The MBA Guide to IT

Episode 49 – What is cryptography?

It’s Friday and today’s question is about cryptography.

Cryptography can let me send you a private message that no one else can read.  It can also let me prove to you that I sent it, not someone else, and that no one modified it before it got to you.

This is a big deal and it’s still not built into many of the tools we use around the office.

When you get past all the “spooky math,” cryptography is like the coded messages we sent to each other as kids.  If you and I agree on the code, I can send you a secret message.  Of course, these codes are much more complex, but it’s the same game.

The first big problem is that you and I have to share the secret code without anyone else seeing it.  That might work if you and I work down the hall from each other, but it’s tough to make work for all 7.5 billion of us.

Fortunately, a couple of bright guys in the 1970s came up with a way to use two keys.  A private key you keep secret and a public key you share with everyone.

If I want to send you a private message, I lock it with your public key and you unlock it with your private key.  If you want to prove the message is authentic, I lock it with my private key and you unlock it with your public key.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we have this technology, but it’s not built into everything yet.  You can’t prove that email from your boss really came from your boss.  In most offices, the confidential file on the shared drive can be emailed to anyone in the world by accident.

This isn’t a user problem nor is it a science problem.  It’s just taking a long time for these advances to show up in our tools and workflow.

I’m Carter Edmonds with 20CREEK.  We help you build IT you’ll brag about.

Episode #49 – 2/15/2019

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