How can I explain to non-techie friends that "cryptography is good"?

This question does not ask how to motivate a particular technical decision where the value of encryption is relevant, but rather ask for a more subjective and political motivation for a specific normative opinion that encryption is "good".

Regardless of what opinion you have of the general usage of encryption in the society, can this really be considered on-topic on this site?


The question format of "how do I discuss [security topic] with non-security people" is on-topic. The answers will not be about making technical decisions, but that's OK.

It is because the topic in question is under hot debate in political and legislative circles that we, as security professionals, should be able to ask of each other how to properly discuss the topic.

  • 1
    Isn't there a slight difference between how do I discuss [security topic] with non-security people with how do I promote my agenda about [security topic] in the society?
    – Alex
    May 17 '16 at 18:27
  • There's a very large difference. But I'm not sure, in this case, that "agenda" is the correct characterization.
    – schroeder Mod
    May 17 '16 at 18:30
  • 2
    Well... I don't see how it could not be. I guess that it's really how do I promote *our* agenda about [security topic] in the society, and this is why it's ok. As someone who have a genuine interest in political science and how to organize societies, that thread is utterly useless in actually exploring the pros and cons of the subject.
    – Alex
    May 17 '16 at 18:53
  • I'm not even going to touch that comment...
    – schroeder Mod
    May 17 '16 at 18:55
  • Why not? I hope it didn't come of as aggressive or something, but I must assume that everyone here have the self-insight to see that this is just like having a How do I explain that X-box is better than Playstation for my friends in xboxfans.com. Quite... cute and technically useless.
    – Alex
    May 17 '16 at 19:09
  • 1
    If you look at my answer to it, it's really a thread more about how can I clarify my discussion about this topic and what points would help. If they were wrong we'd probably tell them and down vote it to heck and back. Voting is how we voice our agreement or disagreement here. What you're suggesting is less "Help me clarify/give me good points and point me in the right direction" and more "My personal opinion needs support, who here supports me?" May 17 '16 at 19:25
  • The latter of which is NOT allowed by FAQ. May 17 '16 at 19:25
  • @Alex, I think the source of your opposition here is this part of your question: "Regardless of what *opinion* you have of the general usage of encryption". Sure, if this was just a question of personal opinions, your question might have some basis. But the whole point is that this is NOT about opinion, there is no subjectivity here at all, just misperception and media manipulation by malicious governmental bodies.
    – AviD Mod
    May 18 '16 at 10:06
  • @Alex, How do I explain that X-box is better than Playstation for my friends attempts to convince people to buy a particular product. Cryptography is not a product, and the vast majority of encryption algorithms is free as in beer. No one of us earns anything by supporting encryption. Plus, it is a fact that cryptography is a tool used to improve information security. Whether cryptography should be restricted, limited, weakened is a separate issue, but you cannot deny that cryptography can improve information security. This forum is about information security, so that question is on-topic.
    – A. Darwin
    May 23 '16 at 15:37

The question falls under the form of

I need advice on how to explain Cryptography in layman terms

Of which there is really only one truth about what cryptography is in all of IS:SE, and that is that it is a tool in the most basic of terms.

They needed help clarifying this which is a question opened up to some opinions about how the argument should be presented, but those are fine too since they aren't endorsement recommendations and aren't something actively harmful. They don't try to misinform what Cryptography is/n't, and really approach it more in a "Maybe if you present it this way it will help" sort of answer, of which there are many and are acceptable here since we offer advice since every situation isn't exact. Different explanations resonate differently with different groups, and so until he finds the right way to put it or we give him some information he was missing we might as well keep trying to help him find the right way to say it.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .