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A cipher is a method of encrypting a message to make it unreadable to anyone who does not have the means to decrypt it. Ciphers are used to protect the confidentiality of communications by ensuring that only the intended recipient can read the message.

There are two main types of ciphers: symmetric ciphers and asymmetric ciphers.

Symmetric ciphers use the same key for both encryption and decryption. This means that the same key must be shared between the sender and the recipient in order for the message to be encrypted and decrypted. Examples of symmetric ciphers include the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and the Blowfish cipher.

Asymmetric ciphers, also known as public-key ciphers, use a pair of keys for encryption and decryption. One key, known as the public key, is used to encrypt the message, while the other key, known as the private key, is used to decrypt it. This means that the public key can be shared with anyone, while the private key must be kept secret. Examples of asymmetric ciphers include the RSA algorithm and the Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) algorithm.

Ciphers can be classified based on the type of key that is used (e.g., symmetric or asymmetric), the type of encryption algorithm that is used (e.g., block cipher or stream cipher), and the number of keys that are used (e.g., single-key or multi-key).

It is important to note that while ciphers can be effective at protecting the confidentiality of communications, they are not foolproof and can be vulnerable to various types of attacks. It is always important to use strong, unique keys and to regularly update them to maintain the security of encrypted data.