Encryption is a process of translating a message, called the Plaintext, into an encoded message, called the Ciphertext. This is usually accomplished using a secret Encryption Key and a cryptographic Cipher.
Two basic types of Encryption are commonly used:
- Symmetric Encryption, where a single secret key is used for both encryption and decryption.
- Asymmetric Encryption, where a pair of keys is used -- one for Encryption and the other for Decryption.
Some interesting politics surround strong Encryption:
- Strong (i.e., hard to break) Encryption algorithms are considered to be a munitions by the United States government. Exporting such algorithms therefore amounts to arms smuggling -- a very serious offence!
- Some countries (i.e., France) forbid their citizens from using strong Encryption.
- Strong encryption algorithms are freely available everywhere in the world, on the Internet.
- In the United States, it is possible to patent an algorithm, including an Encryption Cipher. This can limit who can make such algorithms.