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It was the year 58 BC when Julius Caesar began the Gallic War, a contest that demonstrated the logistical, strategic and weapons superiority of the Roman army. And it was precisely in this war when the emperor invented the ‘Caesar Cipher’, the first cryptography method in history. He used it to send a message to Cicero, who was besieged and about to surrender, replacing the letters of the text so that it was unintelligible to the enemy. To encrypt the message, each letter was replaced by the other that would occupy three later positions in the alphabet. ‘A’ would be replaced by ‘D’, ‘B’ by ‘E’, ‘C’ by ‘F’, and so on. Thus, the famous phrase attributed to Julius Caesar: VENI, VIDI, VICI, would be coded as YHPL YLGL YLFL. The ‘Caesar Cipher’ appears to have been quite efficient due to the inability of most of his enemies to read or write.
Two thousand years later, Nazism sophisticated this encrypting technique by creating a machine, named ‘Enigma’, used for internal communication during World War II. Twenty years after the war, it was revealed that a group of Polish and Spanish mathematicians hacked the machine, which was decisive in defeating the Nazi Germany.
The modern world has many secrets to protect from prying eyes. For this reason, governments, companies and individuals develop automated mechanisms to keep their most confidential information safe. The problem is that their enemies, or hackers, also have refined tools to violate these virtual protections.
Cryptography plays a vital role in modern digital communication systems and guarantees the cybersecurity of our daily actions such as sending an email, checking our bank statement or making a purchase on the Internet. To protect ourselves from cyber attacks, citizens must use secure communication tools and governments train users to prevent malicious accesses, just like Julius Caesar in his famous Gallic battle.