A digital encryption (not to be confused with a digital certificate) is process that converting messages or data into a form that cannot be read without decrypting or deciphering it, and possibly to ensure that the message or document that can be read by intended
recipient. Cryptologists also engage in cryptography to find ways to break encryption methods. For centuries before the age of electronic communication and computers, individuals, militaries, and other groups coded written information. As electronic forms of communication and information storage and processing have developed, the opportunities to intercept, modify, use, disclose, and read confidential information has grown, and the need for powerful encryption techniques has increased.
Three of the most popular cryptography systems used are the Data Encryption Standard (DES), Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), and the Rivest, Shamir, Adleman (RSA) system. DES uses a single key for both encrypting and decrypting. It was developed by International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) and approved by the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology in 1976. The Rivest, Shamir, Adleman (RSA) algorithm is a popular encryption method that uses two keys. It was developed for general use in 1977 and was named for the three computer scientists—Ronald L. Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman—who originated it. The RSA Data Security Company has been highly successful in licensing its algorithm for others to use.
How does it work?
Encryption uses a step-by-step procedure called an algorithm to convert data or the text of an original message, known as plaintext, into ciphertext, its encrypted form. Cryptographic algorithms normally require a string of characters called a key to encrypt or decrypt data. Those who possess the key and the algorithm can encrypt the plaintext into ciphertext and then decrypt the ciphertext back into plaintext.
Cryptologists engage in an unending competition to create stronger cryptographic techniques and to break them. Many recent cryptography techniques are nearly unbreakable even with the most powerful computers. These systems produce ciphertext that appears to be random characters. These systems resist most existing methods for deciphering back into plaintext. The many different types of new cryptosystems use highly complex mathematical language and resist breaking even though cryptologists may know the techniques used in creating them.