Encryption is a mechanism for hiding information by turning readable
text into a stream of gibberish in such a way that someone with the
proper key can make it readable again.
Encryption used to be considered a very esoteric subject. It seemed to have
no important practical applications outside of the goverment/military
world, and was considered a harmless mathematical diversion if anyone
else should pursue it. The age of computers has changed that.
In a world where everything we do is recorded on computers, and all
computers are linked to the Internet (and thus to each other)
we find that encryption is of vital importance in many areas:
At the same time, law enforment authorities worry that if everybody routinely
keeps their personal records encrypted, evidence seized under a search warrant
will be unusable. For this reason, they have tried to limit the ability
of the general public to use strong (unbreakable) encryption.
The laws of the United States of America treats encryption software as
military ammunition and allows it to be exported only with case-by-case
permission from the government. (Of course, this is futile, since free
encryption software is readily available over the Internet from
software repositories in Finland and Australia.)
- When a business with multiple office locations needs to send
computer data files between them, encryption can assure that outsiders
cannot just grab a copy while the data is in transit
- When different people share a computer system, encryption
allows them to hide information from each other. (And today, almost
all computers are shared in some form.)
- By issuing personalized encryption keys to people (such as by making
record players that use their serial number as an encryption key)
it is possible to create a document that can be read only by one
designated party, even though everybody has physical access to it.
The main reason that encryption has become big business, is that
it can be used to verify business transactions. Public Key encryption
programs can be used to create digital signatures that guarantee
that a message was sent by a person holding a unique code key.
National Cryptologic Museum at National Security Agency
(Ft Meade, MD)
- World War II - breaking German and Japanese Codes
WW II Codes and Ciphers - Colossus was the computer
at Bletchley Park, England, which was built to break the German
Enigma codes in World War II.
CanTab or "the Bombe" was a multi-processing Enigma emulator
which worked in conjunction with Colossus: Colossus figured out how
to set the Enigma rotors, then you went to the bombe to write out the
Turing's Treatise on the Enigma
- Modern encryption for privacy and authentication
article by Andrew Fernandes is a pretty good explanation.
It is fairly well known in the industry that a consortium
of intelligence agencies led by the US NSA and CIA are provided
access to most or all transatlantic communication circuits,
and that they routinely monitor a large part of the traffic.
The following links point to articles about these matters:
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Added encryption page.
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