Two basic types of encryption schemes are used on the internet today. One, known as symmetric-key cryptography, follows the same pattern that people have been using to send secret messages for thousands of years. If Alice wants to send Bob a secret message, they start by getting together somewhere they can’t be overheard and agree on a secret key; later, when they are separated, they can use this key to send messages that Eve the eavesdropper can’t understand even if she overhears them. This is the sort of encryption used when you set up an online account with your neighborhood bank; you and your bank already know private information about each other, and use that information to set up a secret password to protect your messages.
The second scheme is called public-key cryptography, and it was invented only in the 1970s. As the name suggests, these are systems where Alice and …
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