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# Playfair Cipher

Key

Playfair Cipher is a manual symmetric encryption technique and was the first literal digram substitution cipher. The scheme was invented in 1854 by Charles Wheatstone, but bears the name of Lord Playfair for promoting its use.

The technique encrypts pairs of letters (bigrams or digrams), instead of single letters as in the simple substitution cipher and rather more complex Vigenère cipher systems then in use. The Playfair cipher is thus significantly harder to break since the frequency analysis used for simple substitution ciphers does not work with it. The frequency analysis of bigrams is possible, but considerably more difficult. With 600 possible bigrams rather than the 26 possible monograms (single symbols, usually letters in this context), a considerably larger cipher text is required in order to be useful. [Wikipedia]

The Playfair is significantly harder to break since the frequency analysis used for simple substitution ciphers does not work with it. Frequency analysis can still be undertaken, but on the 25*25=625 possible digraphs rather than the 25 possible monographs. Frequency analysis thus requires much more ciphertext in order to work.

It was used for tactical purposes by British forces in the Second Boer War and in World War I and for the same purpose by the Australians during World War II. This was because Playfair is reasonably fast to use and requires no special equipment. A typical scenario for Playfair use would be to protect important but non-critical secrets during actual combat. By the time the enemy cryptanalysts could break the message the information was useless to them.

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