The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: ciphers

Technologies Effect on Cryptography

The advent of the telegraph was a major factor in the use of the Vigenère Cipher. Due to the Vigenère Cipher having 60 cipher alphabets, the methods of encrypted methods not only increased but became ideal for technology such as the telegraph.  What makes the telegraph go well with the Vigenère cipher is that it brought more security to the encoded message. It did this by eliminating the people who are knowledgeable about the message. An example of this is two people wanting to send a message to eachother via morse code. To do this they would have to have two middle men who were trained to use the telegraph send the message. Without the Vigenère cipher, those two middle men would be aware of the message thus exposing the information. Cellphones have changed the way we communicate greatly, especially in terms of making a transaction or giving away credit cart information. Personally, though I know it might be safer but is still at risk, when I exchange credit card information with my family, I do it over the phone rather than text. Cellphones have a major effect on secrecy in society today. Many people have codes on their phones and every ones’ phone is encoded in some type of way. Implications arise when or if someone is able to break the basic encryption for a chain device such as the iPhone. If this happened then everyone with an iPhone will be at risk of a security breach.

Old News with a New Twist

The continuous development of the human mind and collective knowledge makes it ever more difficult to protect those thoughts and ideas we wish to keep to ourselves. The idea of privacy might seem distant or even unattainable to us today due to the prevalence of modern technologies and new advances in communication. The more information that there is out there, the more people that are trying to find it (and the more bits of information that may slip out).

They key component to understanding the evolution of cryptoanalysis is realizing that we have quite the advantage now. The fact that we know about the wax-coated balls of silk bearing Chinese messages and egg shells with hidden writing shows that we have learned from past attempts and successes of encryption and learned from them (Singh, 5).  It is always more difficult to come with a new way to go about something rather than just adapting a previous process. It took many scholars many years of training in order to figure out how to crack the codes that probably took up just as long to create in the first place.

Humans are natural-born problem solvers and as such our brains are wired to look for order. It may have required “a sufficiently sophisticated level of scholarship” to first create and crack these ciphers, but living in a society in which training in linguistics and mathematics is readily accessible gives us the same advantage that the Islamic empire had (without the years of specialized training). We have learned from the trials and errors of cryptographers long ago and will continue to develop new means of encrypting and decoding messages.

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