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Decryption

Decryption

Forensic analysis, in particular forensic accounting (the utilization of accounting, auditing, and investigation to assist in financial legal matters), can involve dealing with information that has been altered so as to be unreadable and impossible to understand without using decryption to convert it into readable material.

This scrambling of information is done in a controlled fashion, according to a pre-determined pattern. If this pattern can be understood, then the meaningless scramble can be reconverted to intelligible text.

Decryption is simply the reverse of encryption, the process by which ordinary data, or plain text, is converted into a cipher. A cipher, often incorrectly identified as a code, is a system in which every letter of a plain text message is replaced with another letter so as to obscure its meaning. To decipher a message requires a key, an algorithm that provides the method by which the message was encrypted.

Decryption operates in everyday life when financial information is sent over the Internet. During the electronic passage, the information is encrypted to make it meaningless if intercepted. At the other end of the electronic journey, the application of the decryption algorithm renders the message meaningful to those for whom it is intended.

In one of the earliest and simplest ciphers , Julius Caesar sent messages in which each letter was substituted by the letter three places after it in the alphabet. In place of A, then, one would use a D. The key for such a cipher would be simply, "Shift right by three," or something similar.

A key is an algorithm, or a method for solving a mathematical problem by using a finite number of computations, usually involving repetition of certain operations or steps. An excellent example of an algorithm is f(x )= y, a formula by which a relationship between two elements is shown on a Cartesian coordinate system. It is said that "y is a function of x, " meaning that for every value of x, there is a corresponding value of y. Suppose it is established that 2x = y ; then the key for the function has been established, and all possible values of x and y can be mapped.

This is what occurs in decryption in a simplified form. The example shown is one that could easily be solved by what are called "brute-force" means. Brute force is a method of decryption in which a cryptanalyst, lacking a key, solves a cipher by testing all possible keys. This tends to be impractical for most ciphers without the use of a computer, and for the most sophisticated modern ciphers, brute force is all but impossible.

Suppose, however, one were shown a graph with the following coordinates for x and y : 1,2;2,4;3,6; and so on. It would be fairly easy to determine from these values, using brute force, that 2x = y, even if one did not have the key. This is an example of "weak" encryption. By contrast, some of the systems in use today for encryption of bank transactions or cellular phone communications and other purposes are extremely "strong". The ultimate example of strong encryption would be a situation in which decryption would be impossible without knowing the key.

Strong encryption is a controversial matter, due to the concerns of law-enforcement and intelligence authorities that such ciphers could be used by terrorists or other illegal groups. This has led to a move on the part of several governments, including that of the United States, to set up "key-escrow" arrangements, whereby all developers of ciphers would be required to give authorities a "back door" or key into the cipher. The government would maintain decryption keys in a secure location, and use them only when given a court order.

Forensic professionals can now use commercially available decryption software. Of course, updating of the software is vital to keep pace with newly devised ciphers. Many forensic officials will also have access to the state-of-the-art decryption software and expertise via organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations and Interpol .

see also Codes and ciphers; Computer forensics; Cryptology and number theory; Forensic accounting.

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Decryption

Decryption

Decryption is simply the reverse of encryption, the process by which ordinary data, or plain text, is converted into a cipher. A cipher, often incorrectly identified as a code, is a system in which every letter of a plain text message is replaced with another letter so as to obscure its meaning. To decipher a message requires a key, an algorithm that provides the method by which the message was encrypted.

Ciphers, algorithms, and keys. In one of the earliest and simplest ciphers, Julius Caesar sent messages in which each letter was substituted by the letter three places after it in the alphabet. In place of A, then, one would use a D. The key for such a cipher would be simply, "Shift right by three," or something similar.

A key is an algorithm, or a method for solving a mathematical problem by using a finite number of computations, usually involving repetition of certain operations or steps. An excellent example of an algorithm is f(x ) = y, a formula by which a relationship between two elements is shown on a Cartesian coordinate system. It is said that "y is a function of x, " meaning that for every value of x, there is a corresponding value of y. Suppose it is established that 2x = y; then the key for the function has been established, and all possible values of x and y can be mapped.

Brute force and weak and strong encryption. In a simplified form, this is what occurs in decryption. The example shown is one that could easily be solved by what are called "brute-force" means. Brute force is a method of decryption in which a cryptanalyst, lacking a key, solves a cipher by testing all possible keys. This tends to be impractical for most ciphers without the use of a computer, and for the most sophisticated modern ciphers, brute force is all but impossible.

Suppose, however, one were shown a graph with the following coordinates for x and y: 1, 2; 2, 4; 3, 6, and so on. It would be fairly easy to determine from these values, using brute force, that 2x = y, even if one did not have the key. This is an example of "weak" encryption. By contrast, some of the systems in use today for encryption of bank transactions or cellular phone communications and other purposes are extremely "strong". The ultimate example of strong encryption would be a situation in which decryption would be impossible without knowing the key.

Strong encryption is a controversial matter, due to the concerns of law-enforcement and intelligence authorities that such ciphers could be used by terrorists or other illegal groups. This has led to a move on the part of several governments, including that of the United States, to set up "key-escrow" arrangements, whereby all developers of ciphers would be required to give authorities a "back door" or key into the cipher. The government would maintain decryption keys in a secure location, and use them only when given a court order.

FURTHER READING:

BOOKS:

Kahn, David. The Codebreakers: The Story of Secret Writing. New York: Macmillan, 1967.

Kippenhahn, Rudolf. Code Breaking: A History and Exploration. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 1999.

Levy, Steven. Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government, Saving Privacy in the Digital Age. New York: Viking, 2001.

Schneier, Bruce. Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World. New York: John Wiley, 2000.

SEE ALSO

Encryption of Data
GSM Encryption
Pretty Good Privacy (PGP)

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decryption

decryption The processing of an encrypted message by an authorized recipient in order to recover the original message. See also cryptography. Compare cryptanalysis.

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decryption

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