement in New Orleans, LA

What Is Cryptography?

The parameters that define data compilation, storage, and transport are constantly expanding in the digital age. While this growth adds convenience and efficiency to our lives, it also provides additional avenues for data breaches and compromises to occur. This aspect of technology makes the concept of cryptography more important than ever, and it also makes it an exciting field for students to consider. It is important for individuals to be able to answer the question of what is cryptography before pursuing a position in the field.

ADVANTAGES OF AN ADVANCED EDUCATION IN CRYPTOGRAPHY

As the use of tech-centric data storage and transport increases in the corporate world, the need for qualified cryptographers will likely grow. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 28 percent job growth in the information security field between 2016 and 2026, a figure that’s significantly higher than the 7 percent job growth BLS predicts for the average profession.

Earning an advanced degree, such as a Master of Professional Studies in Cybersecurity Management, can help students to stand out in an increasingly competitive field. The degree can demonstrate to prospective employers that job candidates have a deep knowledge of the fundamental concepts and techniques that govern cryptography. As such, it can also function as one of the first steps toward a satisfying career in a thriving and critical industry.

CRYPTOGRAPHY DEFINED

Cryptography is the use of coding to secure computer networks, online systems, and digital data. It is a concept whose endgame is to keep vital information that is subject to potential data breaches safe and confidential. While the term tends to be associated with the modern digital era, the concept has played a significant role for centuries in military and government operations. For example, the Navajo code talkers from World War II, who communicated in their native tongue, deployed cryptography tactics to convey crucial data.

The primary element behind cryptography is the creation of ciphers. Ciphers are written codes that disguise key information to entities that aren’t authorized for access. The stronger the cipher, the more effective the security.

COMMON CRYPTOGRAPHY TECHNIQUES

In the modern business era, cryptographers use a host of tech-driven techniques to protect data used by the private and public sectors, from credit card information to medical records. While these techniques differ in approach, they collectively carry the same goal of keeping data secure.

The primary technique behind the concept of cryptography is a process known as encryption. Encryption deploys algorithm strategies to rearrange vital information. Only those who have a bit of code known as a “key” can “unlock” the information and access the data in a non-scrambled form.

Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)

Also known as Rijndael, the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is an encryption technique that uses block ciphers, or algorithms that apply data encryption in measured blocks that match the plain text entered. For instance, if a piece of text or data is 144 characters, the block cipher would also be 144 characters.

AES provides the backbone of several security tactics that tend to go by names familiar to the public sector. Compression tools, such as WinZip, use AES, as do virtual private networks (VPNs). Even peer-to-peer messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger, use AES to keep their data secure.

Private Key Encryption

One of the encryption “keys” used in cryptography is private key encryption, which uses one bit of code to access data. Since this form of encryption entails only one key, it tends to be efficient to use; however, its efficiency also increases the importance of protecting the key from leaks.

Public Key Encryption

Public key encryption is more complex than private key encryption because it uses two types of keys to grant access. The first key is public, which is distributed and shared to everyone. The second key is private, which is always withheld from the public. Sometimes, this private key can be referred to as a digital signature.

Hash Functions

A hash function converts data into a string of letters and numbers. This string, which is produced in a uniform length, can be referred to by many names, including hash value, digital fingerprint, and checksum. The code produced on a piece of data is like a snowflake — no two codes should be identical. Identifying these codes can help cryptographers confirm correct data, and it can also help them spot potential attacks posing as trusted programs or data.

THE BENEFITS OF CRYPTOGRAPHY

Any business that deals with private information can view cryptography as a necessary tool for its organization. The techniques that cryptographers utilize can ensure the confidential transfer of private data. Techniques relating to digital signatures can prevent imposters from intercepting corporate data, while companies can use hash function techniques to maintain the integrity of data. Collectively, these benefits allow companies to conduct business in the digital era with complete confidence.

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