Cryto is a neutral term. It can be used in either a good or a bad sense. But it’s useful to be aware of the difference because there are different kinds of cryto.
Cryto is an old word, going back to the 18th century, which means cryptography (the science of secret writing). In modern usage its main application is computer security: the study and design of algorithms for protecting data from hostile eyes. Cryto can also refer to something that is plain old encryption.
In this case, cryto is not neutral: it has a social or ethical connotation. Cryto can mean encryption that makes it easy for government agents to eavesdrop on the communications of people they don’t like, or too easy for them to break into computers they don’t own, or even encryption that endangers our privacy by making it easier for criminals to steal our secrets.
The cryto-currency is a bit like the cryto-stock market. But there are some crucial differences:
The cryto-currency can’t be used for anything except its original purpose. The cryto-stock market can be used to trade anything, and it never has to stop trading.
There is no way to tell the difference between a good cryto-currency and a bad cryto-currency. There is no way to tell the difference between a good cryto-stock market and a bad cryto-stock market.
It’s therefore possible that all currencies are drugs, and all stocks are drugs. But that wouldn’t be very useful because people would have to find out whether they were drugs by trying them, which would be risky.
Cryto is a field that deals with the economics of information. Information can be copied, and if you copy it enough there will be copies of copies and so on. Some people think this will lead to better ways of doing things, but other people worry that it will just lead to a lot of copying and confusion. The two sides have been fighting a long war over the last few decades.
Cryptography is an important part of information security. A lot of economic and political decisions depend on it, and sometimes it is used for the public good, such as creating new currencies. But it can be dangerous to use if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Cryptography is one of the few things in life that I would say is “solved”: there are no unsolved problems.
Cryptography is one of the oldest forms of secure communication. It was invented to hide messages from people who might want to read them, and has evolved into a much larger field. You can make a “crypto” out of anything: a secret handshake, a password, a key or piece of data or code. The earliest crypto was probably signals and codes used in the ancient Sumerian city-states. They were probably the world’s first secure database: if you had two people who were on the same page, they could talk to each other without anyone else being able to listen in.
The modern computer made cryptography more practical–and more profitable–than it ever had been before. Anyone with access to a computer could become an encryption expert, or even a cryptographer.
Cryptography, in a sense, is the science of secret writing. The most famous cryptosystems are those that send messages over secure lines, but there are many other uses for them. Cryptosystems are a combination of math and technology, and they are extraordinarily powerful. They can be used to keep messages secret or to securely send messages or even to keep records secret.
Cryptography is also the art of using cryptosystems securely. The method we use today comes from WWII. It’s called the Data Encryption Standard (DES), and it was developed by IBM researchers. It works pretty well for securing data in transit, but if you want to securely store the keys that encrypt your files, there’s a better way: Public-Key Encryption (PKE).
Cryp-tography is the art, science and business of securing information so that it cannot be read by anyone except the intended recipient. It is a kind of cryptography. Cryp-tography makes things easier to do, but it is not encryption; when you encrypt something, you make sure no one can read it. Cryp-tography is often used to secure email, but also for protecting communications between computers over the internet.
Cryp-tography has become more important because people can now store much more information on their computers than they could in the past. In particular, they are storing large quantities of data that they would rather keep secret: credit card numbers and passwords, medical records, and all kinds of personal information that we would prefer not to have fall into the hands of criminals or governments.
A good cryp-tographer has to be a very good hacker. The best hackers understand systems in the way an architect understands buildings: a system depends on how those parts fit together and interact with one another. They know what each part does and how it needs to be modified or fixed for it to work properly; they know everything about various ways to break into systems; and so on. They also know how different kinds of systems work together: