# Crypto 101: Basic Terminology

**Encryption** is the process of turning a clear-text message
(**Plaintext**) into a data stream which looks like
a meaningless and random sequence of bits (**ciphertext**).
The process of turning ciphertext back into plaintext is called
**decryption**.

**Cryptography** deals with making communications secure.
**Cryptoanalysis** deals with breaking ciphertext, that is,
recovering plaintext without knowing the key.
**Cryptology** is a branch of mathematics which deals with
both cryptography and cryptoanalysis.

A **cryptographic algorithm**, also known as a **cipher**,
is a mathematical function which uses plaintext as the input and
produces ciphertext as the output and vice versa.

All modern ciphers use **keys** together with plaintext
as the input to produce ciphertext. The same
or a different key is supplied to the decryption function
to recover plaintext from ciphertext.
The details of a cryptographic algorithm are usually made
public. It is the key that the security of a modern cipher lies in,
not the details of the cipher.

**Symmetric algorithms** use the same key for encryption and decryption.
These algorithms require that both the sender and receiver agree on a key
before they can exchange messages securely.

Some symmetric algorithms operate on 1 bit (or sometimes 1 byte) of plaintext
at a time. They are called **stream ciphers**. Other algorithms
operate on blocks of bits at a time. They are called **block ciphers**.
Most modern block ciphers use the block size of 64 bits.

**Public-key algorithms** (also known as asymmetric algorithms)
use two different keys (a **key pair**) for encryption and decryption.
The keys in a key pair are mathematically related, but it is computationally
infeasible to deduce one key from the other. These algorithms are called "public-key"
because the encryption key can be made public. Anyone can use the public key
to encrypt a message, but only the owner of the corresponding private key
can decrypt it.

Some public-key algorithms such as RSA allow the process to work in the opposite
direction as well:
a message can be encrypted with a private key and decrypted with the
corresponding public key. If Alice (or anyone else) can decrypt a message
with Bob's public key she knows that the message must have come from
Bob because no one else has Bob's private key. **Digital signatures**
work this way.