What does a Cryptographer do?

Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden
Crytographers study different ways of keeping information secret.
Crytographers study different ways of keeping information secret.

A cryptographer is one who practices or studies cryptography, a field primarily involved with keeping secret information secret. Modern cryptography is mostly concerned with encrypting digital information, such as e-mail, to protect it as it's sent from one digital source to another. Data security is extremely important to nearly all people, not just for those with very sensitive information. Every transaction or interaction that one makes on the Internet could be detected and read by other individuals if proper security measures were not in place. The cryptographer ensures that only people with the right authorization can view certain data.

Mathematics and probability is a core principle behind cryptanalysis.
Mathematics and probability is a core principle behind cryptanalysis.

A cryptographer has several goals when working to encrypt data. One goal is authentication, the process of proving the identity of one attempting to access a given piece of information. Privacy is another goal; it involves ensuring that a given piece information only reaches its intended viewer. The cryptographer must also ensure that a secure message is not altered in any way between the sender and the receiver. He must be able to determine with certainty the identity of the sender so that one cannot send a message and claim it came from someone else.

One wishing to become a cryptographer generally studies computer science in college. If one wishes to keep data in computer systems encrypted, it is essential to know and understand the workings of such computer systems. Upon finishing college, a graduate degree in mathematics or in computer science is also very beneficial to a career in cryptography. Mathematics are very important to the study and practice of cryptography, so it is important to have a firm grasp of the subject.

Upon receiving a degree, a cryptographer can seek work in a variety of places, as many kinds of companies and government agencies hire cryptographers on a regular basis. Government agencies, such as the National Security Agency (NSA), tend to hire many cryptographers; such agencies are responsible for encrypting important government data transmissions. A cryptographer might also find work at a bank, as banks go to great lengths to ensure their clients' transactions are secure.

Throughout history, various military forces have also made use of cryptographers to send encrypted messages from one point to another. Often, it was important to keep certain information, such as strategies and technological information, away from the enemy forces. In modern times, it is important to keep information stored on computers and digital communications secret from enemy forces.

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Discussion Comments


I think the work of cryptographers is more important than ever. There have been a number of high profile hacks of major web sites resulting in the loss of tons and tons of personal data.

Obviously the desire to steal infor from the net is not going to go anywhere. The only solution is to create better security. This burden falls on lots of individuals but cryptographers will play a big role. Hiding or scrambling the information contained on these sites might be one way of deterring hackers.

They need to find a solution one way or another. This is becoming a bigger issue for a growing number of people as we live more of our lives online. The internet needs to be a safe place if people are going to keep using it the way that they do.


I think cryptographers are going to have to work extra hard to keep ahead of the professional hackers.

I talked to a friend whose son works for a bank. He told her that banks and financial institutions are looking closely at what additional security measures they can institute.

Apparently, some of these hackers have a "company." They recruit "the best of the best" outstanding college graduates under the guise of a legitimate company. In time these "new employees" realize what their work really is. Sad - sad!


The importance of having cryptographers on board protecting our personal information, government information and many more sources from hackers, is so crucial. They are kind of behind the scenes workers, but I'm forever grateful to them.

I used to be paranoid about sending any of my personal information over the internet. But I'm now gaining more trust in the security system. I now do quite a bit of shopping and such on the internet.

I say we ought to do more to attract and encourage our young people to take more interest in mathematics. We will need a good supply of cryptographers,who are skilled in math and computer science, to take over in the decades to come.


I heard once that the headquarters of the CIA contains a number of big rocks and sculptures on its campus that all have a piece of a code developed by a famous cryptographer. I'm not sure exactly how it works, but each piece is related and apparently no one has ever cracked the code.

That's pretty impressive when you figure its right in the middle of one of the most secretive organizations in the whole world. If anyone knows codes, it's these guys.

I first heard about this when The Da Vinci Code was really popular and everyone was so crazy for codes and symbols and cryptograms. I wonder how long it will take before someone figures it out?


@JessicaLynn - Well, we have to protect copyrighted material somehow. Maybe the law could be reworded or something, but I think it's necessary.

It sounds like it takes a lot of brain power to become a cryptographer! I am personally horrible at math, so I don't think this would be the job for me.

I read somewhere that most modern codes use complicated mathematical equations as their keys. In order to crack the, code you have to solve the equation. No thank you!


I think the United States has really crippled the development of cryptography with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Basically, this act makes it illegal to develop technology to crack the digital rights management that is on ebooks, music, and other digital products.

However, as some wise cryptographers point out, the law could basically be applied to any cryptography. So some cryptographers haven't released certain findings because of fear of prosecution under this ridiculous law.

Unscrupulous people are always going to pirate, but at least let cryptography continue to develop! We need it for our national security.

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    • Crytographers study different ways of keeping information secret.
      By: Cousin_Avi
      Crytographers study different ways of keeping information secret.
    • Mathematics and probability is a core principle behind cryptanalysis.
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      Mathematics and probability is a core principle behind cryptanalysis.