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Defining Cryptographic Terms

Definitions: cryptography, cryptographer, cryptanalyst, cryptology

Cryptography is both the lock and the combination (key) that protects a secret message from anyone who doesn’t know the key. Cryptographers are the people who create a disguise to hide the meaning. A key that will reclaim the meaning is given only to those for whom the message is intended.

Cryptanalysts are mathematical and linguistic analysts who remove the disguise created by cryptographers. Because they haven’t been given a key, they attempt to pick the lock to meaning using statistical analysis. Cryptology is the study of both cryptography and cryptanalysis.

Hiding Writing

Cryptography is like building a crypt, where people have traditionally buried valuables for safekeeping on the way to the afterlife. It comes from the Greek word kryptos, meaning “hidden” or “covered,” the Old Norse hreysar, meaning “heap of stones,” and the Lithuanian krauti, meaning “to pile up.” It’s a way to hide writing (“-graphy”) but retain a way to find it again, like piling stones on a gravesite to which you want to return.

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