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REVIEW: "Codebreaker", Stephen Pincock

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  • Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Han
    BKCDBRKR.RVW 20090420 Codebreaker , Stephen Pincock, 2006, 978-0-8027-1547-0, U$19.95 %A Stephen Pincock %C 104 Fifth Ave, New York, NY 10011 %D
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 25, 2009
      BKCDBRKR.RVW 20090420

      "Codebreaker", Stephen Pincock, 2006, 978-0-8027-1547-0, U$19.95
      %A Stephen Pincock
      %C 104 Fifth Ave, New York, NY 10011
      %D 2006
      %G 978-0-8027-1547-0 0-8027-1547-8
      %I Walker and Company
      %O U$19.95 www.walkerbooks.com
      %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0802715478/robsladesinterne
      %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0802715478/robsladesin03-20
      %O Audience n- Tech 1 Writing 2 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
      %P 176 p.
      %T "Codebreaker"

      The introduction does not clearly identify the intent or audience of
      the book. The fact that readers are encouraged to delve into
      cryptographic puzzles would seem to indicate that the codes used are
      relatively simple.

      The second paragraph of the first chapter contains errors in the early
      use of cryptographic forms of Egyptian hieroglyphics, which doesn't
      bode well for accuracy. There is decent coverage of fundamental
      cryptographic concepts (mostly in regard to substitution algorithms),
      but this is hidden (you should pardon the expression) in lots of
      miscellaneous history, and some misinformation as well. Chapter two
      covers some minor polyalphabetic ciphers, along with more history and
      a fair bit of wild speculation. Since a number of the chronicled
      tales come from the period of 1400-1800 AD, it seems a bit odd that
      chapter three starts out by telling us that, as of roughly 1850,
      cryptography had been neglected for 450 years. We are given an
      algorithm for decrypting certain forms of polyalphabetic ciphers (and
      some examples of digraphic encryption and other complex forms), but no
      additional theory.

      Chapter four provides acceptable reviews of the structures of Enigma,
      Lorenz, and Purple, but with limited technical detail and no
      abstraction. The UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)
      gets credit for asymmetric encryption, along with Diffie and Hellman,
      but Ralph Merkle gets left out in the cold. So do the details of, and
      ideas behind, asymmetric encryption: instead we get lists of fictional
      ciphers, mostly of the plain substitution variety. In chapter six,
      Pincock deals with quantum cryptography as well as the theorized
      decryption of the RSA algorithm using quantum computers. These are
      radically different ideas, but that doesn't bother the author: he
      flips back and forth between them with gay abandon, throwing in some
      chaos theory for good measure.

      I was asked to review this book to see if it would be useful in
      helping candidates learn enough about cryptology to get through that
      domain on the CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security
      Professional) exam. Well, it isn't. The book is interesting, and
      contains a lot of historical trivia. It doesn't contain enough on the
      basic concepts of cryptography. It does go into practical
      cryptanalysis in more depth than is to be found in the normal run of
      texts on simple cryptography, but it doesn't get far enough into the
      concepts for commercial or professional decision making. Asymmetric
      encryption is mentioned, but not the uses thereof, nor the extensive
      infrastructure necessary for full utilization.

      It's fun, but it isn't useful.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2009 BKCDBRKR.RVW 20090420

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