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These ciphers were extremely basic, of course: the Caesar cipher turned a message into code simply by replacing each letter with the one three down in the alphabet, so that 'a' became 'd'.
Ciphers became more sophisticated, and harder to break, over the centuries, but it was the Second World War that demonstrated the real importance of encryption — and cracking it.
"We're seeing systemic attacks on the fabrics of our systems, the fabric of our communications...
by undermining the security of our communications, they enable surveillance," he warns.
One example in the mid-90s involved the NSA designing the Clipper chip, which was a way to give the agency access to the communications on any devices on which the chip was installed.
Another attempt at government control during this period came with the introduction of key escrow.
But this is no Big Brother figure seeking obedience though, rather the opposite. NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden is explaining how his former employer and other intelligence agencies have worked to undermine privacy on the internet and beyond.Encryption is one of the elemental forces of the web, even though it goes unnoticed and unremarked by the billions of people that use it every day.