History of cryptography

Encryption, also known as cryptography, has been used for many, many years throughout history. Evidence shows that encryption goes back as far as the Roman Empire, through encoded messages sent by footmen. Encryption was also used before the digital age and still now, by government and the military, but the military is still considered the biggest users of encrypted messages. For about 3000 years people have been disguising messages that they have thought important enough for only the intended recipient to understand. 

Key Historical Dates:

700 BC – Scytale

During times of battle, the Spartan military used to send messages through scytals. Both the recipient and the sender had a wooden rode that was exactly the same dimensions. Letters for a message were written on it when it was tightly wound around the stick. Then the message would be sent and only a leather strap of letters would be seen until the recipient wrapped the leather around the stick again. Then the message would be visible.

1467 – Alberti Cipher

In 1467 Leon Battista Alberti invented a cipher wheel that had two discs. This wheel, similar to the Caesar cipher wheel would have the alphabet on both disks that could be rotated and adjusted todecipher text messages.

1797 – Jefferson Wheel

Thomas Jefferson invented the Jefferson wheel in 1797. On an iron spindle, 26 cylinders of letters were threaded. The letters on the rod were written in a random order and by turning the wheel words would unscramble. When the recipient received the spindle, they would read out the scrambled letters and look on each line to see if there was text that made sense.

1943 – Enigma Machine

The Nazi military built the Enigma machine originally off the idea of Polish cryptanalysts. Everyday the cipher was changed and the machine was considered practically impossible to decode. With the help of Alan Turning, The Bletchley Park team figured out that the one flaw that the Enigma machine had was that, that the encrypted letter could not be encrypted as its real letter. With this piece of information and the Turing’s Bombe machine, the team soon cracked the code.

1961 – First Computer Password

In 1961 computers were scare, they were expensive and they were only found in research facilities. The MIT’s Compliable Time-Sharing System was the first username and password made for a computer. But the computer was bugged and anyone that logged on to it was able to access all passwords that were valid on that computer.

1979 – DES Invented

In 1979 the National Bureau of Standards invented the DataEncryption Standard (DES). It was the first standard encryption of its kind and it was such a strong encryption that it was almost impossible to crack. This was the standard encryption until that Electronic Freedom Foundation worked how to break the DES.

1985 – Videocipher II

In 1985 TV satellite had a scrambling system that was similar to the DES before it and this was put in place so that only paying subscribers would only receive special TV channels. But a black market soon emerged and unscrambled the DES system and it was estimated that only 10% of satellite dish owners actually paid subscription to watch special TV channels.

1995 – “Hackers”

In the 1995’s there began a computer virus and computer hacking culture just as the web started to become popular. This just madeencryption more important.

1997 – AES is Developed

Another version of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) was developed again in 1997 by The National Institute of Standards and Technology. This version of the AES is still used today. This AES uses 128-bit encryption which is said to take 2 to the 55th power (2^55) years to crack.

1997 – CAPTCHA

As the web was becoming increasingly popular spam grew to. In 1997 an AltaVista scientist invented CAPTCHA, which was a random text generator that showed random letter images that a human could read but not through machine vision. They also updated this concept with added security and renames it ReCAPTCHA, this made it even harder for machines to read the words that the images showed.

2006 – Rise of Identity Theft

A very popular and big business at the time and still currently is identity theft. The more people that joined the Internet, the more theft there would be. Also because there was more people on the Internet the availably of personal data increased making it easier for people trying to steal a persons identity. The most online stores at the time were breached, with T.J Maxx and Marshall’s department stores claiming that in-between 2005 and 2007 that the personal information of about 45 million credit and debit cars were stolen.


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