cryptography[kripˈtäɡrəfē] noun- The art of writing or solving codes.
Cryptography is a technique used to protect information and data. It has been used for centuries, first appearing as an inscription in 1900 BC on an Egyption tomb and then again in 100 BC with Julius Caesar's Caesar cipher. However, it wasn't until the 16th century that saw the first classical cipher requring a key with the Vigenere cipher. Then in the 19th century, the first electromechanical rotor cipher machine was invented by Hebern.
By then, cryptography had already become througouhly exploited in its application. Most significantly, it was used by military forces to protect their communications from the opponent knowing what was being transmitted. This occured early on in American history with George Washington's Culper Spy Ring and its Culper code book during their war for independence. Later during the American Civil War, both the Union and Confederate forces used cryptography- with the Confederacy's most well-known cryptography device being their cipher disc and the Union being known to use Route and Pigpen ciphers.
However, popular knowledge on cryptography during wartime does not spike until World War II with the Enigma. The great irony of its infamously unbreakable code being broken by Alan Turing is that the War saw another machine that was never broken.
World War II saw many cryptomachines that were developed and deployed by various countries. The War also saw an avid response with the creation of groups and projects designed to break the codes being used by enemy forces. Most notable include:
1. Bletchly Park- A group of British codebreakers credited with breaking many codes employed by the Axis powers, including the Enigma under Alan Turing.
2. MAGIC- A US project between the US Army’s Signals Intelligence Section (SIS) and the US Navy’s Communication Special Unit to break codes used by the Japanese.
3. Ultra- An Allied project designed to gether intelligence by deciphering (mostly German traffic) from the Axis powers. The breaking of the Enigma by codebreakers are Bletchly Park fell under this project.
The end of WWII did not see the end of cryptography, although electromechanical machines would slowly become technologically outdated applications of it. Instead, cryptography remains well and alive through its application to data encryption on computers. There are many methods of data encryption, as there were classical ciphers. However, only a few have ever been championed as the standard by the National Institute of Standards and Technology(NIST). With growing advancements in cybersecrurity and evolving standards by NIST, future forms of data encryption growing in strength and performance can be expected.
The collections on this website can be browsed freely with discretion. However, it is reccomended that they be viewed in the following order:
1. Classical Ciphers and Application: Learn about various classical ciphers and become familiar with their application.
2. Cipher Tool and Machines: Explore different tools and machines used to cipher messages throughout history, with a focus on their application in the military context.
3. Modern Encryption: Find out how cryptography is being applied in a modern setting with computerized data encryption.
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