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She could not, however, add things to the box without having an additional public key.
In a digital sense, Joe can encrypt plaintext (with his public key), and send it to Karen, but only Karen (and her matching private key) could decrypt the ciphertext back into plaintext.
They used a very primitive method of cryptography that relied on use of the scytale as a tool to create a transposition cipher (answer key) to decode encrypted messages.
Cryptography, is – at its core – the act of creating and (attempting to) decipher a code.
While electronic encryption is relatively new in the grander scheme of things, cryptography is a science that dates back to ancient Greece.
Two of the most widely used encryption methods are Public key (asymmetric) encryption and Private key (symmetric) encryption.
The two are similar in the sense that they both allow a user to encrypt data to hide it from others, and then decrypt it in order to access the original plaintext.