10 Things You Didn't Know About Encryption

text with encryption

1. Encryption Was First Used as a Weapon

In 5 B.C., the Spartans, a warrior society famed for their austere lifestyle, bravery, and skill in battle, developed a cryptographic device to send and receive secret messages. This cylinder device called a 'Scytale', was in the possession of the sender and the recipient of the message. To prepare the message, a narrow strip of parchment or leather, much like a modern day paper streamer, was wound around the Scytale and the message was written across it. Once unwound, for transport to the receiver, the tape displayed only a sequence of meaningless letters until it was re-wound onto the Scytale of exactly the same diameter. The code, produced by unwinding the tape, was a transposition cipher, leaving the letters untouched while changing the order. This is still the basis for many popular modern-day encryption techniques.

2. Encryption Was First Used by Kings and Generals

Kings and generals used encryption to transport secret messages to the battlefield and to securely communicate. Encrypted letters would be placed in riffles to destroy all contents if the messenger got caught.

3. Encryption Is Used by Inmates Today in Prison

Inmates use encryption in letters to secretly communicate with the outside world.

4. Encryption Can Be Used to Protect or to Hold Data Hostage

Most people would use encryption to protect data. Hackers would hold people's personal data hostage by encrypting it making the contents inaccessible to the original holder without paying a fee.

5. There Are Four Forms of Encryption

  1. Asymmetric – Uses the same key to decrypt and encrypt data.
  2. Symmetric – Uses a public and private key to encrypt and decrypt data.
  3. One-time Pad (OTP) – Uses one-time keys (written on pads) to encrypt/decrypt messages, popular amongst spies and secret services.
  4. Homomorphic – A new generation cryptographic technique that allows computations to be carried out on cipher-text, thus generating an encrypted result which, when decrypted, matches the result of operations performed on the plain-text. Read: Hacker Lexicon: What Is Homomorphic Encryption?

6. Several Encryption Algorithms Were Classified as 'TOP SECRET'

The NSA classified AES, ECDH, ECDSA, and SHA algorithms as TOP SECRET technology.

The whole concept of asymmetric encryption was classified as TOP SECRET. In 1973, Clifford Cocks, a British mathematician and cryptographer at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), had developed first asymmetric system. The Government Communications Headquarters is a British intelligence agency responsible for providing signals intelligence and information assurance to the UK government and armed forces. GCHQ was originally established after the First World War as the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS or GCCS). During the Second World War it was located at Bletchley Park, which is where the British broke many of the German codes during World War II, including the Enigma machine. The GCHQ is the British equivalent of the NSA (National Security Agency) in the United States. Hence anything that was discovered at GCHQ had to remain classified and Clifford Cocks did not receive the recognition, or the money, from the discovery of the method. In fact, it was not until 1997 that GCHQ declassified his work.

7. Netscape Invented SSL Based on Asymmetric Encryption

Netscape created SSL to securely process online transactions.

8. Spies Mostly Use OTP Encryption

Well trained spies can misrepresent the key to the message to provide alternate meanings if ever captured and tortured.

9. Encryption Was Used in Treasure Maps

Encryption was not only used to hide information or a messages but also in hiding locations. There were treasure hunts based on maps with "encrypted" information leading to hidden treasures.

10. Ancient Languages Were Used as Encryption

Ancient languages were a form of encryption used to secretly communicate with others that knew the language. A speaker was used as the 'key' for unlocking messages.

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