Do you speak geek: Tales from the cryptographer

Test your knowledge of encryption algorithms with this quiz.

Keeping the various encryption algorithms straight and knowing what to use when isn't easy. Take this quiz to find out how fluent you are in the language of encryption algorithms, and let us know how you did. Click on the link to find the answer within the term's definition.

1. What is the term for a procedure or formula for solving a problem? Hint: It derives from the name of the mathematician Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khwarizmi.

2. What is the most commonly used encryption and authentication algorithm and is included as part of the Web browsers from Microsoft and Netscape?

3. What standard originated at IBM in 1977 and applies a 56-bit key to each 64-bit block of data?

4. What did the National Institute of Standards and Technology choose Rijndael for? Hint: This is a replacement for DES.

5. What algorithm uses a single key of any length up to 256 bits and is said to be efficient both for software that runs in smaller processors such as those in smart cards and for embedding in hardware?

6. What encryption method involves the application of three keys in succession?

7. What encryption algorithm uses a variable-length key from 32 bits to 448 bits, making it useful for both domestic and exportable use?

8. What encryption algorithm uses a block cipher with a 128-bit key and is considered to be among the best publicly known algorithms. Hint: It was developed in Switzerland.

9. What algorithm was selected by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology as the candidate for the Advanced Encryption Standard?

10. Who offered a $10,000 reward in 1997 to anyone who could break a message secured with the DES? Hint: These three individuals are the brain-children of their own encryption algorithm.

How'd you do?
9-10 correct: Encryption erudition
6-8 correct: Encryption excellence
3-5 correct: Encryption encyclopedia needed
0-2 correct: Have to decrypt your brain

Further test your knowledge of cryptography with this quiz.


  • Our columnist explains the basics of cryptography, including the inner-workings of algorithms.
  • Here is a lesson on the two basic types of encryption algorithms.
  • Learn how encryption secures e-mail.

  • This was last published in February 2005

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