By Natalie Lord
When Tony Mackay started the process of setting up a digital cryptocurrency exchange, one of the most important decisions was what to name it.
“When deciding what to name the exchange, I followed the example of Chi-X, where Chi was the Ancient Greek word for cross. Cross is the term of matching buyer and seller in markets. Chi represents the traditional cross and the red X at the end was the new world.
The name Kryptos is derived from an Ancient Greek word meaning “hidden” or “secret” as in, to keep secret or hide your identity. Crypt- is the core of the word and has been used in forming English words since at least 1760 from the Latinised form. Crypto is short for cryptography which is all about keeping transactions secret except to the other party. As with Chi-X, the modern X is the new take on it all.”
Cryptography is the practice of techniques that enable secure communication, and is associated with the conversion of ordinary text into a form that is unintelligible. It’s a way of storing and sending information so that only those for whom the communication is intended can read it.
Modern cryptography relies on various elements of information security like data integrity, authentication and data confidentiality to protect it from alteration or theft.
Aside from its Greek meaning, Kryptos is also the name of a famous sculpture created by American artist Jim Sanborn which sits on the grounds of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia in the United States of America.
The theme behind the sculpture is intelligence gathering. There are four encrypted messages on the sculpture, of which three have been solved. The fourth message remains one of the most famous unsolved codes in the world and many cryptanalysts continue to try and decipher the final communication.
“I saw the sculpture references when I researched the name,” Tony says. “But to me the link to crypto was key.”
Elsewhere, there are two references to Kryptos on the US version of Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code.” One relates to the coordinates mentioned in the text on the back cover of the book, which were part of the first clue of the second “Da Vinci Code Webquest,” the answer being Kryptos. The other reference contains words hidden in the brown “tear” artwork which are upside down and read “Only WW knows.” Dan Brown also includes Kryptos in his 2009 novel “The Lost Symbol.”
There is a small version of Kryptos in a season 5 episode of US television drama “Alias” called “S.O.S.” In a comedic moment, Marshall Flinkman sees Kryptos during a tour of the CIA premises and claims he has cracked the code just by looking at it.
In the music arena, there’s a reference to Kryptos in a song called “Obfuscation” in the 2009 album of progressive metal band “Between the Buried and Me” called “The Great Misdirect.”
Next week’s blog will look at the history of cryptography and its relevance in the financial arena.