Authentication refers to the task of verifying the identity of a
person/software connecting to an application. The simplest form of
authentication consists of a secret password that must be presented when a user
connects to the application. Unfortunately, passwords are easily compromised,
for example, by guessing, or by sniffing of packets on the network if the
passwords are not sent encrypted.More robust schemes are needed for critical
applications, such as online bank accounts. Encryption is the basis for more
robust authentication schemes. Many applications use two-factor authentication, where two independent

factors (that is, pieces of information or processes) are used to identify
a user. The two factors should not share a
common vulnerability; for example, if a system merely required two passwords,
both could be vulnerable to leakage in the same manner. While biometrics such
as fingerprints or iris scanners can be used in situations where a user is
physically present at the point of authentication, they

not very meaningful across a network. Passwords are used as the first factor in
most such two-factor authentication schemes. Smart cards or other encryption
devices connected through the USB

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which can be used for authentication based on encryption techniques are widely
used as second factors.


Encryption refers to the process of
transforming data into a form that is unreadable,

unless the reverse process of
decryption is applied. Encryption algorithms

use an encryption key to perform
encryption, and require a decryption key (which

could be the same as the encryption
key depending on the encryption algorithm

used) to perform decryption.

The oldest uses of encryption were
for transmitting messages, encrypted

using a secret key known only to
the sender and the intended receiver. Even if

themessage is intercepted by an
enemy, the enemy, not knowing the key, will not

be able to decrypt and understand
the message. Encryption is widely used today

for protecting data in transit in a
variety of applications such as data transfer on

the Internet, and on cellular phone
networks. Encryption is also used to carry out

other tasks, such as authentication



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