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REVIEW: "The Code Book", Simon Singh

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  • Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Han
    BKCODBOK.RVW 20080724 The Code Book , Simon Singh, 2001, 0-385-72913-8, U$16.95/C$24.95 %A Simon Singh www.SimonSingh.com simon@simonsingh.net %C 1540
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 26, 2008
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      BKCODBOK.RVW 20080724

      "The Code Book", Simon Singh, 2001, 0-385-72913-8, U$16.95/C$24.95
      %A Simon Singh www.SimonSingh.com simon@...
      %C 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
      %D 2001
      %G 0-385-72913-8
      %I Random House
      %O U$16.95/C$24.95 http://www.bdd.com webmaster@...
      %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385729138/robsladesinterne
      http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385729138/robsladesinte-21
      %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385729138/robsladesin03-20
      %O Audience n- Tech 1 Writing 2 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
      %P 263 p.
      %T "The Code Book"

      The introduction states that the book is intended to outline the
      evolution of encryption, and to demonstrate that encryption is more
      important today than it has ever been.

      It's too bad that the text doesn't live up to that noble ambition.
      The work is readable and quite entertaining, and is even somewhat
      educational. The stories are interesting, and, being basically gossip
      level tales, reveal the character of some individuals who have worked
      on cryptography over the centuries. However, the text lacks structure
      in terms of the flow of the ideas and concepts of cryptology, and is
      certainly far from complete.

      The basic notions of cryptology; such as the operation of simple
      substitution and transposition ciphers, and the use of frequency
      analysis to break them; are explained. Many fundamental concepts (the
      importance of randomness, for example) are mentioned only
      tangentially. A significant number of foundational abstractions are
      presented in either a misleading fashion, or with very odd emphases.
      Singh asserts the idiosyncratic position that transposition and
      substitution form two classes of encryption into which all types of
      encryption can be grouped. (This was picked up and even fallaciously
      expanded by Eastton in "Computer Security Fundamentals" [cf.
      BKCMSCFN.RVW]. Most modern symmetric algorithms use combinations of
      transposition and substitution.)

      Information technology is significant in modern society, and
      encryption is vital to information technology: that much is obvious.
      Singh does not, though, provide any further evidence of this fact.
      The use of encryption is limited, in his writing, to the support of
      confidentiality, and the importance of the technology in regard to
      authentication, integrity, and even availability is noted only in
      passing in some of the anecdotes.

      The narratives are diverting, and some are even meaningful in the
      history of cryptology. Certain of the tales flesh out material that
      is glossed over in works such as Stamp's "Information Security:
      Principles and Practice" (cf. BKINSCPP.RVW). However, Stamp obviously
      knew his stuff in regard to encryption, and explained it clearly,
      which Singh does not. (And, in only 50% more pages, covered a good
      chunk of the rest of infosec, to boot.)

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2008 BKCODBOK.RVW 20080724


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      Dictionary of Info Sec www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1597491152
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