Father of cryptanalysis
The first known recorded explanation of cryptanalysis was given by Al-Kindi (c. 801–873, also known as "Alkindus" in Europe), a 9th-century Arab polymath, in Risalah fi Istikhraj al-Mu'amma (A Manuscript on Deciphering Cryptographic Messages). This treatise contains the first description of the method of frequency analysis. Al-Kindi is thus regarded as the first codebreaker in history. His breakthrough work was influenced by Al-Khalil (717–786), who wrote the Book of Cryptographic Messages, which contains the first use of permutations and combinations to list all possible Arabic words with and without vowels.
Frequency analysis is the basic tool for breaking most classical ciphers. In natural languages, certain letters of the alphabet appear more often than others; in English, "E" is likely to be the most common letter in any sample of plaintext. Similarly, the digraph "TH" is the most likely pair of letters in English, and so on. Frequency analysis relies on a cipher failing to hide these statistics. For example, in a simple substitution cipher (where each letter is simply replaced with another), the most frequent letter in the ciphertext would be a likely candidate for "E". Frequency analysis of such a cipher is therefore relatively easy, provided that the ciphertext is long enough to give a reasonably representative count of the letters of the alphabet that it contains.