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Definition: Cryptography is the practice and study of secure communication techniques that allow only the sender and intended recipient of a message to view its contents. It involves creating written or generated codes that disguise the meaning of a message to protect information from being accessed by unauthorised parties.

Cryptography is essential for protecting sensitive data both in storage and during transmission. It underpins various security measures including encryption, hashing, and digital signatures. Encryption transforms readable data, or plaintext, into an encoded version called ciphertext, which can only be decrypted by authorised parties possessing the correct decryption key. Hashing converts data into a fixed-size hash value or digest, which acts as a unique representation of the original data. Digital signatures provide a means to verify the authenticity and integrity of electronic documents and messages.

The effectiveness of cryptographic techniques depends on factors such as the strength of the encryption algorithm, the length and security of the keys used, and the randomness of key generation. The field of cryptography is dynamic, constantly evolving to address emerging threats and take advantage of new technologies.

Key Characteristics:

  • Secure Communication: Ensures that messages can be read only by the sender and intended recipients.
  • Encryption and Decryption: Protects data by making it unreadable without the correct key or cipher.
  • Integrity and Authenticity: Hash functions and digital signatures verify that data has not been tampered with and confirm the identity of the sender.
  • Constant Evolution: Cryptographic methods and algorithms are continually being developed and refined in response to evolving security requirements and computational capabilities.


  • Real-World Example: SSL/TLS encryption is used to secure internet communications, such as online banking transactions and email correspondence.
  • Hypothetical Scenario: A classified government document is encrypted using a strong cryptographic algorithm to protect its contents from being compromised if intercepted.

Related Terms:

  • Encryption: The method by which plaintext is converted to ciphertext to prevent unauthorised access.
  • Hashing: A process of converting data into a fixed-size string of characters, representing the data uniquely.
  • Digital Signature: An electronic form of a signature that ensures the integrity of a document or message and its sender.

What is the OWASP Top 10: Download our flash cards to find out.

Inside you will find a description of the most common web vulnerabilities.

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