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Sinister Code-Breakers, Beware

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Northeastern University assistant professor Daniel Wichs

"If cryptographers do their job, you don't have to think about it all that much," says Northeastern University assistant professor Daniel Wichs.

Credit: Brooks Canaday / Northeastern University

Governments used cryptography in the early- to mid-20th century to encrypt top-secret messages or military communications, but today cryptography is used more widely to address the challenges of the 21st century, says Northeastern University professor Daniel Wichs.

"Cryp­tog­raphy is being used every day, but people prob­ably don't even notice it," Wichs says. "Whether you're using Gmail or log­ging onto a site from your mobile phone, cryp­tography is there making sure others aren't able to see the data you're sending and receiving." As a result of the massive expansion in the use of cryptography in recent years, Wichs says researchers need to focus more on how outside forces such as hackers or foreign governments attempt to break through encrypted systems or exploit unknown weaknesses.

Cryptography fascinates Wichs because it mergers theory and practical applications in ways unlike many fields of research, he says. His research focuses in part on side-channel attacks, in which third parties try to learn about encrypted systems by measuring information such as how long a computer process takes or how much electricity is used by a given calculation.

From Northeastern University 
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