8th January 2018 – Cryptography: past, present and future

UPDATE (Feb 2018): Alan described a way of creating passwords which are (probably) more secure than those most people currently use. Here is a link to a paper Alan wrote last year describing the method: Passwwords. Note that depending on your browser settings, this may actually download the (Word) document. It’s perfectly safe, but you can always virus check it before opening it.

SciBarian Alan Daglish will lead the session.  He offers this introduction to the topic:

Practically every day of our modern lives we use some form of cryptography. Online banking and shopping, email, ATMs, booking holidays etc., etc. Mostly it is invisible to us but it is in fact the product of nearly three thousand years of development

Since the invention of writing there has been a need to prevent information being read by the “opposition”. The Greeks had secret writing and Julius Caesar employed it widely. Wherever encryption was employed to protect communications there always existed a group of people whose aim was to defeat it. By the renaissance there was an arms race between the encrypters and the decrypters culminating in a cypher developed in the sixteenth century that was only broken in the nineteenth century.

The second world war saw the mechanisation of cryptography culminating in the development of the first programmable computer for decryption.

The computer age resulted in severe problems for cryptographers until, in the seventies a scheme was developed that would take “the age of the universe” to crack. This is about where we are now but with quantum computers on the horizon who knows?

The talk will explore the history as well as the uses and abuses of modern cryptography.

To give you some fun before the session, Alan has prepared a description of himself in an encrypted form:

L dp qrw d surihvvlrqdo fu|swrjudskhu. L dfwxdoo| vshqw prvw ri p| zrunlqj olih dv d phwdooxujlfdo hqjlqhhu, pdlqo| lq U dqg G. P| lqwhuhvw lq wkh vxemhfw vwhpv iurp uhdglqj d sdshu rxwolqlqj wkh edvlv ri prghuq fu|swrjudsk| lq wkh :3’v dqg iurp wkhq ghoylqj edfn lqwr wkh klvwru| ri wkh vxemhfw. P| fxuuhqw lqwhuhvw lv wr gr zlwk wkh sklorvrsklfdo dqg srolwlfdo lpsolfdwlrqv ri “vhfuhw zulwlqj”.

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