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Monday 1 May 2017
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Cryptography and Network Security

In today’s IT world, cryptography is the most widely used and the most referenced term. This is because it applies to many areas in information technology. For example, cryptography is the only way valuable data stored in modern disk storage systems can be protected from unauthorized access. Or the way personal information is stored on credit cards. Cryptography is generally used to protect this information.

The same principles apply to network security too. For anyone to secure data being transmitted over the network, they must use systems that use cryptographic algorithms. There are four basic cryptography principles which focus on network security. These principles include:

  • Confidentiality – this is the most obvious idea associated with encryption. Data is encrypted using algorithms and secret keys which are only known by the sender and receiver. This makes it hard for attackers to decrypt the message.
  • Authentication – this is the process of identifying yourself to your communication partner.
  • Integrity – these are the means employed to ensure a receiver gets the message which was intended for them and vice versa. Through integrity, one can ensure that no transmission has been altered or transferred message appears as it was when send.
  • Non-repudiation – these are measures put in place ensure the sender agrees to have sent the message, not an impersonator. This is basically a legal liability. If you agree to the message, it means that you are legally obligated. Non-repudiation can be compared to a signature on the contract.

So, a network using the appropriate cryptography can ensure that the following principles are applied in a communication system. If two or more parties are communicating over the network, cryptography assists in the identification of these parties.

The parties can be assured that data and messages transmitted over the network are not altered in any way. Also, they can be assured that no external party has access to the information being transmitted. Lastly, nor party can deny having sent what the other parties receive.

However, no cryptosystem is unbreakable. Parties using certain cryptosystems cannot be assured 100% safety from third party attacks. You can be assured of more safety if you put more effort to implement cryptography in the right way. What you should understand is that no effort can guarantee complete safety.

Every secure communication in a network follows a set of common concepts. Cryptosystems used to establish secure communications do not matter in this case.

Applications of cryptosystems for network security

Cryptographic systems are usually needed to secure data being transmitted over the internet. The following are applications of cryptosystems for network security. These are based on the four principles and are used to achieve secure communications.

Key management

This is an important basis for the proper operations of a cryptosystem. Anyone outside the cryptosystem should never access the secret keys. This applies to all keys used in cryptosystems. If these conditions cannot be followed, the cryptosystem fails, and you cannot be assured that your data will be protected. The security of a cryptosystem depends on the protection of the keys.

Key management in a closed environment

For high-security environments, the key management can be implemented using cryptographic hardware. The hardware is normally installed and managed by a centralized security facility. Key-exchange keys and master keys can be centralized, and then the hardware facility can be delivered to users with the necessary keys installed.

Cryptosystems for data privacy and authentication

It is costly to use asymmetric algorithms to encrypt and decrypt large volumes of data with cryptosystems. Therefore symmetric algorithms are only used for bulk data encryption.

The challenge of using symmetric algorithm is that every party must have the same key. Also, secure distribution of keys and key management in unsecure networks is another problem in the symmetric cryptosystem. Therefore, the hybrid cryptosystem developed today are in place to overcome the shortcoming of the two approaches.