The Basics of Cryptography

magnifying glass over the word cryptography
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email
Share on whatsapp

Implementing a reliable cryptography program is just one of many steps you should be taking to protect your business. The evolution of the internet has likely made a significant impact on how you run your company over the last few decades, making choosing the right cybersecurity programs a must in keeping your financial, customer, and other sensitive data secure. 

Here are a few facts:

  • No organization is completely safe from cyberattacks in the modern world.
  • Recent major issues — like the COVID-19 pandemic and upcoming U.S. presidential election — have revealed further gaps in our ability to keep up with online threats. 
  • The level of damage that can be accomplished by a hacker is quickly growing alongside the internet’s capabilities.
  • These new threats could eventually affect both large and small businesses.

Keeping up with advancements in cybersecurity is thus crucial, as the legacy cryptography, antivirus, or other programs you installed in the past may no longer be enough to sufficiently protect your devices from modern threats. Fortunately, new and highly sophisticated versions of cryptography and other important cybersecurity programs are always being developed.    

What Is Cryptography?

Cryptography is a cybersecurity technique that utilizes algorithms to protect various types of online data. The term’s prefix, “crypt-,” means “hidden,” which refers to cryptography’s purpose of keeping secure information hidden from bad actors. Cryptography is a complex digital code that prevents unauthorized users from reading and using private data. This type of encryption is used to add an extra layer of protection to sensitive digital information, such as online banking, emails, online shopping, and passwords for other types of accounts.   

illustration of cryptography

History of Cryptography

There have been a few phases in the evolution of cryptography. Here area a few must-know facts about phase one of its roots and rise:

  • Modern cryptography is a descendant of Egyptian hieroglyphics, the earliest known method of using a code to hide the meaning of a message. 
  • Hieroglyphics are more commonly considered an early language, but the general population did not know the full meaning of each symbol. 
  • This made it possible for individuals who understood Julius Caesar’s early code — he replaced certain characters with others to protect information from the government — to convey secret messages.
  • This was a primitive version of today’s methods of protecting digital data from being viewed or used by the wrong people. 

Phase two saw digital cryptography emerge to protect information during World War I, when telephone and radio messages needed to be protected and were often spoken in code in case they fell into the wrong hands. Its prominence in World War II helped further pave the way for the early cybersecurity tools that protected early computers over the next few decades.

The third phase of the evolution of cryptography consists of the advances made specifically with protecting computers and online data in mind: 

  • The last four decades have seen a massive increase in the internet’s capabilities, to the point where it has become a deeply integrated necessity in most people’s lives. 
  • With the increase in sensitive digital operations — such as online shopping, banking, health records, and government data — has come exponential growth in the need for cryptography and other cybersecurity tools. 

Modern cryptography has now been divided into three primary categories: symmetric key cryptography, asymmetric key cryptography, and hash functions.    

Types of Cryptography

The three main types of cryptography can be used to meet various needs. Be sure to consider the nature of your business when considering which type may be the most appropriate. 

 

  • Symmetric Key Cryptography
    Symmetric key cryptography involves one key used by both the sender and receiver of a particular piece of information. These systems, such as the data encryption system (DES), are often faster than asymmetric key cryptography options, but are also generally less secure. That means they are not the best choices for the most sensitive data. 

  • Asymmetric Key Cryptography
    Asymmetric key cryptography utilizes two separate keys — one public, one private — to further protect information. The public key is used to securely encrypt information, while the private one ensures only the intended user is able to decrypt it. These two functions work together to create a system that is more secure than symmetric key cryptography, as a hacker will not be able to obtain the information even if he has one of the keys.

  • Hash Functions
    Rather than utilizing a key, hash functions use a specific hash value to prevent data from being recovered. They are most commonly used to protect passwords. 

 

Applications in Modern Cybersecurity

Although cryptography can go a long way toward protecting your data, utilizing such programs is not sufficient to keep your business safe against threats. Pairing cutting-edge cryptography with other cybersecurity products is crucial to provide multiple layers of protection.  

Applications That Protect Your Devices

Protecting your business’s computers, tablets, and other electronic devices starts with choosing the right cybersecurity programs to complement your cryptography efforts. Here are some tips: 

  • Install some type of antivirus software — such as applications from Norton, McAfee, or Kaspersky — on each of your business’s computers. 
  • Run the software’s scanner regularly to identify malware, viruses, and other threats.
  • Block any that come up from reaching your computer, and remove them if needed. 

These applications work with cryptography programs to provide the best possible protection for your business’s data and devices. 

Applications That Protect Cloud Security

The cloud is a simple way to keep large amounts of data in one place while reducing the items organized in your office. Choosing this type of solution means additional measures need to be in place to protect the sensitive information you store in the cloud, however.

Fortunately, several applications that can be paired with cryptography to increase the security of your cloud storage. Examples include:

  • Qualys — protects the data you store in the cloud from malware
  • Okta —  tracks who logs into programs and when to ensure only the right people access your data
  • Proofpoint — specifically protects cloud-based email services

Consider implementing options like these if you currently or may use cloud storage for your company’s data.   

Concerns Surrounding Cryptography

Cryptography is generally successful against cyberattacks, but there are certain drawbacks. Here are three of the most common concerns surrounding modern cryptography.  

 

  • Cryptography does not protect against all threat types.
    Although high-quality options provide strong barriers against various cyberattacks, there are certain threats that it cannot protect against. Vulnerabilities from poorly designed systems, ineffective procedures, and human error create gaps in the abilities of even the best cryptography programs. These need to be addressed with improved training and other security methods.

  • Cryptography can hinder the availability of information.
    Although it is intended to make your sensitive data inaccessible to unauthorized users, it is possible for savvy hackers to use this concept to make your own data inaccessible. Denial of service and similar threats can make it impossible to control your computer in the event of a cyberattack if you are unable to get past your own safeguards.  
     
  • Cryptography is not infallible.
    Users of cybersecurity programs can become complacent with their data when they believe cryptography means their information cannot be hacked or otherwise misused. Modern cryptography goes a long way toward protecting online information, but no type of encryption provides a perfectly impenetrable shield against every potential attack. 

 

Although utilizing cybersecurity programs greatly reduces your risk of becoming the target of a successful cyberattack, it is crucial to take additional steps to protect your business or personal information.     

Option3Ventures is here to help clients protect their businesses from a variety of potential threats. Our experts can help you understand everything you need to know about choosing cryptography and other cybersecurity programs that meet your needs. Contact us today with any questions you have about how cryptography can benefit your business.

Discover More: