The study of secret communications is known as cryptology. In fact, the name itself is derived of two famous Greek words: kryptos meaning ‘secret’ or ‘hidden’ and logos which means ‘word.’ Usually, cryptology or cryptic codes is designed to safeguard the information. These concealed messages are constructed by using different codes and ciphers.
Simply put, a code is a system of symbols that are used in the place of selected letters, numbers or words. A cipher, on the other hand, is a complex system created to encrypt a particular letter, or a pairing of letters, within a message to encode it. It is not unusual to find that complex encryption use both. The type of code or cipher methods depends on the encryption method employed to conceal the information.
Here’s a quick look at eleven of the most famous codes and ciphers method.
10 Morse Code Method
It’s important to remember that not all the codes are designed to hide a message. Take for instance Morse code. This method was designed to operate over the newly invented telegraph. The code worked by translating letters and numbers into a combination of dots and dashes which were transmitted by an electrical current on a telegraph wire. Morse had intended to use a specially designed contraption that would convert the dots and dashes from the sender’s end to marks on paper tape on the receiver’s end.
However, the movement of the stylus made clicking noises, and pretty soon the operators were able to translate the code by listening to the transmissions to decipher the dots and dashes, so the paper was no longer required. This invention allowed for the sending of messages over a long-distance, and set the foundations for a myriad of technological advances in communication.
9 Book Code Method
Book code is designed specifically to hide secrets. It also does not require its own code-book. Encrypted messages can be passed between two people as long as they both possess the exact same edition of a book. Each word of the coded message is presented as three numbers.
The numbers help the recipient locate the page, line and the actual word by how far away it is from the left margin of the page. This form of code is highly adaptable, and makes deciphering almost impossible if the book used is unknown.
The dictionary and the bible are popular choices, but it works just as well with cookbooks, romance novels and travel magazines. Interestingly, the honorable Sherlock Holmes deciphers an encrypted message by figuring out the key text in the novel ‘The Valley of Fear.’
8 Caesar Cipher Method
One of the easiest ciphers developed was a system that was used by the Roman ruler, Julius Caesar. It worked by substituting each letter of the alphabet by the third letter down from its order. For example, if the letter in the text was ‘B’ then the Caesar cipher would replace it with the letter ‘E.’
Later developments of the cipher would change the number of letters to be displaced to make solving of the encrypted message little more challenging. Encoders could change it so that it worked using a displacement of twelve.
In this case, the letter ‘A’ would be represented by the letter ‘M.’ This addition made it a little more difficult todecode, as there are twenty five possible combinations to consider. As developments progressed in the world of cryptology, any ciphers that required the displacement of letters in alphabetical order became known as a variant of the Caesar cipher.
7 Mono-Alphabetic Cipher Method
The Mono-alphabetic Cipher is one of many substitution ciphers in use. This one uses a key to rearrange the letters of the alphabet. Different letters are then used to replace the letters in the script to create an encoded message. Its success hinges on the recipient knowing the key to decipher it.
6 Playfair Cipher Method
Playfair cipher, or sometimes called Playfair Square, was the first literal digraph substitution cipher in use. Invented by Charles Wheatstone in 1854, it was named after Lord Playfair, who worked diligently to promote the practice. Playfair encrypts pairs of letters, instead of a single letter, making it much harder to decode.
It has six hundred possible digraphs to manipulate. This cipher was used quite extensively by Australia and New Zealand during World War II. Most recently, it featured in the film, ‘National Treasure: Book of Secrets.’
5 Polyalphabetic Cipher Method
Also referred to as the Vigenere cipher, the polyalphabetic cipher is an encryption method that uses a series of Caesar ciphers. It is a little more complex as it relies on a keyword to formulate the letter displacement. The keyword determines the substitution, and by changing the keyword, the substitution is altered.
As long as the recipient knows the keyword, they can determine the numbers for the letters, and then can figure out the displacement number. In theory, the cipher is relatively easy to understand and to implement, but for three long centuries it held strong and earned the nickname, ‘the indecipherable cipher.’ Author Lewis Carroll referred to it as the ‘unbreakable cipher’ in 1868. Interestingly, the Vigenere cipher was used in the American Civil War by the Confederate States of America, and the Swiss Army employed its use up until 1940.
4 Pigpen Cipher Method
This cipher goes by many names. It is sometimes referred to as the Tic-Tac-Toe Cipher, the Napoleon cipher, the Masonic cipher, or the Freemason’s cipher. The Pigpen Cipher is another simple substitution cipher that was rather popular in the eighteenth century.
In fact, the cipher was documented by George Washington’s army during the American Civil War. In this cipher, the twenty-six letters of the alphabet are replaced by sections of a geometrical grid and dots. A variation of the cipher was adopted by the Rosicrucian.
It has also been claimed that the Knights Templar developed their own version of it that utilized the Maltese Cross. It features prominently in Dan Brown’s novel ‘The Lost Symbol,’ and is also in the electronic game, ‘Assassin’s Creed II.’
3 Steganography Method
Steganography is a very clever way of concealing a hidden message or image. It has often been romanticized in literature or film. For example the Cold War saw an explosion of crafty spy equipment and technics to conceal documents and messages, and the creation of such characters as James Bond personified the ideal. It can involve writing a message in wax, or invisible ink in a private letter. There are accounts of messages hidden in tattoos, Morse code imprinted on yarn which is then knitted into a garment, whole messages concealed by a single postage stamp on the front of an envelope, the list goes on. As technology has advanced, so have the steganographic techniques. Whole messages are now encrypted in pixels, images and other digital applications.
2 Scytale Method
One of the great advancements in secret messages, was the development of encryption and encoding devices. A rather simple yet ingenious encrypting tool used by both the ancient Greeks and the Spartans, was the scytale. A Scytale was a cylindrical or baton shaped object which had parchment wrapped around it. Along the side of the rod, a message would be written.
The parchment would then be taken off the Scytale and worn by the messenger as a belt. The only way the message could be read was if the parchment was wrapped around the Scytale again. Both the sender and the recipient had to have a Scytale of the exact same diameter for the message to be read. This worked well if the enemy didn’t get a hold of one. Although, they were very easy to break, and soldiers could easily destroy them to prevent messages from being intercepted.
1 The Engima Method
Technological advancements saw great changes in the world of cryptology and cipher methods. More and more advanced techniques were developed to make decoding hidden messages almost impossible. One of the most famous was the German invention known as the Enigma. Used during WWII, this complicated machine used a series of substitution ciphers to encrypt top secret messages. By shifting the ciphers a letter at a time after each new letter was encoded, the designers of the device were able to mystify allied forces for years. Public and Private Encryption
Today, encryption is no longer left to the spies forming secret messages. The ability to safely encrypt sensitive information is paramount. For example, when a person makes a purchase online, they are required to use a credit card. This information has to be encrypted so that a third party cannot intercept it. This is down through the use of public key and private encryption.
Systems are in place to prevent outside parties from decoding the information. This is by far the most highly sophisticated form of codes and ciphers at work, and the industry is constantly modifying and improving it to protect the public. Mankind has long been enthralled by secret messages. The mystery of the Egyptian hieroglyphs had us scratching our heads for centuries, until the magnificent Rosetta Stone allowed the secrets to be revealed. However; not all of the cryptic codes have been solved.
No one has been able to decipher the Zodiac 340 Letter. These dark, horrid events in our past have left us scratching our heads in disbelief. Yet, there are other more puzzling and rewarding challenges, such as the Beale Papers, that promise over forty million dollars of gold, silver and jewels, to those who can crack the code. Codes and ciphers exist in all forms in our daily activities, and play a rather pivotal part in our human experience, and how we interact with the world around us.