1. What is the Quantum Cryptography?

Quantum cryptography is a method for secure key exchange over an insecure channel based on the nature of photons. Photons have a polarization, which can be measured in any basis, where a basis consists of two directions orthogonal to each other. If a photon's polarization is read in the same basis twice, the polarization will be read correctly and will remain unchanged. If it is read in two different bases, a random answer will be obtained in the second basis, and the polarization in the initial basis will be changed randomly.

The following protocol can be used by Alice and Bob to exchange secret keys.

Alice sends Bob a stream of photons, each with a random polarization, in a random basis. She records the polarizations.
Bob measures each photon in a randomly chosen basis and records the results.
Bob announces, over an authenticated but not necessarily private channel (e.g., by telephone), which basis he used for each photon.
Alice tells him which choices of bases are correct.

2. What is DNA Computing?

DNA computing, also known as molecular computing, is a new approach to massively parallel computation based on ground-breaking work by Adleman. He used DNA to solve a seven-node Hamiltonian path problem, a special case of an NP-complete problem that attempts to visit every node in a graph exactly once. (This special case is trivial to solve with a conventional computer, or even by hand, but illustrates the potential of DNA computing.)

A DNA computer is basically a collection of specially selected DNA strands whose combinations will result in the solution to some problem. Technology is currently available both to select the initial strands and to filter the final solution. The promise of DNA computing is massive parallelism: with a given setup and enough DNA, one can potentially solve huge problems by parallel search. This can be much faster than a conventional computer, for which massive parallelism would require large amounts of hardware, not simply more DNA.

3. How do Digital Timestamps Support Digital Signatures?

Consider two questions that may be asked by a computer user as he or she views a digital document or on-line record. (1) Who is the author of this record - who wrote it, approved it, or consented to it? (2) When was this record created or last modified?

In both cases, the question is one about exactly this record-exactly this sequence of bits - whether it was first stored on this computer or was created somewhere else and then copied and saved here. An answer to the first question tells who & what: who approved exactly what is in this record? An answer to the second question tells when & what: when exactly did the contents of this record first exist?

Both of the above questions have good solutions. A system for answering the first question is called a digital signature scheme. Such a system was first proposed in and there is a wide variety of accepted designs for an implementation of this kind of system.

4. What are Interactive Proofs and Zero-Knowledge Proofs?

Informally, an interactive proof is a protocol between two parties in which one party, called the prover, tries to prove a certain fact to the other party, called the verifier. An interactive proof usually takes the form of a challenge-response protocol, in which the prover and the verifier exchange messages and the verifier outputs either "accept" or "reject" at the end of the protocol. Besides their theoretical interests, interactive proofs have found applications in cryptography and computer security such as identification and authentication. In these situations, the fact to be proved is usually related to the prover's identity, e.g., the prover's private key.

The following properties of interactive proofs are quite useful, especially in cryptographic applications:

Completeness: The verifier always accepts the proof if the prover knows the fact and both the prover and the verifier follow the protocol.
Soundness: The verifier always rejects the proof if the prover does not know the fact, as long as the verifier follows the protocol.
Zero knowledge: The verifier learns nothing about the fact being proved (except that it is correct) from the prover that he could not already learn without the prover. In a zero-knowledge proof, the verifier cannot even later prove the fact to anyone else.

A typical round in a zero-knowledge proof consists of a "commitment" message from the prover, followed by a challenge from the verifier, and then a response to the challenge from the prover. The protocol may be repeated for many rounds. Based on the prover's responses in all the rounds, the verifier decides whether to accept or reject the proof.

5. What are Visual Secret Sharing Schemes?

Naor and Shamir developed what they called visual secret sharing schemes, which are an interesting visual variant of the ordinary secret sharing schemes.

Roughly speaking, the problem can be formulated as follows: There is a secret picture to be shared among n participants. The picture is divided into n transparencies (shares) such that if any m transparencies are placed together, the picture becomes visible, but if fewer than m transparencies are placed together, nothing can be seen. Such a scheme is constructed by viewing the secret picture as a set of black and white pixels and handling each pixel separately. See for more details. The schemes are perfectly secure and easily implemented without any cryptographic computation. A further improvement allows each transparency (share) to be an innocent picture (e.g. a picture of a landscape or a picture of a building), thus concealing the fact that secret sharing is taking place.

6. What is Blakleys Secret Sharing Scheme?

Blakley's secret sharing scheme is geometric in nature. The secret is a point in an m-dimensional space. n shares are constructed with each share defining a hyperplane in this space. By finding the intersection of any m of these planes, the secret (or point of intersection) can be obtained. This scheme is not perfect, as the person with a share of the secret knows that the secret is a point on his hyperplane. Nevertheless, this scheme can be modified to achieve perfect security.This is based on the scenario where two shares are required to recover the secret. A two-dimensional plane is used as only two shares are required to recover the secret. The secret is a point in the plane. Each share is a line that passes through the point. If any two of the shares are put together, the point of intersection, which is the secret, can be easily derived.

7. What is Shamirs Secret Sharing Scheme?

Shamir's secret sharing scheme is an interpolating scheme based on polynomial interpolation. An (m - 1)-degree polynomial over the finite field GF(q)

8. What are Message Authentication Codes (MACs)?

A message authentication code (MAC) is an authentication tag (also called a checksum) derived by application of an authentication scheme, together with a secret key, to a message. MACs are computed and verified with the same key so they can only be verified by the intended receiver, unlike digital signatures. MACs can be categorized as (1) unconditionally secure, (2) hash function-based, (3) stream cipher-based, or (4) block cipher-based.

Simmons and Stinson proposed an unconditionally secure MAC that is based on encryption with a one-time pad. The ciphertext of the message authenticates itself, as nobody else has access to the one-time pad. However, there has to be some redundancy in the message. An unconditionally secure MAC can also be obtained by use of a one-time secret key.

9. What Other Hash Functions Are There?

For a brief overview here, we note that hash functions are often divided into three classes according to their design:

those built around block ciphers,
those which use modular arithmetic, and
those which have what is termed a "dedicated" design.

By building a hash function around a block cipher, it is intended that by using a well-trusted block cipher such as DES a secure and well-trusted hash function can be obtained. The so-called Davies-Meyer hash function is an example of a hash function built around the use of DES.

10. What is the Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA and SHA-1)?

The Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA), the algorithm specified in the Secure Hash Standard (SHS), was developed by NIST and published as a federal information processing standard (FIPS PUB 180). SHA-1 was a revision to SHA that was published in 1994. The revision corrected an unpublished flaw in SHA. Its design is very similar to the MD4 family of hash functions developed by Rivest.

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