Cypherpunk – Wikipedia

This article is about cryptography advocates. For the book by Julian Assange, see Cypherpunks (book).

A cypherpunk (UK /sfpk/ US /sfrpk/)[1] is any activist advocating widespread use of strong cryptography and privacy-enhancing technologies as a route to social and political change. Originally communicating through the Cypherpunks electronic mailing list, informal groups aimed to achieve privacy and security through proactive use of cryptography. Cypherpunks have been engaged in an active movement since the late 1980s.

Until about the 1970s, cryptography was mainly practiced in secret by military or spy agencies. However, that changed when two publications brought it out of the closet into public awareness: the US government publication of the Data Encryption Standard (DES), a block cipher which became very widely used; and the first publicly available work on public-key cryptography, by Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman.

The technical roots of Cypherpunk ideas have been traced back to work by cryptographer David Chaum on topics such as anonymous digital cash and pseudonymous reputation systems, described in his paper “Security without Identification: Transaction Systems to Make Big Brother Obsolete” (1985).[2]

In the late 1980s, these ideas coalesced into something like a movement.[2]

In late 1992, Eric Hughes, Timothy C. May and John Gilmore founded a small group that met monthly at Gilmore’s company Cygnus Solutions in the San Francisco Bay Area, and was humorously termed cypherpunks by Jude Milhon at one of the first meetings – derived from cipher and cyberpunk.[3] In November 2006, the word was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.[4]

The Cypherpunks mailing list was started in 1992, and by 1994 had 700 subscribers.[3] At its peak, it was a very active forum with technical discussion ranging over mathematics, cryptography, computer science, political and philosophical discussion, personal arguments and attacks, etc., with some spam thrown in. An email from John Gilmore reports an average of 30 messages a day from December 1, 1996 to March 1, 1999, and suggests that the number was probably higher earlier.[5] The number of subscribers is estimated to have reached 2000 in the year 1997.[3]

In early 1997, Jim Choate and Igor Chudov set up the Cypherpunks Distributed Remailer,[6] a network of independent mailing list nodes intended to eliminate the single point of failure inherent in a centralized list architecture. At its peak, the Cypherpunks Distributed Remailer included at least seven nodes.[7] By mid-2005, ran the only remaining node.[8] In mid 2013, following a brief outage, the node’s list software was changed from Majordomo to GNU Mailman[9] and subsequently the node was renamed to[10] The CDR architecture is now defunct, though the list administrator stated in 2013 that he was exploring a way to integrate this functionality with the new mailing list software.[9]

For a time, the cypherpunks mailing list was a popular tool with mailbombers,[11] who would subscribe a victim to the mailing list in order to cause a deluge of messages to be sent to him or her. (This was usually done as a prank, in contrast to the style of terrorist referred to as a mailbomber.) This precipitated the mailing list sysop(s) to institute a reply-to-subscribe system. Approximately two hundred messages a day was typical for the mailing list, divided between personal arguments and attacks, political discussion, technical discussion, and early spam.[12][13]

The cypherpunks mailing list had extensive discussions of the public policy issues related to cryptography and on the politics and philosophy of concepts such as anonymity, pseudonyms, reputation, and privacy. These discussions continue both on the remaining node and elsewhere as the list has become increasingly moribund.

Events such as the GURPS Cyberpunk raid lent weight to the idea that private individuals needed to take steps to protect their privacy. In its heyday, the list discussed public policy issues related to cryptography, as well as more practical nuts-and-bolts mathematical, computational, technological, and cryptographic matters. The list had a range of viewpoints and there was probably no completely unanimous agreement on anything. The general attitude, though, definitely put personal privacy and personal liberty above all other considerations.

The list was discussing questions about privacy, government monitoring, corporate control of information, and related issues in the early 1990s that did not become major topics for broader discussion until ten years or so later. Some list participants were more radical on these issues than almost anyone else.

Those wishing to understand the context of the list might refer to the history of cryptography; in the early 1990s, the US government considered cryptography software a munition for export purposes, which hampered commercial deployment with no gain in national security, as knowledge and skill was not limited to US citizens. (PGP source code was published as a paper book to bypass these regulations and demonstrate their futility.) The US government had tried to subvert cryptography through schemes such as Skipjack and key escrow. It was also not widely known that all communications were logged by government agencies (which would later be revealed during the NSA and AT&T scandals) though this was taken as an obvious axiom by list members.

The original cypherpunk mailing list, and the first list spin-off, coderpunks, were originally hosted on John Gilmore’s, but after a falling out with the sysop over moderation, the list was migrated to several cross-linked mail-servers in what was called the “distributed mailing list.”[14][15] The coderpunks list, open by invitation only, existed for a time. Coderpunks took up more technical matters and had less discussion of public policy implications. There are several lists today that can trace their lineage directly to the original Cypherpunks list: the cryptography list (, the financial cryptography list (, and a small group of closed (invitation-only) lists as well. continued to run with the existing subscriber list, those that didn’t unsubscribe, and was mirrored on the new distributed mailing list, but messages from the distributed list didn’t appear on[16] As the list faded in popularity, so too did it fade in the number of cross-linked subscription nodes.

To some extent, the cryptography list[17] acts as a successor to cypherpunks; it has many of the people and continues some of the same discussions. However, it is a moderated list, considerably less zany and somewhat more technical. A number of current systems in use trace to the mailing list, including Pretty Good Privacy, /dev/random in the Linux kernel (the actual code has been completely reimplemented several times since then) and today’s anonymous remailers.

The basic ideas can be found in A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto (Eric Hughes, 1993): “Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age. … We cannot expect governments, corporations, or other large, faceless organizations to grant us privacy … We must defend our own privacy if we expect to have any. … Cypherpunks write code. We know that someone has to write software to defend privacy, and … we’re going to write it.”[18]

Some are or were quite senior people at major hi-tech companies and others are well-known researchers (see list with affiliations below).

The first mass media discussion of cypherpunks was in a 1993 Wired article by Steven Levy titled Crypto Rebels:

The people in this room hope for a world where an individual’s informational footprints — everything from an opinion on abortion to the medical record of an actual abortion — can be traced only if the individual involved chooses to reveal them; a world where coherent messages shoot around the globe by network and microwave, but intruders and feds trying to pluck them out of the vapor find only gibberish; a world where the tools of prying are transformed into the instruments of privacy.

There is only one way this vision will materialize, and that is by widespread use of cryptography. Is this technologically possible? Definitely. The obstacles are political — some of the most powerful forces in government are devoted to the control of these tools. In short, there is a war going on between those who would liberate crypto and those who would suppress it. The seemingly innocuous bunch strewn around this conference room represents the vanguard of the pro-crypto forces. Though the battleground seems remote, the stakes are not: The outcome of this struggle may determine the amount of freedom our society will grant us in the 21st century. To the Cypherpunks, freedom is an issue worth some risk.[19]

The three masked men on the cover of that edition of Wired were prominent cypherpunks Tim May, Eric Hughes and John Gilmore.

Later, Levy wrote a book, Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government Saving Privacy in the Digital Age,[20] covering the crypto wars of the 1990s in detail. “Code Rebels” in the title is almost synonymous with cypherpunks.

The term cypherpunk is mildly ambiguous. In most contexts it means anyone advocating cryptography as a tool for social change, social impact and expression. However, it can also be used to mean a participant in the Cypherpunks electronic mailing list described below. The two meanings obviously overlap, but they are by no means synonymous.

Documents exemplifying cypherpunk ideas include Timothy C. May’s The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto (1992)[21] and The Cyphernomicon (1994),[22]A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto.[18]

A very basic cypherpunk issue is privacy in communications and data retention. John Gilmore said he wanted “a guarantee — with physics and mathematics, not with laws — that we can give ourselves real privacy of personal communications.”[23]

Such guarantees require strong cryptography, so cypherpunks are fundamentally opposed to government policies attempting to control the usage or export of cryptography, which remained an issue throughout the late 1990s. The Cypherpunk Manifesto stated “Cypherpunks deplore regulations on cryptography, for encryption is fundamentally a private act.”[18]

This was a central issue for many cypherpunks. Most were passionately opposed to various government attempts to limit cryptography export laws, promotion of limited key length ciphers, and especially escrowed encryption.

The questions of anonymity, pseudonymity and reputation were also extensively discussed.

Arguably, the possibility of anonymous speech and publication is vital for an open society, an essential requirement for genuine freedom of speech this was the position of most cypherpunks.[citation needed] A frequently cited example was that the Federalist Papers were originally published under a pseudonym.

Questions of censorship and government or police monitoring were also much discussed. Generally, cypherpunks opposed both.

In particular, the US government’s Clipper chip scheme for escrowed encryption of telephone conversations (encryption secure against most attackers, but breakable at need by government) was seen as anathema by many on the list. This was an issue that provoked strong opposition and brought many new recruits to the cypherpunk ranks. List participant Matt Blaze found a serious flaw[24] in the scheme, helping to hasten its demise.

Steven Schear created[when?] the warrant canary to thwart the secrecy provisions of court orders and national security letters.[citation needed] As of 2013[update], warrant canaries are gaining commercial acceptance.[25]

An important set of discussions concerns the use of cryptography in the presence of oppressive authorities. As a result, Cypherpunks have discussed and improved steganographic methods that hide the use of crypto itself, or that allow interrogators to believe that they have forcibly extracted hidden information from a subject. For instance, Rubberhose was a tool that partitioned and intermixed secret data on a drive with fake secret data, each of which accessed via a different password. Interrogators, having extracted a password, are led to believe that they have indeed unlocked the desired secrets, whereas in reality the actual data is still hidden. In other words, even its presence is hidden. Likewise, cypherpunks have also discussed under what conditions encryption may be used without being noticed by network monitoring systems installed by oppressive regimes.

As the Manifesto says, “Cypherpunks write code”;[18] the notion that good ideas need to be implemented, not just discussed, is very much part of the culture of the mailing list. John Gilmore, whose site hosted the original cypherpunks mailing list, wrote: “We are literally in a race between our ability to build and deploy technology, and their ability to build and deploy laws and treaties. Neither side is likely to back down or wise up until it has definitively lost the race.”[citation needed]

Anonymous remailers such as the Mixmaster Remailer were almost entirely a cypherpunk development. Among the other projects they have been involved in were PGP for email privacy, FreeS/WAN for opportunistic encryption of the whole net, Off-the-record messaging for privacy in Internet chat, and the Tor project for anonymous web surfing.

In 1998, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, with assistance from the mailing list, built a $200,000 machine that could brute-force a Data Encryption Standard key in a few days.[26] The project demonstrated that DES was, without question, insecure and obsolete, in sharp contrast to the US government’s recommendation of the algorithm.

Cypherpunks also participated, along with other experts, in several reports on cryptographic matters.

One such paper was “Minimal Key Lengths for Symmetric Ciphers to Provide Adequate Commercial Security”.[27] It suggested 75 bits was the minimum key size to allow an existing cipher to be considered secure and kept in service. At the time, the Data Encryption Standard with 56-bit keys was still a US government standard, mandatory for some applications.

Other papers were critical analysis of government schemes. “The Risks of Key Recovery, Key Escrow, and Trusted Third-Party Encryption”,[28] evaluated escrowed encryption proposals. Comments on the Carnivore System Technical Review.[29] looked at an FBI scheme for monitoring email.

Cypherpunks provided significant input to the 1996 National Research Council report on encryption policy, Cryptography’s Role In Securing the Information Society (CRISIS).[30] This report, commissioned by the U.S. Congress in 1993, was developed via extensive hearings across the nation from all interested stakeholders, by a committee of talented people. It recommended a gradual relaxation of the existing U.S. government restrictions on encryption. Like many such study reports, its conclusions were largely ignored by policy-makers. Later events such as the final rulings in the cypherpunks lawsuits forced a more complete relaxation of the unconstitutional controls on encryption software.

Cypherpunks have filed a number of lawsuits, mostly suits against the US government alleging that some government action is unconstitutional.

Phil Karn sued the State Department in 1994 over cryptography export controls[31] after they ruled that, while the book Applied Cryptography[32] could legally be exported, a floppy disk containing a verbatim copy of code printed in the book was legally a munition and required an export permit, which they refused to grant. Karn also appeared before both House and Senate committees looking at cryptography issues.

Daniel J. Bernstein, supported by the EFF, also sued over the export restrictions, arguing that preventing publication of cryptographic source code is an unconstitutional restriction on freedom of speech. He won, effectively overturning the export law. See Bernstein v. United States for details.

Peter Junger also sued on similar grounds, and won.

John Gilmore has sued US Attorneys General Ashcroft and Gonzales, arguing that the requirement to present identification documents before boarding a plane is unconstitutional.[33] These suits have not been successful to date.

Cypherpunks encouraged civil disobedience, in particular US law on the export of cryptography. Until 1996, cryptographic code was legally a munition, and until 2000 export required a permit.

In 1995 Adam Back wrote a version of the RSA algorithm for public-key cryptography in three lines of Perl[34][35] and suggested people use it as an email signature file:

Vince Cate put up a web page that invited anyone to become an international arms trafficker; every time someone clicked on the form, an export-restricted item originally PGP, later a copy of Back’s program would be mailed from a US server to one in Anguilla. This gained overwhelming attention. There were options to add your name to a list of such traffickers and to send email to the President of the United States registering your protest.[36][37][38]

In Neal Stephenson’s novel Cryptonomicon many characters are on the “Secret Admirers” mailing list. This is fairly obviously based on the cypherpunks list, and several well-known cypherpunks are mentioned in the acknowledgements. Much of the plot revolves around cypherpunk ideas; the leading characters are building a data haven which will allow anonymous financial transactions, and the book is full of cryptography. But, according to the author[39] the book’s title is in spite of its similarity not based on the Cyphernomicon,[22] an online cypherpunk FAQ document.

Cypherpunk achievements would later also be used on the Canadian e-wallet, the MintChip, and the creation of bitcoin. It was an inspiration for CryptoParty decades later to such an extent that the Cypherpunk Manifesto is quoted at the header of its Wiki,[40] and Eric Hughes delivered the keynote address at the Amsterdam CryptoParty on 27 August 2012.

Cypherpunks list participants included many notable computer industry figures. Most were list regulars, although not all would call themselves “cypherpunks”.[41] The following is a list of noteworthy cypherpunks and their achievements:

* indicates someone mentioned in the acknowledgements of Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon.

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How to Break Cryptography | Infinite Series – YouTube

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Key (cryptography) – Wikipedia

In cryptography, a key is a piece of information (a parameter) that determines the functional output of a cryptographic algorithm. For encryption algorithms, a key specifies the transformation of plaintext into ciphertext, and vice versa for decryption algorithms. Keys also specify transformations in other cryptographic algorithms, such as digital signature schemes and message authentication codes.

In designing security systems, it is wise to assume that the details of the cryptographic algorithm are already available to the attacker. This is known as Kerckhoffs’ principle “only secrecy of the key provides security”, or, reformulated as Shannon’s maxim, “the enemy knows the system”. The history of cryptography provides evidence that it can be difficult to keep the details of a widely used algorithm secret (see security through obscurity). A key is often easier to protect (it’s typically a small piece of information) than an encryption algorithm, and easier to change if compromised. Thus, the security of an encryption system in most cases relies on some key being kept secret.

Trying to keep keys secret is one of the most difficult problems in practical cryptography; see key management. An attacker who obtains the key (by, for example, theft, extortion, dumpster diving, assault, torture, or social engineering) can recover the original message from the encrypted data, and issue signatures.

Keys are generated to be used with a given suite of algorithms, called a cryptosystem. Encryption algorithms which use the same key for both encryption and decryption are known as symmetric key algorithms. A newer class of “public key” cryptographic algorithms was invented in the 1970s. These asymmetric key algorithms use a pair of keys or keypair a public key and a private one. Public keys are used for encryption or signature verification; private ones decrypt and sign. The design is such that finding out the private key is extremely difficult, even if the corresponding public key is known. As that design involves lengthy computations, a keypair is often used to exchange an on-the-fly symmetric key, which will only be used for the current session. RSA and DSA are two popular public-key cryptosystems; DSA keys can only be used for signing and verifying, not for encryption.

Part of the security brought about by cryptography concerns confidence about who signed a given document, or who replies at the other side of a connection. Assuming that keys are not compromised, that question consists of determining the owner of the relevant public key. To be able to tell a key’s owner, public keys are often enriched with attributes such as names, addresses, and similar identifiers. The packed collection of a public key and its attributes can be digitally signed by one or more supporters. In the PKI model, the resulting object is called a certificate and is signed by a certificate authority (CA). In the PGP model, it is still called a “key”, and is signed by various people who personally verified that the attributes match the subject.[1]

In both PKI and PGP models, compromised keys can be revoked. Revocation has the side effect of disrupting the relationship between a key’s attributes and the subject, which may still be valid. In order to have a possibility to recover from such disruption, signers often use different keys for everyday tasks: Signing with an intermediate certificate (for PKI) or a subkey (for PGP) facilitates keeping the principal private key in an offline safe.

Deleting a key on purpose to make the data inaccessible is called crypto-shredding.

For the one-time pad system the key must be at least as long as the message. In encryption systems that use a cipher algorithm, messages can be much longer than the key. The key must, however, be long enough so that an attacker cannot try all possible combinations.

A key length of 80 bits is generally considered the minimum for strong security with symmetric encryption algorithms. 128-bit keys are commonly used and considered very strong. See the key size article for a more complete discussion.

The keys used in public key cryptography have some mathematical structure. For example, public keys used in the RSA system are the product of two prime numbers. Thus public key systems require longer key lengths than symmetric systems for an equivalent level of security. 3072 bits is the suggested key length for systems based on factoring and integer discrete logarithms which aim to have security equivalent to a 128 bit symmetric cipher. Elliptic curve cryptography may allow smaller-size keys for equivalent security, but these algorithms have only been known for a relatively short time and current estimates of the difficulty of searching for their keys may not survive. As of 2004, a message encrypted using a 109-bit key elliptic curve algorithm had been broken by brute force.[2] The current rule of thumb is to use an ECC key twice as long as the symmetric key security level desired. Except for the random one-time pad, the security of these systems has not (as of 2008[update]) been proven mathematically, so a theoretical breakthrough could make everything one has encrypted an open book. This is another reason to err on the side of choosing longer keys.

To prevent a key from being guessed, keys need to be generated truly randomly and contain sufficient entropy. The problem of how to safely generate truly random keys is difficult, and has been addressed in many ways by various cryptographic systems. There is a RFC on generating randomness (RFC 4086, Randomness Requirements for Security). Some operating systems include tools for “collecting” entropy from the timing of unpredictable operations such as disk drive head movements. For the production of small amounts of keying material, ordinary dice provide a good source of high quality randomness.

For most computer security purposes and for most users, “key” is not synonymous with “password” (or “passphrase”), although a password can in fact be used as a key. The primary practical difference between keys and passwords is that the latter are intended to be generated, read, remembered, and reproduced by a human user (although nowadays the user may delegate those tasks to password management software). A key, by contrast, is intended for use by the software that is implementing the cryptographic algorithm, and so human readability etc. is not required. In fact, most users will, in most cases, be unaware of even the existence of the keys being used on their behalf by the security components of their everyday software applications.

If a password is used as an encryption key, then in a well-designed crypto system it would not be used as such on its own. This is because passwords tend to be human-readable and,hence, may not be particularly strong. To compensate, a good crypto system will use the password-acting-as-key not to perform the primary encryption task itself, but rather to act as an input to a key derivation function (KDF). That KDF uses the password as a starting point from which it will then generate the actual secure encryption key itself. Various methods such as adding a salt and key stretching may be used in the generation.

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Key (cryptography) – Wikipedia

Origin of Cryptography –

Human being from ages had two inherent needs (a) to communicate and share information and (b) to communicate selectively. These two needs gave rise to the art of coding the messages in such a way that only the intended people could have access to the information. Unauthorized people could not extract any information, even if the scrambled messages fell in their hand.

The art and science of concealing the messages to introduce secrecy in information security is recognized as cryptography.

The word cryptography was coined by combining two Greek words, Krypto meaning hidden and graphene meaning writing.

The art of cryptography is considered to be born along with the art of writing. As civilizations evolved, human beings got organized in tribes, groups, and kingdoms. This led to the emergence of ideas such as power, battles, supremacy, and politics. These ideas further fueled the natural need of people to communicate secretly with selective recipient which in turn ensured the continuous evolution of cryptography as well.

The roots of cryptography are found in Roman and Egyptian civilizations.

The first known evidence of cryptography can be traced to the use of hieroglyph. Some 4000 years ago, the Egyptians used to communicate by messages written in hieroglyph. This code was the secret known only to the scribes who used to transmit messages on behalf of the kings. One such hieroglyph is shown below.

Later, the scholars moved on to using simple mono-alphabetic substitution ciphers during 500 to 600 BC. This involved replacing alphabets of message with other alphabets with some secret rule. This rule became a key to retrieve the message back from the garbled message.

The earlier Roman method of cryptography, popularly known as the Caesar Shift Cipher, relies on shifting the letters of a message by an agreed number (three was a common choice), the recipient of this message would then shift the letters back by the same number and obtain the original message.

Steganography is similar but adds another dimension to Cryptography. In this method, people not only want to protect the secrecy of an information by concealing it, but they also want to make sure any unauthorized person gets no evidence that the information even exists. For example, invisible watermarking.

In steganography, an unintended recipient or an intruder is unaware of the fact that observed data contains hidden information. In cryptography, an intruder is normally aware that data is being communicated, because they can see the coded/scrambled message.

It is during and after the European Renaissance, various Italian and Papal states led the rapid proliferation of cryptographic techniques. Various analysis and attack techniques were researched in this era to break the secret codes.

Improved coding techniques such as Vigenere Coding came into existence in the 15th century, which offered moving letters in the message with a number of variable places instead of moving them the same number of places.

Only after the 19th century, cryptography evolved from the ad hoc approaches to encryption to the more sophisticated art and science of information security.

In the early 20th century, the invention of mechanical and electromechanical machines, such as the Enigma rotor machine, provided more advanced and efficient means of coding the information.

During the period of World War II, both cryptography and cryptanalysis became excessively mathematical.

With the advances taking place in this field, government organizations, military units, and some corporate houses started adopting the applications of cryptography. They used cryptography to guard their secrets from others. Now, the arrival of computers and the Internet has brought effective cryptography within the reach of common people.

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Origin of Cryptography –

Security, privacy, and cryptography Microsoft Research

Differentially Private Network-Trace-Analysis Tools Research and analysis related to computer networks is often hampered by the tension between the need for accurate network packet traces to study, and the concern that these traces may contain sensitive information. Starting from recent work on differential privacy, we have produced a toolkit and a collection of standard network trace analyses using these

FourQLib FourQLib is an efficient and portable math library that provides functions for computing essential elliptic curve operations on a new, high-performance curve called FourQ.

FS2PV: A Cryptographic-Protocol Verifier for F# FS2PV is a verification tool that compiles cryptographic-protocol implementations in a first-order subset of F# to a formal pi-calculus model. This pi-calculus model then can be analyzed using ProVerif to prove the desired security properties or to find security flaws.

LatticeCrypto LatticeCrypto is a high-performance and portable software library that implements lattice-based cryptographic algorithms.

MSR ECCLib MSR ECCLib is an efficient cryptographic library that provides functions for computing essential elliptic curve operations on a new set of high-security curves.

MSR JavaScript Cryptography Library The Microsoft Research JavaScript Cryptography Library has been developed for use with cloud services in an HTML5 compliant and forward-looking manner.

SIDH Library SIDH is a fast and portable software library that implements a new suite of algorithms for Supersingular Isogeny Diffie-Hellman (SIDH) key exchange.

Simple Encrypted Arithmetic Library (SEAL) SEAL is an easy-to-use homomorphic encryption library, developed by researchers in the Cryptography Research group at Microsoft Research. SEAL is written in C++11, and contains .NET wrappers for the public API. It has no external dependencies.

TulaFale: A Security Tool for Web Services TulaFale is a new specification language for writing machine-checkable descriptions of SOAP-based security protocols and their properties.

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Security, privacy, and cryptography Microsoft Research

The Science Behind Cryptocurrencies Cryptography

In this guide, we will be going deep into symmetric and asymmetric cryptography and the science behind cryptocurrencies cryptography.

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum use a peer-to-peer decentralized system to conduct transactions. Since the entire process is online, there are fears that the transactions maybe volatile and hackable. What we are going to see in this guide is how cryptocurrency uses cryptography to make their transactions extremely secure.

Digital Signatures

One of the most important cryptographical tools that are used in cryptocurrency is the concept of signatures. What is a signature in real life and what are its properties? Imagine a paper that you have signed with your signature, what should a good signature do?

In the real world, however, no matter how intricate the signature, there are always chances of forgery, and you cannot really verify signatures using simple visual aids, it is very inefficient and non-reliable.

Cryptography gives us a solution to this by means of digital signatures which is done via the use of keys. So, what are keys? And how are the used in the blockchain? Before we explore those, it is important to know more about basic cryptography.

Cryptography is a method of using advanced mathematical principles in storing and transmitting data in a particular form so that only those, for whom it is intended for, can read and process it. Cryptography has been used for thousands and thousands of years by people to relay messages without detection. In fact, the earliest use of cryptography was seen in the tomb taken from Old Kingdom in Egypt circa 1900 BCE. Cryptography has existed in the modern society through one way or another.

Encryption is one of the most critical tools used in cryptography. It is a means by which a message can be made unreadable for an unintended reader and can be read only by the sender and the recipient. In modern technology, there are three forms of encryption that are widely used, symmetric cryptography, asymmetric cryptography, and hashing.

Symmetric Cryptography

Symmetric cryptography is the earliest known cryptographic method known to man. The concept is very simple and if we were to break it down to steps, this is what it will look like:

If we were to show a visual representation of the process, this is what it will look like.

Image credit: SSL2BUY

The are two types of symmetric cryptography:

Stream cipher basically means using a fixed key which replaces the message with a pseudorandom string of characters. It is basically the encryption of each letter one at a time.

We are going to discuss 3 kinds of stream ciphers in this guide to give you an idea of how stream ciphers work:

One-time pad with alphabets

For doing this encryption we need to have a key which has the same number of characters as the message and it must be used one time only (hence the term one-time pad).

Suppose for this example we are going to send a message, MEET ME OUTSIDE to our friend Bob. But we dont want anyone intercepting our message. This is why, Bob and us have decided to use a one-time pad which goes like this:


As you can see, the pad has the same number of characters as the message as well, i.e. 13.

Now, this is a very simple example of the one-time pad, we are using this because we feel it is the best example to use to understand this tactic.

Now, one more thing you need take note of, every alphabet will be replaced by its numeric equivalent in during the process.

The numerical mapping goes like this:

During the process, there will be 6 pieces of data that we need which are: Basically, the numerical equivalent of each alphabet. Ok, now that we have built the foundations, lets move on to the actual process.

So, we need to send the message MEET ME OUTSIDE and we need to use the one-time pad to encrypt it.

The encryption process

So, lets start off by putting in the message in the OM

We put the message MEET ME OUTSIDE in the OM row.Ok, so what happened here?

Next, we used the numerical mapping table to get the numerical equivalent of each alphabet. So, lets refer to the mapping table and see what we get:

In the OTP row we put in the key that we were already given which is, in case you have forgotten, B D U F G H W E I U F G W.Its just simple substitution, we will take these values and put it in NOM row.

Now, in the NOTP row we used the same number mapping table and found the equivalent numerical values of the key which are:

1, 3, 20, 5, 6, 7, 22, 4, 8, 20, 5, 6, 22.

In the new row, for the Numerical cipher text (NCT) we add the NOTP and NOM and mod the result by 26 to get our NCT.

So, finally the message MEET ME OUTSIDE turns into a pseudo-random series of characters N H Y Y S L K Y B M N J A.Thats how you find the values for NCT and then you use the mapping table and find the corresponding alphabets which are: N H Y Y S L K Y B M N J A.

That is how the encryption process works.

Now we will see how we can decrypt the message using the exact same key.

Lets see the data that Bob has with him:

So, how will he decrypt the message using this data?

So, lets see how the NOM calculation work?

Now, if we map the NOM to its alphabetical equivalent using the mapping table then we get:


And just like that, the message is encrypted and decrypted using the same key.

One-time pad with XOR gate

XOR or Exclusive OR is a logic gate. What is a logic gate? A logic gate usually takes in 2 inputs and gives out 1 output. The inputs and outputs are binary values, meaning they can be 1 or 0. A XOR logic gate takes in 2 binary inputs and gives out a high output ONLY when the inputs are different. Meaning, if A and B are inputted to a XOR gate then the out C will be 1 ONLY when A is not equal to B.

The XOR gate looks like this:

Image courtesy: Wikimedia

This what the XOR truth table look like:

Suppose you have a plain text data which you want to send to your friend Alice. First, youll convert it to its binary form. Suppose the message that you have is this: 00011110

Now you have the key, the key that you share with your recipient and suppose you have passed the key through an algorithm which gives you the equivalent binary result: 01001010.

So now that you have the key, you are going to XOR each corresponding individual bits to get the resulting cipher text output.

Cipher Text = Plain Text XOR Key

So if you XOR both the data the key that you will get is:


This is the cipher text that Alice will get from you.

The decryption process

So now, how will Alice decrypt your message and retrieve the original one?

This is the data that she has:

So what is she going to do? It is simple.

She will simply XOR the key and the cipher text and she will retrieve the original message! See for yourself:

And just like that, she will retrieve the original message.

Linear feedback shift register

What is a linear feedback shift register? It is a function whose future output completely depends on its earlier (or current) state. This will become clearer as you keep reading so dont get scared off!

The idea of this style of a stream cipher is to predetermine a key with your recipient which will be a linear feedback shift register function which will be used by you to determine the code. Suppose you spoke to your friend Bob and determined that this is the formula that you both want to go with (credit to Daniel Rees from Youtube for this formula).

And lets also assume that prior to sending this message you and Bob determined that E(1) = 2 and E(2) = 4.

Now you can see that in this equation, all future outputs are dependent upon the previous outputs.

So, suppose the message that you want to send to Bob is MEET ME. Since there are 6 characters, we need to determine 6 values of E() to act as key. We already have predetermined the values of E(1) and E(2). Now we need to calculate E(3) to E(6).

So, now that we have the keys, lets start the decryption.

The encryption process

So now that we have the key and message, lets create the table:

To get the numerical cipher text, you add the key and the corresponding numerical value of the alphabet that you map from this table that we have already seen before:

Now, to get the numerical value of the cipher texts, add the key and the numerical value of the original message and mod with 26.

So you get:

Now use the mapping table again to find the corresponding alphabets and you get OIORSO. Thats the encrypted message.

The decryption of this message is really hard especially if you dont have the key. An expert might spot a pattern though. You will need computers to beak this code.

The Rivest Cipher 4 of the RC4

The A5/1

So, that is pretty much it about stream ciphers, time to move on to block ciphers.

Block ciphers are a form of symmetric cryptography which uses a key of a fixed length to encrypt a block of fix length. Lets start by checking out a very common substitution cipher that you must have seen before:

So, if someone were to tell you that they got a message which says EFBD and wants you to decrypt it and get the original message instead, how will you do it?

You will simply see the table, see which alphabets correspond to which and then simply substitute right? So EFBD is the cipher for FACE.

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The Science Behind Cryptocurrencies Cryptography

What is Cryptography? Webopedia Definition


By Vangie Beal

The art of protecting information by transforming it (encrypting it) into an unreadable format, called cipher text. Only those who possess a secret key can decipher (or decrypt) the message into plain text. Encrypted messages can sometimes be broken by cryptanalysis, also called codebreaking, although modern cryptography techniques are virtually unbreakable.

As the Internet and other forms of electronic communication become more prevalent, electronic security is becoming increasingly important. Cryptography is used to protect e-mail messages, credit card information, and corporate data. One of the most popular cryptography systems used on the Internet is Pretty Good Privacybecause it’s effective and free.

Cryptography systems can be broadly classified into symmetric-key systems that use a single key that both the sender and recipient have, and public-keysystems that use two keys, a public key known to everyone and a private key that only the recipient of messages uses.

Stay up to date on the latest developments in Internet terminology with a free weekly newsletter from Webopedia. Join to subscribe now.

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What is Cryptography? Webopedia Definition

The ABCs of ciphertext exploits and other cryptography attacks – TechTarget

The following is an excerpt from the Official (ISC)2 Guide to the CISSP CBK, fourth edition, edited by Adam Gordon,…

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CISSP-ISSAP, ISSMP, SSCP. This section from Domain 3 offers a comprehensive overview of the various methods attackers use to crack ciphertext and otherwise exploit cryptography systems.

Todays cryptography is far more advanced than the cryptosystems of yesterday. Organizations are able to both encrypt and break ciphers that could not even have been imagined before human civilization had the power of computers. Today’s cryptosystems operate in a manner so that anyone with a computer can use cryptography without even understanding cryptographic operations, algorithms and advanced mathematics. However, it is still important to implement a cryptosystem in a secure manner. Any security system or product is subject to compromise or attack. The following explains common attacks against cryptography systems.

The ciphertext-only attack is one of the most difficult because the attacker has so little information to start with. All the attacker starts with is some unintelligible data that he suspects may be an important encrypted message. The attack becomes simpler when the attacker is able to gather several pieces of ciphertext and thereby look for trends or statistical data that would help in the attack. Adequate encryption is defined as encryption that is strong enough to make brute force attacks impractical because there is a higher work factor than the attacker wants to invest into the attack. Moores law states that available computing power doubles every 18 months. Experts suggest this advance may be slowing; however, encryption strength considered adequate today will probably not be sufficient a few years from now due to advances in CPU and CPU technologies and new attack techniques. Security professionals should consider this when defining encryption requirements.

For a known plaintext attack, the attacker has access to both the ciphertext and the plaintext versions of the same message. The goal of this type of attack is to find the link — the cryptographic key that was used to encrypt the message. Once the key has been found, the attacker would then be able to decrypt all messages that had been encrypted using that key. In some cases, the attacker may not have an exact copy of the message; if the message was known to be an e-commerce transaction, the attacker knows the format of such transactions even though he does not know the actual values in the transaction.

To execute the chosen attacks, the attacker knows the algorithm used for the encrypting, or even better, he may have access to the machine used to do the encryption and is trying to determine the key. This may happen if a workstation used for encrypting messages is left unattended. Now the attacker can run chosen pieces of plaintext through the algorithm and see what the result is. This may assist in a known plaintext attack. An adaptive chosen plaintext attack is where the attacker can modify the chosen input files to see what effect that would have on the resulting ciphertext.

This is similar to the chosen plaintext attack in that the attacker has access to the decryption device or software and is attempting to defeat the cryptographic protection by decrypting chosen pieces of ciphertext to discover the key. An adaptive chosen ciphertext would be the same, except that the attacker can modify the ciphertext prior to putting it through the algorithm. Asymmetric cryptosystems are vulnerable to chosen ciphertext attacks. For example, the RSA algorithm is vulnerable to this type of attack. The attacker would select a section of plaintext, encrypt it with the victims public key, then decrypt the ciphertext to get the plaintext back. Although this does not yield any new information to the attacker, the attacker can exploit properties of RSA by selecting blocks of data, when processed using the victims private key, yields information that can he used in cryptanalysis. The weakness with asymmetric encryption in chosen ciphertext attacks can be mitigated by including a random padding in the plaintext before encrypting the data. Security vendor RSA Security recommends modifying the plaintext by using a process called optimal asymmetric encryption padding (OAEP). RSA encryption with OAEP is defined in PKCS #1 v2.1.

Also called a side-channel attack, this more complex attack is executed by measuring the exact execution times and power required by the crypto device to perform the encryption or decryption. By measuring this, it is possible to determine the value of the key and the algorithm used.

This is a known plaintext attack that uses linear approximations to describe the behavior of the block cipher. Linear cryptanalysis is a known plaintext attack and uses a linear approximation to describe the behavior of the block cipher. Given sufficient pairs of plaintext and corresponding ciphertext, one can obtain bits of information about the key, and increased amounts of data will usually give a higher probability of success. There have been a variety of enhancements and improvements to the basic attack. For example, there is an attack called differential — linear cryptanalysis, which combines elements of differential cryptanalysis with those of linear cryptanalysis.

Implementation attacks are some of the most common and popular attacks against cryptographic systems due to their ease and reliance on system elements outside of the algorithm. The main types of implementation attacks include:

Side-channel attacks are passive attacks that rely on a physical attribute of the implementation such as power consumption/emanation. These attributes are studied to determine the secret key and the algorithm function. Some examples of popular side channels include timing analysis and electromagnetic differential analysis.

Fault analysis attempts to force the system into an error state to gain erroneous results. By forcing an error, gaining the results and comparing it with known good results, an attacker may learn about the secret key and the algorithm.

Probing attacks attempt to watch the circuitry surrounding the cryptographic module in hopes that the complementary components will disclose information about the key or the algorithm. Additionally, new hardware may be added to the cryptographic module to observe and inject information.

This attack is meant to disrupt and damage processing by the attacker, through the resending of repeated files to the host. If there are no checks such as time-stamping, use of one-time tokens or sequence verification codes in the receiving software, the system might process duplicate files.

Algebraic attacks are a class of techniques that rely for their success on block ciphers exhibiting a high degree of mathematical structure. For instance, it is conceivable that a block cipher might exhibit a group structure. If this were the case, it would then mean that encrypting a plaintext under one key and then encrypting the result under another key would always be equivalent to single encryption under some other single key. If so, then the block cipher would be considerably weaker, and tile use of multiple encryption cycles would offer no additional security over single encryption.

Hash functions map plaintext into a hash. Because the hash function is a one-way process, one should not be able to determine the plaintext from the hash itself. To determine a given plaintext from its hash, refer to these two ways to do that:

1. Hash each plaintext until matching hash is found; or

2. Hash each plaintext, but store each generated hash in a table that can used as a look up table so hashes do not need to be generated again. A rainbow table is a lookup table of sorted hash outputs. The idea here is that storing precomputed hash values in a rainbow table that one can later refer to saves time and computer resources when attempting to decipher tile plaintext from its hash value.

This attack works closely with several other types of attacks. It is especially useful when attacking a substitution cipher where the statistics of the plaintext language are known. In English, for example, some letters will appear more often than others will, allowing an attacker to assume that those letters may represent an E or S.

Because a hash is a short representation of a message, given enough time and resources, another message would give the same hash value. However, hashing algorithms have been developed with this in mind so that they can resist a simple birthday attack. The point of the birthday attack is that it is easier to find two messages that hash to the same message digest than to match a specific message and its specific message digest. The usual countermeasure is to use a hash algorithm with twice the message digest length as the desired work factor (e.g., use 160-bit SHA-1 to have it resistant to 280 work factor).

This is the most common type of attack and usually the most successful. All cryptography relies to some extent on humans to implement and operate. Unfortunately, this is one of the greatest vulnerabilities and has led to some of the greatest compromises of a nations or organizations secrets or intellectual property. Through coercion, bribery or befriending people in positions of responsibility, spies or competitors are able to gain access to systems without having any technical expertise.

The dictionary attack is used most commonly against password files. It exploits the poor habits of users who choose simple passwords based on natural words. The dictionary attack merely encrypts all of the words in a dictionary and then checks whether the resulting hash matches an encrypted password stored in the SAM file or other password file.

Brute force is trying all possible keys until one is found that decrypts the ciphertext. This is why key length is such an important factor in determining the strength of a cryptosystem. With DES only having a 56-bit key, in time the attackers were able to discover the key and decrypt a DES message. This is also why SHA-256 is considered stronger than MD5; because the output hash is longer and, therefore, more resistant to a brute force attack. Graphical Processor Units (GPU) have revolutionized brute force hacking methods. Where a standard CPU might take 48 hours to crack an eight character mixed password, a modern GPU can crack it in less than 10 minutes. CPUs have a large number of arithmetic/logic units and are designed to perform repetitive tasks continuously. These characteristics make them ideal for performing brute force attack processes. Due to the introduction of CPU-based brute force attacks, many security professionals are evaluating password length, complexity and multifactor considerations.

This attack is one of the most common. A competing firm buys a crypto product from another firm and then tries to reverse engineer the product. Through reverse engineering, it may be able to find weaknesses in the system or gain crucial information about the operations of the algorithm.

This attack was successful against the SSL installed in Netscape several years ago. Because the random number generator was too predictable; it gave the attackers the ability to guess the random numbers so critical in setting up initialization vectors or a nonce. With this information in hand, the attacker is much more likely to run a successful attack.

Most cryptosystems will use temporary files to perform their calculations. If these files are not deleted and overwritten, they may be compromised and lead an attacker to the message in plaintext.

Encryption 101: DES explained

Understand the differences between symmetric and asymmetric encryption

Implement identity management systems for cybersecurity readiness.

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The ABCs of ciphertext exploits and other cryptography attacks – TechTarget

qBitcoin: A Way of Making Bitcoin Quantum-Computer Proof? – IEEE Spectrum

A new quantum cryptography-based Bitcoin standard has been proposed that could harden the popular cryptocurrency against the advent of full-fledged quantum computers. Bitcoin as it now exists involves traditional public key cryptography and thus could conceivably be hacked by a future quantum computer strong enough to break it. However, quantum cryptography, which is based not on difficult math problems but the fundamental laws of physics, is expected to be strong enough to withstand even quantum computer-powered attacks.

The proposal, dubbed qBitcoin, posits transmission of quantum cryptographic keys between a remitter and a receiver of the eponomous named cryptocurrency, qBitcoin. The system would use provably secure protocols such as theBB84quantum key distribution scheme.

To exchange qBitcoin, then, requires that there be a transmission network in place that can send and receive bits of quantum information, qubits. And that is no mean feat, considering it typically involves preserving the polarization states of individual photons across thousands of kilometers. To date, there are five knownquantum key distributionnetworks in the United States, Switzerland, Austria, and Japan. China is working ontheir ownmassive 2000-km link, as well. And a number of satellite-to-satellite and satellite-to-ground quantum key distribution networks are alsobeingdevelopedandprototyped.

Which is to say that qBitcoin or something like it could not be scaled up today. But if the quantum computer singularity is approaching, in which a powerful enough machinecould threaten existing cryptography standards, quantum cryptography would be an essential ingredient of the post-Y2Q age. So existing quantum key distribution networks might at least serve as outposts in a burgeoning global quantum network, like Western Union stations in the early days of the telegraph.

Some things about qBitcoin might appear the same to any Bitcoin user today. Bitcoin is a peer to peer system, and qBitcoin is also peer to peer, says Kazuki Ikeda, qBitcoins creator and PhD student in physics at Osaka University in Japan.Hesays compared to Bitcoin, qBitcoin would offer comparable or perhaps enhanced levels of privacy, anonymity, and security. (That said, his paper that makes this claim is still under peer review.)

However, the lucrative profession ofBitcoin mining, under Ikedas protocol, would be very different than what it is today. Transactions would still need to be verified and secured. Butinstead of todays system of acryptographic puzzles, qBitcoins security would rely on a 2001proposalfor creating aquantum digital signature.Such a signature would rely on the laws of quantum physics to secure the qBitcoin ledger from tampering or hacking.

Ikeda’s proposal is certainly not the first to suggest a quantum-cryptographic improvement onclassical-cryptography-based digital currencies. Other proposals in2010,2016,and evenearlier this yearhave also offered up variations on the theme. All work to mitigate against the danger large-scale quantum computers would represent to Bitcoin.

Of course, not every solution to the quantum singularity is as promising as every other. A person going by the handle amluto criticized Ikedas qBitcoin proposal onaprominent message boardlast week. (amluto claimed to be author of one of aprevious quantum currency proposalsfrom 2010presumably the 2010 proposals co-author Andrew Lutomirski, althoughIEEE Spectrumwas unable to confirm this supposition at press time.)

This is nonsense It’s like saying that you can transmit a file by mailing a USB stick, which absolutely guarantees that you, the sender, no longer have the original file. That’s wrongall that mailing a USB stick guarantees is that you don’t have the USB stick any more, not that you didn’t keep a copy of the contents. Similarly, quantum teleportation eats the input state but says nothing about any other copies of the input state that may exist.

Ikeda says he disagrees with the analogy. The point, he says, is that there are no other copies of the input state as it’s called abovein other words of the quantum keys that secure qBitcoin. So, Ikeda says, qBitcoin is safe just like Bitcoin is safe today.

But one day, thanks to quantum computers, Bitcoin, will no longer be safe. Someone will needto save it. And, no matter who devises the winning protocol, the thing that threatens Bitcoinmay in fact also be the thing that comes to its rescue: The cagey qubit.

IEEE Spectrums general technology blog, featuring news, analysis, and opinions about engineering, consumer electronics, and technology and society, from the editorial staff and freelance contributors.

Sign up for the Tech Alert newsletter and receive ground-breaking technology and science news from IEEE Spectrum every Thursday.

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qBitcoin: A Way of Making Bitcoin Quantum-Computer Proof? – IEEE Spectrum

Genome cryptography is the new way to secure your DNA data – Gears Of Biz

DNA security and privacy is a looming problem that scientists and researchers are only just starting to grapple with. A team at Stanford has now developed a technique that can cloak irrelevant genomic information, allowing scientists to access key disease-related mutations without revealing an individuals broader genome sequence.

In a world where everything from dating profiles to medical diagnoses are drawing on DNA data, were currently just forced to hope that each company with access to our DNA is acting responsibly with out genetic fingerprints. But for many, hope is not enough, and nor should it be. With genomic information becoming increasingly of value, a demand has arisen for a way to secure that data while still being able to enjoy the benefits of DNA analysis.

Often people who have diseases, or those who know that a particular genetic disease runs in their family, are the most reluctant to share their genomic information because they know it could potentially be used against them in some way, says Gill Bejerano, associate professor of developmental biology, of pediatrics and of computer science. They are missing out on helping themselves and others by allowing researchers and clinicians to learn from their DNA sequences.

To address such concerns, the Stanford team developed a technique based on a classic cryptographic protocol, known as garbled circuit or Yaos protocol. The individual encrypts their own genome using an algorithm on their smartphone or computer, which translates specific gene variants into a linear set of values that are securely uploaded into the cloud. On the other end of the transaction, the researcher (or any second-party) accesses only the data that is pertinent to their investigation.

In this way, no person or computer, other than the individuals themselves, has access to the complete set of genetic information, says Bejerano.

The team demonstrated the process by executing several practical demonstrations, including identifying specific gene mutations in patients with rare diseases and comparing a babys DNA with his parents to target the likely cause of a genetic disease. In all tested instances, at least 97 percent of each subjects unique DNA information was completely hidden from the researchers.

As well as protecting a persons privacy when having their DNA processed for medical reasons, this technique could theoretically be applied to more commercial contexts, such as ancestry genome studies or even the rising field of nutrigenomics.

There is a general conception that we can only find meaningful differences by surveying the entire genome, says Bejerano. But these meaningful differences make up only a very tiny proportion of our DNA. There are now amazing tools in computer science and cryptography that allow researchers to pinpoint only these differences while keeping the remainder of the genome completely private.

Just recently it was demonstrated that synthetic DNA could be created containing malware that allows a malicious party to gain control of the computer that sequences it. As we learn more and more about what our genetic fingerprint means, the value of that fingerprint will only increase. In the future, the DNA marketplace will be big business and security protocols such as this new Stanford technique are going to be important.

The teams research was published in the journal Science.

Source: Stanford Medicine

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Genome cryptography is the new way to secure your DNA data – Gears Of Biz