Cryptographic Methods and Computer Security

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The Enigma Machine –created by the Nazis- was capable of reading any text message and transform it into an encrypted message, with the purpose of covering their military strategies during the Second World War, in what was known as the battle of the Atlantic, allowing it to send coded instructions to the German submarines that blew up the convoys sent from North America with material support for England. The Enigma’s operators could change the settings of the device freely through a system of small wheels and cylinders, in such a way that every iteration could lead to new encrypted messages. Alan Turing (London, 1912 – Wilmslow, United Kingdom, 1954), the mathematic genius who worked for the Government Code & Cypher School (GC&CS), from the British Intelligence Service, managed to decipher the unbreakable Enigma’s code in a few weeks, helping to intercept confidential information about The Nazis’ operations. The device depended on the usage of a key, but it had many security flaws that led to understanding its behavior, contributing to the ultimate victory over The Axis Powers, thus saving hundreds of innocent lives.

Thereby, Turing also improved computational theories and methodologies, the methods of memory allocation, the strategies of heuristic searching and the field of artificial intelligence. Alan Turing granted major importance to how efficient a given process was, rather than the reliability of the device designed. His ideas concerning human brain simulation through the usage of electronic devices promoted the creation of multiprocessing machines, known nowadays as personal computers. Finally, The Turing Test has the purpose to determine if a machine is capable of showing an intelligent behavior.

Since Ancient Greece, the art of war required secret mechanisms of information for its operations, in order to protect the hidden tactical plans from the enemies. Among them we can mention the Spartan scytale: a rudimentary cryptographic method based on a transposition of elemental arrays of rows and columns transcribed in a leather strip rolled up in a cane. Since ancient times, cryptography depended much more on mathematic operations than on computational power, a subsequent invention; this being proven in 1997, by the Rivest Group of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), that put the RSA (Rivest, Shamir, and Adleman) into operation, a system that uses a public key and trusts entirely on factorization techniques. Currently, the basic concepts that support computer security depend on RSA, certifying the reliability of the said algorithm.

However, as new technologies have emerged, the system has shown its limitations. RSA- just as any other cryptographic- is not infallible.  Inverse engineering techniques and cyber-attacks come together to weaken even more the achievements of encryption algorithms. Cryptography and cyber-attacks go hand in hand and are co-dependent, like vaccines and diseases. Consequently, encryption algorithms guarantee the user’s anonymity, the reliability of passwords, the confidentiality of data and offer many other advantages, always under probabilistic parameters.

This way we confirm how cryptographic methods are pioneers since the Spartan scytale to Turing’s discoveries resulted essential for the development of today’s computer world, ensuring reliability in financial transactions and data transfer through public networks in a secure way, protecting sensitive information that now allows safeguarding not only trade secrets but to structure human functions within the realm of global computer security.

Cited works

[1] Rivest, Ronald. “The Growth of Cryptography.” The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) World. Web. 02-02-2012. <;.

[2] Copeland, B. J. “Alan Turing: Codebreaker and AI Pioneer.” The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) World. Web. 02-02-2012. <;.