The Role of Cryptography and PKI

11.04.2019 Read
The Role of Cryptography and PKI

In today’s information warfare, secure communication has become a vital part of any type of organization, especially the firms related to national security and military. The critical information regarding these firms is highly confidential and sensitive because its exposure to enemies can be disastrous. General Paul M. Nakasone, the U.S. Cyber Command and Director, stated that we faced a challenging and volatile cyber threat environment and cyber threats to our national security interests and critical infrastructure ranked at the top of the list. In addition, the state-sponsored attack has also become the norm of the day. According to U.S. Depart of Defense (DoD), China has sought to erode U.S. military overmatch and the economic vitality of the nation by continually infiltrating into the critical information of the U.S. private and public sector institutions. What are the ways to ensure a secure digital communication today? How organizations can prevent data breaches and make certain the confidentiality of sensitive information? How to survive penalties due to non-compliance such as that of GDPR? The answer to these questions is possible with the help of cryptography and PKI. In this article, we will learn how cryptography help individuals and organizations to conduct secure communication and ensure data confidentiality, integrity, and authentication.

How Does Encryption work?

Encryption, in fact, is two-way communication and an essential part of cryptography. It is the process of converting electronic data and information (or “plaintext”) into the code, known as “ciphertext.” The ciphertext is not in the human-readable form. When a sender sends a message, he/she would encrypt it (encryption) to convert it into an unreadable form/ciphertext. When the intended receiver receives this message at the destination, he/she would decrypt the message (decryption) to reconvert it into a readable form/plaintext again. Both sender and receiver perform this transmission using the cryptography keys, which are known as Public key and the Private Key. There are two types of modern encryption –namely, Symmetric Key Encryption and Asymmetric Key Encryption. Asymmetric key encryption is also referred to as public key encryption. Since the message is in the encrypted form, the attackers cannot read it due to unavailability of the keys that can unlock it or convert it into a readable form/plaintext.

How Cryptography Ensures Data Confidentiality?

To understand this concept, first, we need to understand what data confidentiality is. Data confidentiality is the act of protecting data against unlawful, unintentional, or unauthorized access, theft, or disclosure. To ensure data confidentiality, security analysts apply an encryption technique. Encryption ensures data confidentiality by preventing attackers from intercepting data during its transmission over a network. According to the Ponemon Institute’s 2018 Global Encryption Trends study, “43 per cent of enterprises now have a company-wide and consistent encryption strategy."

How Does Cryptography help to Achieve Data Integrity?

Data integrity is the act of securing data and information from deliberate change, damage, or manipulation. The methods used to ensure data integrity involve Hashing (e.g., MD2, MD4, MD5, and Secure Hash Algorithm – 1), Digital Signatures, and Non-repudiation. Digital signature prevents the tampering and impersonation of data while it is in transit. Non-repudiation is also a security service that ensures that a sender when sending a message, cannot deny the authenticity of a message that he sent to the recipient. Likewise, the recipient cannot deny having received that message. Non-repudiation is achieved through cryptography.

How to Achieve Authentication Using Cryptography and PKI?

Cryptography can be employed for authentication using digital signatures, digital certificates, or through the use of Public Key Infrastructure. Authentication is one of the widely used security approaches for websites. Using user names and passwords for login purposes are examples of authentication.


Though data and sensitive information are vulnerable due to sophisticated cyber threats, the use of cryptography and PKI can help organizations to conduct secure communication and transmission of such data and information. Cryptography ensures data confidentiality, integrity, as well as authentication of only authorized users. In 2019, security analysts believe that the cryptography will help to reduce data breaches.