You’re not alone if words like cryptology, cryptography, bitcoin, cryptanalysis, and other related terms keep haunting you in the middle of the night. Also people who have worked in the software industry for decades may be unaware of the differences between terms like cryptography and cryptology and use them interchangeably. However, understanding the precise definition of critical software terminologies like these and clarifying the terms at the grassroots level is often a good idea.

We’ll go through what cryptography is, address questions like “what is cryptography?” and clarify the distinction between cryptography and cryptology in this post.

Cryptography vs. Cryptology


Cryptology and cryptography are two concepts that refer to the study of cryptographic systems as well as the hiding, disguising, or uncovering of hidden information. These two words are commonly used interchangeably nowadays, but when you study them closely, you’ll find that they have some major differences. Let’s take a look at each word separately and see what we’re talking about.

What Is Cryptography?

Cryptography is the research and implementation of codes and methodologies that protect data from unauthorised access. In today’s world, it’s all about safe communications and records. That is, we prohibit unauthorised or malicious users from accessing data while also allowing approved users to do so. To put it another way, cryptography applies to all of the methods for keeping contact between two parties secret in such a way that no one else can read, decode, alter, or steal the message.

Encryption and hashing are the two key pillars of cryptography.

Encryption in Cryptography

Nowadays, encryption is a must-have for data protection. To secure the items they hold, you have locks on your doors, vaults, and cars, right? Digital information, on the other hand, must be secured in a similar manner, and we are increasingly moving toward a paperless environment in which all of our information and data is processed electronically. Data must be shielded from malicious hackers, cybercriminals, and other unwanted or unauthorised parties, whether it is in transit or at rest.

Encryption is a technique that can be used to secure data. Encryption is the process of converting plaintext data into unintelligible cypher data. For example, if you use the DES algorithm to encrypt the word “Hello,” the result will be W/G6lMfDBEZO+DCFRQB3bg==.

Mathematical algorithms and complex keys consisting of random and unpredictable alphanumeric characters are used for encryption and decryption. Consider a standard lock and key. The mechanism of the lock is an algorithm, and the key is a cryptographic key, without which the door cannot be locked or unlocked. No one may read or otherwise interpret the original data from the ciphertext without using the special key until the data is safe.

Symmetric encryption is an encoding process in which the same key encrypts and decrypts data (symmetric cryptography). This hidden key should only be open to the sender and receiver. Anyone who obtains access to the key will be able to access the data. Asymmetric encryption is another form of cryptography (asymmetric cryptography). Encryption and decryption are performed using two different keys. The data is encrypted using the public key, which is open to everyone. The receiver must keep the decryption key, also known as a private key, secret and never share it with anyone.

Hashing in Cryptography

When people talk about hashing in cryptography, they’re referring to a function called a hash. Converting an arbitrary amount of data into a fixed-length output of enciphered data is known as hashing. A hash is a mathematical algorithm that transforms a random quantity of data into a fixed-length output known as a hash digest in a one-way function. As a consequence, if you have ten pages of data or only one sentence, the hash size would be the same.

It’s almost impossible to undo hashing. It is impossible to reverse a hash value using the same algorithms. Without huge quantities of computing resources and time — thousands or even millions of years depending on how the hashing is performed — you can’t work out the original data based on the hash value. As a result, hashing will aid in the security of your data.

Hash values are one-of-a-kind, and no two pieces of data can (ideally) return the same hash value. If they do, they are said to “collide.” This means that a successful hash should be resistant to collisions. The output hash value changes if anyone makes even a seemingly minor change in the initial input. As a result, no data manipulation goes unnoticed. Hashing is used to verify data integrity for this purpose.

What Is Cryptology?

Cryptology is a general concept that includes cryptography as well as cryptanalysis. Cryptography (i.e., shielding data by hiding it from someone who isn’t allowed to see, view, or modify it) and cryptanalysis are both studied and practised in cryptology (i.e., figuring out how to access the data without having the necessary cryptographic key).

To comprehend cryptography vs. cryptology, you must first comprehend cryptanalysis.

Cryptography encompasses all legal methods of data protection and disclosure. This ensures that the data can only be accessed by those who have the necessary keys. However, cryptanalysis provides all of the methods for breaking the security, even if you don’t have the keys. It also involves research into detecting hash collisions, which occur when two different inputs generate the same hash value (output), allowing for data tampering.

Assume you’ve placed a lock on your door. Cryptography is the study of various lock and key mechanisms. However, if a thief is standing outside your locked door with no access to the key, all of his out-of-the-box ideas for breaking the lock would fall under the category of cryptanalysis.

He might try his luck with a slew of duplicate keys. The thief can even attempt to pick or crack the lock with items such as a sharp hairpin, an axe, or even a gunshot. Hackers and security researchers in the cybersecurity industry, on the other hand, carefully study the codes and key structure and use mathematics to break the security mechanism. To crack the protection system, they use a range of methods, techniques, and quantum computers.

Looking for any real-life cryptanalysis examples?

  • During World War II, Alan Turing conducted cryptanalysis and led cryptanalysis teams that helped the Allies turn the tide. One of his most notable accomplishments was cracking the German M3 Enigma code using cryptanalysis.
  • Google demonstrated a SHA-1 collision attack, demonstrating that the hash value of two separate PDF files could be the same. (Now, to be honest, they did devote a lot of people and money to achieving this aim… SHA-1, on the other hand, hasn’t been considered a stable hashing algorithm for over 15 years.)

In a nutshell, cryptanalysis encompasses all “outside-the-box” methods for breaching cryptography’s security barriers.

An Overview of Cryptology vs Cryptography

Let’s summarize the difference between cryptography and cryptology:

Cryptography   Cryptology
Cryptography is a narrow concept that includes hash functions, asymmetric encryption, and symmetric encryption, as well as the different types of symmetric ciphers. Cryptology is a broad concept. Cryptology includes both cryptography and cryptanalysis.
Cryptography includes study of techniques to protect content in transit and at-rest. Cryptology includes everything in the realm of cryptography as well as cryptanalysis. Cryptanalysis includes all the methods of breaching the cryptographic security systems.
The purpose of cryptography is to find ways to create the most complex algorithms and robust keys that can protect the content. The purpose of cryptology is not only to create strong security but also to test and break the cryptographical system by doing systematic mathematical calculations.
Cryptography is used by companies, governments, and individuals the world over to secure data between two endpoints and vouch for data integrity. The only person holding the right cryptographic keys can encrypt and/or decrypt messages. In the same way, data tampering doesn’t go unnoticed. Security professionals use cryptology to find vulnerabilities in information systems to make the cryptographic processes and technologies that protect them stronger. But hackers are also interested in cryptology to study how to break the system to steal the data and execute various cybercrime.

Final Thoughts on Cryptography vs. Cryptology

We all use cryptography on a regular basis, but we might not know it. Cryptographic methods are used to encrypt our accounts, social media profiles, and the data we post on those websites, among other things. However, some security researchers and data scientists are employing cryptography not only to create a solid cryptographic system, but also to test such mechanisms in order to detect and fix any flaws.

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