Cryptography is essentially the science of encrypting and decrypting data. In the modern digital world, cryptography is indispensable as it facilitates data privacy, reliability, non-repudiation and authentication. Whether you know it or not, the systems you use rely on cryptography to ensure your data is safe, private and authentic. In fact, cryptography also forms the backbone of concepts such as blockchain, decentralization and cryptocurrencies.
When you take off all the bells and whistles, cryptography is effectively sending and receiving messages using codes that anyone apart from the intended recipient will not be able to make any sense of.
Whether we love them or not, numbers are present in virtually every aspect of our lives. Even if we want to relax and unwind by playing casinos games, be it blackjack, roulette, poker or slots, dealing with numbers is inevitable. You may not believe that slots are number based, but they are, with an RNG (Random Number Generator) deciding your fate.
Given that over 90% of all websites implement cryptography in one form or the other, it is essential for us to understand some of the basics of cryptography. Even if you aren’t planning a career in cybersecurity, being aware of these fundamentals will soon be considered foundational computer literacy. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be great with numbers and algorithms to grasp the high-level concepts. Now that we’ve established what cryptography is in a nutshell, let’s get started with the different types of cryptography used in the world today. This might not constitute the ‘secrets’ of cryptography, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.
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Any implementation of cryptography today can broadly be classified into three categories, namely, symmetric key cryptography, asymmetric key cryptography and hash function. Here’s what each type entails:
- Symmetric Key Cryptography: When a secret key is used for both encryption and decryption, it is referred to as symmetric key cryptography or symmetric encryption. This approach is the polar opposite of symmetric encryption, which uses one key to encrypt and another to decode data. Data is converted to a format that can't be read or inspected by anyone who doesn't have the secret key used to encrypt it during this process. The strength of the random number generator used to generate the secret key determines the effectiveness of this strategy. Symmetric key cryptography, which is commonly used on the Internet today, is made up of two types of algorithms: Block and Stream. The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and the Data Encryption Standard (DES) are two popular encryption algorithms.
- Asymmetric Key Cryptography: Public-key cryptography is another name for this. It uses a number of different and secure methods to transmit data. Both the sender and the receiver go through encryption and decryption operations using a pair of keys. Each individual has a private key, and the public key is shared across the network so that a message may be sent using public keys. RSA is the most common kind of encryption utilized in this procedure. The use of a public key is more secure than using a private key. The following are some more examples of asymmetric key cryptography: RSA, DSA, PKCs, Elliptic curve techniques.
- Hash Function: A hash function is an algorithm that takes an arbitrary length of message as input and returns a set length of output. It's also known as a mathematical equation since it uses numerical data as input to generate the hash message. This approach does not require a key because it operates in a one-way scenario. There are several rounds of hashing operations, each of which treats input as an array of the most recent block and outputs the previous round's activity. Common examples of Hash Function type cryptography include Message Direct 5, RIPEMD, Secure Hash Algorithm and RIPEMD.
These are the three main types of random number generators found in the industry today:
- Pseudorandom Number Generator: A pseudo random number generator (PRNG) is a technique that generates random numeric sequences using mathematical formulae. PRNGs create a series of numbers that closely resemble random numbers. A seed state is used to launch a PRNG from an arbitrary beginning state. Many numbers are created in a short amount of time and may be replicated later if the sequence's beginning point is known. As a result, the numbers are predictable and efficient. PRNGs are used in data encryption and in online gambling.
- Hardware Random Number Generator: This type is also commonly called the True Random Number Generator (TRNG). A TRNG is a function or device that is designed to create non-deterministic data such as a sequence of integers for instance. To seed security algorithms and is based on an unexpected physical occurrence termed an entropy source.
- Hybrid Random Number Generator: This is a mix between PRNGs and TRNGs. Hybrid Random Number Generators can use hardware as well as software induced randomness. Which one it will use is determined by something known as the read rate. The attributes of the hybrid RNG are similar to that of the Pseudo RNG especially when executed repeatedly for high yield.
- Quantum Random Number Generator: Quantum random number generators (QRNGs) generate randomness by observing quantum events, which are non-deterministic by definition.