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cryptography

cryptography (krĭptŏgˈrəfē) [Gr.,=hidden writing], science of secret writing. There are many devices by which a message can be concealed from the casual reader, e.g., invisible writing, but the term cryptography strictly applies to translating messages into cipher or code. The science of breaking codes and ciphers without a key is called cryptanalysis. Cryptology is the science that embraces both cryptography and cryptanalysis. In enciphering, each letter of the message is replaced by another letter or figure; in encoding, syllables, words, or whole sentences are treated. The code is the agreed upon set of rules whereby messages are converted from one form to another. The beginnings of cryptography can be traced to the hieroglyphs of early Egyptian civilization (c.1900 B.C.). Ciphering has always been considered vital for diplomatic and military secrecy; the Bible is replete with examples of ciphering, and many figures throughout history have written in ciphers, including Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Alfred the Great, Mary Queen of Scots, and Louis XIV. Francis Bacon's celebrated biliteral cipher (1605) was an arrangement of the letters a and b in five-letter combinations, each representing a letter of the alphabet. This code illustrates the important principle that a code employing only two different signs can be used to transmit information. In the 20th cent. mathematical theory and computer science were both applied to cryptanalysis. As the science of cryptology has become increasingly sophisticated, most nations have found it necessary to develop special governmental bureaus to handle diplomatic and military security, e.g., the National Security Agency in the United States. The widespread use of computers and data transmission in commerce and finance is making cryptography very important in these fields as well. Recent successes in applying certain aspects of computer science to cryptography seem to be leading to more versatile and more secure systems in which encryption is implemented with sophisticated digital electronics. Industry and the U.S. government, however, have argued over who will have ultimate control over data encryption and, as a result, over government access to encrypted private transmissions.

Bibliography

See H. Gaines, Cryptanalysis (1956); J. R. Wolfe, Secret Writing (1970); D. Denning, Cryptography and Data Security (1982); C. A. Deavors and L. Kruh, Machine Cryptography and Modern Cryptoanalysis (1985); D. Kahn, The Codebreakers (rev. ed. 1996); S. Singh, The Code Book (1999).

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cipher

[′sī·fər]
(communications)
A transposition or substitution code for transmitting secret messages.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

cipher

, cypher
1. an obsolete name for zero
2. any of the Arabic numerals (0, 1, 2, 3, etc., to 9) or the Arabic system of numbering as a whole
3. Music a defect in an organ resulting in the continuous sounding of a pipe, the key of which has not been depressed
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005

cipher

Pronounced "sy-fer," a cipher is an algorithm that encrypts data. However, the term may also refer to the encrypted data as well. See encryption algorithm, ciphertext and cypherpunk.
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
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