cryptography The art of protecting information by transforming it (encrypting it) into an unreadable format, called cipher text. Only those who possess a secret key can decipher (or decrypt) the message into plain text. Encrypted messages can sometimes be broken by cryptanalysis, also called codebreaking, although modern cryptography techniques are virtually unbreakable.
As the Internet and other forms of electronic communication become more prevalent, electronic security is becoming increasingly important. Cryptography is used to protect e-mail messages, credit card information, and corporate data. One of the most popular cryptography systems used on the Internet is Pretty Good Privacy because it's effective and free.
Cryptography systems can be broadly classified into symmetric-key systems that use a single key that both the sender and recipient have, and public-key systems that use two keys, a public key known to everyone and a private key that only the recipient of messages uses.