It used to be the domain of mathematicians and spies but know cryptography plays an important part in all our lives. It is important if we want to continue to use the internet for commerce and any sort of financial transactions. All our basic web traffic exists in the clear and is transported via a myriad of shared network equipment. Which means basically anything can be intercepted and read unless we protect it in some way – the most accessible option is to use encryption.

Cryptographic methods are utilized by software to maintain computing and data resources safe-,effectively shielding them with secret code or their,’key.   It’s not always necessary of course, the requirements are heavily dependent on what the connection is being used for.  For example there’s little point encrypting compressed streams like audio and video in normal circumstance, no-one is at risk from intercepting you streaming UK TV abroad from your computer.The key holder is the only individual who has access to the secure information. That individual might share the key with others, permitting them to also get into the information. In a digital world, and especially from the envisaged world of electronic commerce, the demand for safety which is backed by cryptographic systems is paramount. At the future, a person’s initial approach to most electronic devices, and especially to networked electronic devices, will demand cryptography working from the background. Whenever security is necessary, the first point from the human-to machine interface is that of authentication.

The electronic system should know with whom it’s dealing. But just how is this done?  Strong authentication is based on three characteristics which a user needs to have:

  • What the user knows.
  • What the user has.
  • Who the user is.

Today, a typical authentication routine will be to present what you’ve, a token like an identification card, then to uncover what you know, a pin number or password. In a very brief time in the future, the ,who you are kind of identification would be common, first on computers, and after that on an entire selection of merchandise, progressively phasing out the need for us to memorize contact numbers and passwords.  Indeed many entertainment websites are looking at developments in this field with a view to incorporating identity checks in a seamless way.  For example to allow access to UK TV license fee payers who want to watch the BBC from Ireland for example.

But where does the cryptography come to the equation? . In the easiest level, you might offer a system. Like a pc terminal, a password. The system checks your password. You can be logged on to the system. In this example of quite weak authentication, cryptographic methods are utilized to encrypt your password stored inside the system. If your password was held in clear text, rather than cipher text, then a person with an aptitude for programming could soon find the password inside the system and start to usurp and obtaining access to all of the information and system resources you’re permitted to use.

Cryptography does its best to defend the secret, which is your password. Now consider a system that requires stronger authentication. The automatic teller machine is a good example. To perform transactions in an Automated teller machine terminal, you want an ATM Card and a pin number. Inside the terminal, information is encrypted. The information the terminal transmits to the bank is also encrypted. Security is better, but not perfect, since the system will authenticate an individual who isn’t the owner of the card / pin number. The person might be a relative utilizing your card by permission, or he can be a burglar who has just relieved you of your pocket and is about to save you of your life savings. Time, you could think, for stronger authentication. Systems currently in field tests require an additional attribute based on your identity to strengthen the authentication procedure.

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