CRYPTOGRAPHY:



Is It The Solution to Cyber Crime?

By Mwaniki A. Ngari

Have you performed an online transaction recently? Used an ATM machine? If that is the case, with or without your knowledge, you used cryptography. Cryptography protects your bank account details as they move through the bank's network as you perform your ATM transaction and ensures that others can't withdraw money from your account.

Cryptography is the art of converting messages into unreadable groups of figures to protect the message's content during transmission by use of encryption keys and only the receiver (machine or human) is able to decrypt the message. However in the modern times, it has grown has grown from basic message confidentiality to include some elements of message integrity checking, sender/receiver identity authentication, and digital signatures.

In the earlier years, cryptography was only of interest to mathematicians and a reserve of the US military, just as the internet was once merely an academic project. Currently encryption is of tremendous significance as more of the world population moves online and majority activities become digitized.

Cryptography secures the financial networks that link the world's banks and stock markets, protects credit cards, and stops the snooping of mobile phone calls.Cryptography remains a cornerstone in the foundation on which the MPESA system, that since its introduction has moved more cash than the worth of 2014 Kenyan budget, is built. Cryptography hence secures the modern day trillion - dollar e commerce from infiltration by cyber criminals. Without it, nobody would be able safely to make a payment online or even use an ATM card without their bank account being wiped clean.

This necessitates the use of secure and tamper-proof cryptographic methods.

Cryptography heavily depends on trapdoor functions are bits of mathematics that are easy to do in one direction but virtually impossible to reverse. One common method is based on the assumed difficulty of finding the prime factors of enormous numbers.

It also relies on codes based on a different sort of mathematics involving elliptic curves. This method is stronger and less computationally taxing than the former. But its equations require some constants which makes it vulnerable to easy decryption should someone figure out the constants.

Since last year's revelation that the United States Nationals Security agency (NSA) collects raw telephone data, internet searches and snoops on peoples' emails, the demand for encryption has skyrocketed in the developed world. Companies specializing in network security are making a killing out of it.

With the current and gradual advancement in ICT sector in Kenya, the need of stronger encryption is growing especially in the multibillion financial industry.

The fact that Cyber Criminals have taken advantage of weak encryption systems in Kenyan government servers and websites and launched attacks on Central Bank of Kenya, Department of Defense, Nairobi Securities Exchange and the office of the Deputy President points towards the need to rethink cyber security strategy in this country since Kenya is fast becoming a hot spot for cybercrime.