Encyclopedia of Cryptography and Security

2011 Edition
| Editors: Henk C. A. van Tilborg, Sushil Jajodia

Kerckhoffs’ Principle

  • Fabien A. P. Petitcolas
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-5906-5_487


Related Concepts

Cryptosystem Security; Security Through Obscurity


Kerckhoffs’ Principle states that the security of a cryptosystem must lie in the choice of its keys only; everything else (including the algorithm itself) should be considered public knowledge.


Dr. August Kerckhoffs, a Dutch linguist trained at the University of Liège, became a professor at École des Hautes Études Commerciales in Paris, where he taught German. He was also a keen supporter of volapük, a constructed language. His strong interest in cryptography led him to publish two articles entitled La Cryptographie Militaire (“Military Cryptography”) in which he surveyed the state of the art in cryptography and proposed six fundamental principles for any cryptosystem alongside rules of the thumb and general practical advice. At the time, the main goal of cryptographers was to set up a secure telegraphic system.

The six principles enunciated by Kerckhoffs...
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Recommended Reading

  1. 1.
    Kerckhoffs A (1883) La cryptographie militaire. J sci militaires IX:5–38, 161–191. [http://www.petitcolas.net/fabien/kerckhoffs/]
  2. 2.
    Kahn D (1996). The codebreakers: the comprehensive history of secret communication from ancient times to the Internet, pp. XX–XX. Scribner, New York. ISBN 0684831309Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fabien A. P. Petitcolas
    • 1
  1. 1.Microsoft ResearchMicrosoft ResearchCambridgeUK