The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography is a book by Simon Singh, published in New York in by Doubleday. When I wrote my first book, Fermat's Last Theorem, I made a passing reference to the mathematics of cryptography. Although I did not know it at the time, this. In his first book since the bestselling Fermat's Enigma, Simon Singh offers the first sweeping history of encryption, tracing its evolution and revealing the dramatic.
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The code book: how to make it, break it, hack it, crack it /. Simon Singh. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Coding theory. 2. Cryptography. Presentation of the solutions to Simon Singh's Cipher Challenge. In , Simon Singh published The Code Book. The book . The Cipher Challenge is a part of The Code Book, but the first copy of the book.
The introduction of the German ''Enigma'' machine before World War II provided the impetus to resort to serious mathematical methods for cryptanalysis. Singh recounts the pioneer efforts of the Poles in the 's to break the Enigma by recruiting a group of 20 mathematicians, one of whom, Marian Rejewski, found the key to success.
Just before the Nazi invasion in , the Poles passed on their secret methods to London, providing the British with a critical lead in eventually defeating the far more complicated version of the Enigma used during the war. To render a message unintelligible, it is scrambled according to a particular protocol which is agreed beforehand between the sender and the intended recipient.
Thus the recipient can reverse the scrambling protocol and make the message comprehensible.
The advantage of cryptography is that if the enemy intercepts an encrypted message, then the message is unreadable. Without knowing the scrambling protocol, the enemy should find it difficult, if not impossible, to recreate the original message from the encrypted text.
That was public-key cryptography.
Singh tells us it is ''considered to be the greatest cryptographic achievement since the invention of the monoalphabetic cipher, over 2, years ago. Without that key someone who intercepts the message, even knowing how it was coded, would not be able to decipher it. The theory behind this method was published in by Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman, and cryptography has never been the same. One of the surprising features of public-key cryptography was that the apparently purest and least applicable part of mathematics, the theory of numbers, found a practical application.
Number theory deals with properties of ordinary whole numbers. For example, any whole number raised to the fifth power will always end in the same digit as the original. Such facts seem more like curiosities than of any practical use. The noted, eccentric English mathematician G. Hardy, in his book ''The Mathematician's Apology,'' proudly proclaimed, ''No discovery of mine has made, or is likely to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the world.
Number theory did seem ''useless,'' but in three mathematicians at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ronald Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman, came up with an ingenious method, later patented as the RSA algorithm, to turn the Diffie-Hellman concept into a practical system. At its heart is a fact one finds in every introductory book on the theory of numbers, known as Fermat's little theorem same Fermat as in Fermat's last theorem and the same theorem behind the curious fact about fifth powers mentioned earlier.
From its first days, public-key cryptography was seen as a threat in some governmental circles; Hellman, working at Stanford, soon found he even had to consult university lawyers about possible suits if he published his research. Singh presents fairly both sides of the continuing conflict between the government's interest in allowing only those codes to be made public that it can decipher, in order to deter criminal activity, and citizens' interest in communicating freely without being snooped on.
While this goes on, the National Security Agency, which coordinates all of the government's code making and code breaking, continues trying to invent ''unbreakable'' codes and to decipher existing ones, and it has become the largest employer of Ph.
Of course, Singh can only speculate on what goes on inside the N. His last chapter describes one possible candidate: the quantum computer and quantum cryptography. Although quantum cryptography may sound like science fiction, there is solid science behind it.
A break from cracking secret messages is taken in chapter five as the book explores the problem of cracking the secrets of lost languages, like the Egyptian hieroglyphics. Chapter 6 and 7 bring this discussion of cryptography into the digital age to explain what currently underpins our connected world and keeps our credit card info safe while downloading stuff online. Finally, chapter 8 concludes with some speculation about where cryptography will be going in the future. Hint, it involves the ever popular prefix quantum.
The Code Book bucks this trend. First, we get a set of 10 coded messages that we can decipher.
There was a reward when this book came out for the first person to decipher them all, but that has been claimed. In the appendix, we dive deeper into the codes we learned about through the book.
Instead of just talking about them and maybe giving a simple description, this section goes through different ciphers and the actual procedures behind setting up coded messages. I highly recommend you at least skim through this part.
A Look Back 20 Years Later When I read older books that give some expectations about the future, I like to see how their predictions did. With cryptography, on the other hand, I must admit to being a complete novice. I do know that between the release of the book and now, there has been a bit of a shift to elliptic curve cryptography.
As a technical website, I try to avoid the political, but I feel it would be an injustice not to touch upon the topical political changes that have happened. The Atlantic has a piece about the buoying of the NSA in the age of modern communication.