REVIEW: Cryptography Decrypted


by H. X. Mel/Doris Baker, 2001, Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. , 352 p.


The book seems to be rather ambitious, since the preface says that it is addressed to any (and therefore all) audience(s), without any limitation on the stated purpose. In general, it is an attempt to portray the basic concepts of cryptography, without getting too far into technical details. Many other books have tried to do the same thing, and signally failed. Mel and Baker by and large succeed. Part one addressed secret key (symmetric) cryptography. Chapter one tries to draw an analogy between locks and encryption, although the relation is strained at best. Substitution, frequency analysis, and polyalphabetic ciphers are covered in chapter two. Chapter three introduces transposition. The Polybius square is used, in chapter four, as an example of the combination of substitution and transposition. For those in the know, this leads nicely into the discussion of DES (Data Encryption Standard), in chapter five, although the neat segue would be lost on most readers, since the details of DES are not given. The history of cryptography appears rather abruptly in chapter six. Chapter seven covers the attempts to use cryptographic methods for confidentiality, integrity, authentication, and non-repudiation, and shows that the last point is not possible with purely symmetric cryptography. A simplistic examination of key exchange is given in chapter eight. Part two deals with public key (asymmetric) encryption. Chapter nine is a confusing introduction using the Merkle puzzle space (with some mention of Diffie-Hellman) as the example.

A simplistic review of public key encryption is in chapter ten. Math tricks, in chapter eleven, seems pointless as it begins, but the development to ..

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