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About this Article
Written by: Patrick Vanderwall
Written on: December 4th, 2016
Tags: computer science, computer engineering, cryptography, lifestyle, digital security
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About the Author
Patrick Vanderwall was a student at USC when this article was written.
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Volume XVIII Issue II > Cryptography and Communication Security in a Digital Age
With the advent of computers and the digital era, basic ciphers and encryption methods are no longer the most successful means of securing information. Computers allow for brute force solution methods which make ciphers, such as Caesar’s cipher, quite brittle. During the 1970’s, the United States government deemed it necessary to create a standard for encrypting sensitive information. A team of researchers at IBM came up with a solution to the government’s needs by creating an algorithm for encrypting data using symmetric-key cryptography.

Symmetric-Key Cryptography

Symmetric-key cryptography is a fundamental form of cryptography that involves exchanging a message between two parties. First, the two parties agree on a key to use when encrypting and decrypting messages. Before sending a message to party B, party A encrypts that message using an encryption algorithm and the key agreed upon by both parties. After party B receives the encrypted message, they use the key to decrypt the cipher-text back into plain-text. This type of cryptography is called symmetric-key cryptography because both communication parties use the same key for encryption and decryption [4] (Fig. 2).
K. Krishnan/North Carolina State University
Figure 2: Illustration demonstrating each step of the process in symmetric key encryption [5].