Skip to main content

Staying Safe Online with Cybersecurity Information

Every day, we conduct business transactions online. We might make an online purchase, pay a bill online, or make a purchase at a store using a credit or debit card. All of these require that our banking information be transmitted via the Internet. In today's world, there is no way around it: Our personal information is out there on the Internet. Therefore, it's extremely important that businesses practice vigilant cybersecurity.

When companies experience a network security breach, they put their customers' financial well-being at risk and open their customers up to the threat of identity theft. These types of cybercrimes are serious threats, but the risks become even greater when we think about the possible effects on homeland security. If an enemy were to gain access to the wrong information or hack a critical system, our country's infrastructure could be compromised, disrupting commerce and even threatening national security should top-secret information about our military or other government agency operations fall into the wrong hands.

How are companies and our government working to keep our private and critical information safe online? Businesses employ teams of network security specialists (sometimes called cybersecurity specialists or IT security specialists) who work diligently to combat risks and shore up weak spots in networks. One of the methods network security specialists use is called cryptography. People who specialize in cryptography are called cryptographers.

The word cryptography comes from a Greek word, "kryptos," which means "hidden." Cryptography involves storing and transmitting information in an encrypted or hidden form that is unintelligible to those who should not have access to the data, so if anyone manages to intercept the information, they won't be able to understand or use it. The earliest known use of a cipher is credited to Julius Caesar, who used a cipher to send messages to his governors and officers because he did not trust the messengers who delivered them. Today, with the advent of computers, most people are familiar with the concept of encryption, which is the scrambling of ordinary text into ciphertext that is then translated back into ordinary text when it reaches the intended recipient.

Cryptographers have a few different goals in mind as they work to protect a network. First, they strive to keep the data confidential so that it cannot be accessed by anyone who should not have it. Second, they want to maintain the integrity of the data to ensure it can be transmitted without being altered, and if it is altered, the recipient must be able to detect that this has happened. Third, cryptographers try to make certain that the sender of the information cannot later deny what they intended when creating or sending the data. Finally, the senders and receivers of data must be able to be authenticated, meaning that the origin and destination of the data can be confirmed.

Cryptologists are employed at companies in a variety of industries, such as technology, banking, and e-commerce. The U.S. government also employs cryptographers to help keep important intelligence and military data secure. GWU provides additional avenues for related fields, including Professional Studies in Homeland Security and Cyber Security and Information Management.

Classical Encryption Techniques

Finite Fields

Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)

Confidentiality Using Symmetric Encryption

Number Theory and Hash Algorithms

Digital Signatures

Authentication Applications

Electronic Mail Security

IP Security and Web Security