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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 effects codes have had on wars, nations, and individual lives. From Mary, Queen of Scots, trapped by her own code, to the Navajo Code Talkers who helped the Allies win World War II, to the incredible (and inc 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 effects codes have had on wars, nations, and individual lives. From Mary, Queen of Scots, trapped by her own code, to the Navajo Code Talkers who helped the Allies win World War II, to the incredible (and incredibly simple) logistical breakthrough that made Internet commerce secure, The Code Book tells the story of the most powerful intellectual weapon ever known: secrecy. Throughout the text are clear technical and mathematical explanations, and portraits of the remarkable personalities who wrote and broke the world's most difficult codes. Accessible, compelling, and remarkably far-reaching, this book will forever alter your view of history and what drives it.  It will also make yo wonder how private that e-mail you just sent really is.


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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 effects codes have had on wars, nations, and individual lives. From Mary, Queen of Scots, trapped by her own code, to the Navajo Code Talkers who helped the Allies win World War II, to the incredible (and inc 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 effects codes have had on wars, nations, and individual lives. From Mary, Queen of Scots, trapped by her own code, to the Navajo Code Talkers who helped the Allies win World War II, to the incredible (and incredibly simple) logistical breakthrough that made Internet commerce secure, The Code Book tells the story of the most powerful intellectual weapon ever known: secrecy. Throughout the text are clear technical and mathematical explanations, and portraits of the remarkable personalities who wrote and broke the world's most difficult codes. Accessible, compelling, and remarkably far-reaching, this book will forever alter your view of history and what drives it.  It will also make yo wonder how private that e-mail you just sent really is.

30 review for Histoire des codes secrets : De l'Égypte des Pharaons à l'ordinateur quantique

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul E. Morph

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  2. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    The Code Book is like geek porn. Explanations of the theories behind cryptography are woven together with anecdotes of times when code-making or code-breaking was integral to historical events. Singh strikes an excellent balance with this book. The clarity of his writing makes the explanations of the mathematics of cryptography very straightforward without dumbing them down, and the historical connections are always fascinating. Personally, my favorite part was the section devoted to the role cry The Code Book is like geek porn. Explanations of the theories behind cryptography are woven together with anecdotes of times when code-making or code-breaking was integral to historical events. Singh strikes an excellent balance with this book. The clarity of his writing makes the explanations of the mathematics of cryptography very straightforward without dumbing them down, and the historical connections are always fascinating. Personally, my favorite part was the section devoted to the role cryptography played in World War II. The cracking of the Enigma at Bletchley Park was probably one of the greatest moments in nerd history. If you're fascinated by puzzles, curious about history, or you want to know what privacy really means in the 21st century, pick up this book. You'll have a hard time putting it down.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    Coming on 20 years after the book was written, it’s still quite awesome despite all our subsequent advances in cryptography. Or rather, I should say, we’re still living in the same world already transformed by pretty good encryption. The methods for breaking the security still falls in the same category as usual: interception. Of course, the means of interception has gotten amazingly good and creative as hell, but that isn’t the primary scope of this book. Rather, it’s about an awesome crash cour Coming on 20 years after the book was written, it’s still quite awesome despite all our subsequent advances in cryptography. Or rather, I should say, we’re still living in the same world already transformed by pretty good encryption. The methods for breaking the security still falls in the same category as usual: interception. Of course, the means of interception has gotten amazingly good and creative as hell, but that isn’t the primary scope of this book. Rather, it’s about an awesome crash course in the history of encryption from the Middle Ages or earlier, say Roman or Greek, all the way forward to mechanical solutions a-la Babbage and right into the thrilling good stuff of WW2, including Turing and the awesome Code Talkers. The advances since then are almost stunningly fascinating, however, and aside from Zimmerman’s courageous advent of PGP, the REST of the story may well be trapped under National Security blankets still. Alas. What I wouldn’t give to get a backstage pass to those goings-on. :) Well written, accessible, and rather thorough, this book remains one of the best books on encryption for laypersons. Highly recommended.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    PEARL RULED (p79) The development of the telegraph, which had driven a commercial interest in cryptography, was also responsible for generating public interest in cryptography. The public became aware of the need to protect personal messages of a highly sensitive nature, and if necessary they would use encryption, even though this took more time to send, thus adding to the cost of the telegram. When I awoke from my coma, I realized: 1) sesquipedalian verbiage needs must be read while fresh and hal PEARL RULED (p79) The development of the telegraph, which had driven a commercial interest in cryptography, was also responsible for generating public interest in cryptography. The public became aware of the need to protect personal messages of a highly sensitive nature, and if necessary they would use encryption, even though this took more time to send, thus adding to the cost of the telegram. When I awoke from my coma, I realized: 1) sesquipedalian verbiage needs must be read while fresh and hale, 2) I don't care as much as I thought I would, 3) hot Spring afternoon sunshine feels good. Also, I might not be as smart as I thought I was. The graphs and tables preceding this page caused me to whimper and curl into a fetal ball. Ahead (I peeked) were *entire*pages* of comma-separated numbers. That is unconscionable. It is a replay of Tau Zero, the SF novel with equations in it, that I could not even bring myself to hurl at a wall I was so paralyzed by outraged betrayal at picking up a novel to discover EQUATIONS in it. Keep your filthy math out of my fiction! Anyway, this book. It's non-fiction so there's no reason to be sniffy about numbers and junk, right? Sorta right. I need something to give me the will to drag myself over the glass shards atop the bed of coals and in this read there wasn't anything at stake from moment to moment. Overall, yes; secrecy/privacy is a major part of the online world both in its presence and absence. But in this book the stakes are abstract and waaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy above my li'l punkin haid. I'll keep it in case it calls to me this winter. Now, no.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Belhor Crowley

    By far the best and the most interesting book on the subject. recommended to anyone interested in Cryptography and its history. I read it in three days mainly because I couldn't put it down. By far the best and the most interesting book on the subject. recommended to anyone interested in Cryptography and its history. I read it in three days mainly because I couldn't put it down.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stefan Kanev

    I recently watched The Imitation Game, which left such a bad taste in my mouth, that I wanted to clean it up with something in a similar subject. Having read two of Sighn's other books, I picked this one. I had high expectations and it met them nicely. The book tells the story of ciphers and encryption through history – from what the Greek and the Romans did, through the Enigma, and finally to RSA. The style is very easy and pleasant to read, everything is pretty understandable even if you don't I recently watched The Imitation Game, which left such a bad taste in my mouth, that I wanted to clean it up with something in a similar subject. Having read two of Sighn's other books, I picked this one. I had high expectations and it met them nicely. The book tells the story of ciphers and encryption through history – from what the Greek and the Romans did, through the Enigma, and finally to RSA. The style is very easy and pleasant to read, everything is pretty understandable even if you don't have a math background (sometimes to the point of being slightly inaccurate) and there are a lot of interesting stories inbetween. This book has a single downside – it's so pleasant and easy to read, that you'll be done with it in no time. Highly recommended.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    I haven’t had this much gleeful delight in a book in a long time. This book is pure fun. It’s not fast reading necessarily, and requires some active engagement to keep up, but man, it is a blast. If you read a lot of spy books as a child, or if you’re secretly jealous when there’s a cipher to be solved in a TV or movie plot and a character says,“Yeah, I can totally crack this if I have a few hours, let me get to work,” you’re going to love this. Singh introduces us to famous historical ciphers a I haven’t had this much gleeful delight in a book in a long time. This book is pure fun. It’s not fast reading necessarily, and requires some active engagement to keep up, but man, it is a blast. If you read a lot of spy books as a child, or if you’re secretly jealous when there’s a cipher to be solved in a TV or movie plot and a character says,“Yeah, I can totally crack this if I have a few hours, let me get to work,” you’re going to love this. Singh introduces us to famous historical ciphers and codes, as well as the basic principles underlying code making and code breaking- you actually get a fairly solid foundation on understanding how to build and crack most classic ciphers. --------------CODES AND CIPHERS-------------- Some examples of interesting codes this book unpacks and deconstructs with you: -Transposition. Substitution. Superencipherment. -Caesar shift ciphers. -The Vigenere square cipher. -The Great Cipher of Louis XIV. -The as-yet-unsolved Beale cypher. -The ADFGVX cipher. -The Zimmerman telegraph cipher. -The one-time pad cipher (aka a Vigenere cipher where the keyword is a random string of letters, at least as many as are in the text to be enciphered- which is inherently un-decipherable by cryptanalysis. But which of course requires both the message writer and receiver to have a copy of the random key, which makes it vulnerable to discovery. Plus it’s expensive to constantly create brand-new random keys for hundreds of messages a day). -Navajo code-talking. -All the way on up to quantum cryptography, which in theory at least is an uncrackable cipher. ---------------CRYPTANALYSIS--------------- For me, the real genius comes into play here, in cryptanalysis- the deciphering of all those nasty little devils. Some memorable moments in cryptanalysis history: -Al-Kindi’s method of deciphering by analyzing the message in terms of letter frequency, or looking for unusual letter pairings (in English, Q is basically always followed by U so if you find a particular letter that is never followed by anything but another particular letter, that’s probably Q and U). -Bazeries’ method of deciphering the Great Cipher of Louis XIV by analyzing by syllable frequency rather than letter. -Charles Babbage (who, incidentally, invented the prototype of a computer way back in the 1700s) invented a method of deciphering the Vigenere cipher. First, you look for repeated sequences of letters- words that are repeated, and which happened to have gotten encrypted the same way because they land on a multiple of the number of letters the key has. You count the spaces in between those words, and draw up a chart with all the different repeated word sequences and the factors that go into those spaces (e.g. factors of 20 would include 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, and 20- but you wouldn’t use just 1 letter for a keyword, so it can’t be that). Find the number that's a factor common to ALL of the repeated letter sequences, and you know the number of letters in the key word. Then you look at the letters the first letter of the keyword would be used to encrypt and use frequency analysis on *that*. [I’m not explaining this well, but Singh does, and it’s so brilliant it makes your ears wiggle.] -The deciphering of the ancient script known as Linear B by Alice Kober and Michael Ventris. -------------MODERN CRYPTOGRAPHY------------- Cryptography can basically be credited with the invention of computers. Furthermore, cryptographers are the reason you can send encrypted messages that nobody but the receiver can access, and the reason you can buy things over the Internet without people taking you credit card information. I have a BlackBerry, so I feel like I’m supposed to be a slick techie who knows what encryption is, but I’ve never heard it explained as straightforwardly as this book: Alice wants to send Bob a letter and she doesn’t want the postal service workers to be able to read it. Obviously, she can’t just send it in a padlocked iron lock-box, because she has no way of securely giving Bob a key. So what can she do? She puts the letter in the iron box, padlocks it, mails it to him. He puts his own padlock on it- the box now has two padlocks- and sends it back to her. Now Alice removes her own padlock and sends the box, locked with Bob’s own padlock, back to him. He removes his padlock and reads the letter. That way, the box is never unlocked, but Alice and Bob don’t have to find a way to exchange keys. (This would be especially problematic if the key has to be different for every message or device, the way it is in technology). Then there's the asymmetrical public key encryption system designed by Diffie, where Alice has a “public key” that allows anyone to encrypt a message to her, but cannot be decrypted by the same key- it can only be decrypted by another key, the private key to which only Alice has access. So Bob could “look up” Alice’s public key, which is known to everyone, encrypt his message to her, and she can decrypt it. In the padlock scenario, this would mean Bob would go to the post office, take an “Alice padlock,” of which there are many copies, lock the box with his message inside, and mail it to her. Only Alice holds the key that can unlock this, so the system is secure. ---------------CONCLUSIONS--------------- This is just such a cool book, an absolute ride. I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't have at least a little fun with it. It's accessible, it's interesting, it's challenging, and it's an unusual read. Not a bad thing to say about this one.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Pallavi Gambhire

    I never thought I'd love a book about mathematics, or ever see the beauty of mathematics. My mother was definitely right when she kept pestering me to work harder on my math and argued that it was EVERYWHERE! (I had argued back saying I would be fine as long as I could perform the basic calculations!) Maybe this is what growing up is about! That being said, this is a very informative book about the past, present and future of cryptography. Singh takes us on a journey from ancient times where simpl I never thought I'd love a book about mathematics, or ever see the beauty of mathematics. My mother was definitely right when she kept pestering me to work harder on my math and argued that it was EVERYWHERE! (I had argued back saying I would be fine as long as I could perform the basic calculations!) Maybe this is what growing up is about! That being said, this is a very informative book about the past, present and future of cryptography. Singh takes us on a journey from ancient times where simple communications and hence simple codes sufficed, through a series of unfortunate events that resulted in the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots,to a time in the future when quantum cryptography might prevail. My favorite part is when he talks about the decipherment of Linear B (which led me to another amazing book of the same name), an ancient language discovered in the remains of a palace in Crete. Oh, and he also makes the Second World War seem interesting in an entirely differently way. Singh has a knack for explaining ideas and theories, which might seem mundane if explained by someone else, in a very interesting manner. His use of characters called Alice,Bob and Eve to explain the codes, made it easy for a layperson like me to understand the theory behind them. He even adds a few ciphers for us to decipher at the end. I must admit I skipped over those pages, but might return to them at some point in the future. I recommend this book to anyone who is fascinated by ancient history, linguistics, cryptography, quantum physics, OR MATHEMATICS!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Gorab

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ This turned out to be a mine of knowledge for me. What I learnt: 1. Difference between cryptography, steganography, ciphers, encryption and decryption 2. Various ciphers and their detailed techniques - Monoalphabetic, Caesar shift, Vigenere, Pigpen, Playfair, EDLSs, Morse Code, Beale Cipher… 3. Deciphering the ancient Egyptian and Greek texts - Hieroglyphics - how Linear B was decoded, and why Linear A is still a puzzle waiting to be solved. 4. Standardization of encryption - today's popular enc ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ This turned out to be a mine of knowledge for me. What I learnt: 1. Difference between cryptography, steganography, ciphers, encryption and decryption 2. Various ciphers and their detailed techniques - Monoalphabetic, Caesar shift, Vigenere, Pigpen, Playfair, EDLSs, Morse Code, Beale Cipher… 3. Deciphering the ancient Egyptian and Greek texts - Hieroglyphics - how Linear B was decoded, and why Linear A is still a puzzle waiting to be solved. 4. Standardization of encryption - today's popular encryption mechanisms - DES and RSA 5. Future with quantum computing - explanation is crystal clear to help someone who is new to quantum mechanics. 6. Most interesting part - knowing and understanding all the great persons involved in making and breaking the code. 7. Details on the never ending race between non-breakable code and mechanism to defy all encryption. 8. Interesting background stories - Mary Queen of Scots, Man in the Iron Mask, Arab's frequency analysis, Creation (and breaking) of German Enigma, Bletchley Park, Navajo code, Rosetta stone, Zimmermann's PrettyGoodPrivacy, formation of laws "against" strong encryption. 8. A whole load of many more interesting concepts If not for world war and the quest to decode the enemies thoughts, we wouldn't have the luxury of computers way ahead of its time. Whether the same will be true for Quantum computers? I think so… Interesting quotes: "Cryptography used to be an obscure science, of little relevance to everyday life. Historically, it always had a special role in military and diplomatic communications. But in the Information Age, cryptography is about political power, and in particular, about the power relationship between a government and its people. It is about the right to privacy, freedom of speech, freedom of political association, freedom of the press, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, freedom to be left alone." "The fundamental question is whether or not governments should legislate against cryptography. Cryptographic freedom would allow everyone, including criminals, to be confident that their e-mails are secure. On the other hand, restricting the use of cryptography would allow the police to spy on criminals, but it would also allow the police and everybody else to spy on the average citizen." "The deciding factor will be whom the public fears the most - criminals or the government" As Neil Bohr said - "Anyone who can contemplate quantum mechanics without getting dizzy hasn’t understood it." "The urge to discover secrets is deeply ingrained in human nature; even the least curious mind is roused by the promise of sharing knowledge withheld from others. Some are fortunate enough to find a job which consists in the solution of mysteries, but most of us are driven to sublimate this urge by the solving of artificial puzzles devised for our entertainment. Detective stories or crossword puzzles cater for the majority; the solution of secret codes may be the pursuit of a few." - John Chadwick Highly recommended stuff! Recommended for: If you love treasure hunt, logical deductions, puzzles, anything related to digital privacy sounds fascinating to you, then this is the book for you. Not recommended: If you totally abhor simple mathematics, data interpretation, tables and charts.

  10. 5 out of 5

    John Meo

    This is a fascinating introduction to the world of cryptography. It has opened my eyes to a whole new subject that interests me, and now I have spent many hours attempting to create a machine that can decrypt hidden messages. It is a wonderful and gripping tale of the history of cryptography, and presents the entire plot as a battle between the code makers and the code breakers. I was never left a little bored at parts as I occasionally am during non-fiction books because it is a continuous stor This is a fascinating introduction to the world of cryptography. It has opened my eyes to a whole new subject that interests me, and now I have spent many hours attempting to create a machine that can decrypt hidden messages. It is a wonderful and gripping tale of the history of cryptography, and presents the entire plot as a battle between the code makers and the code breakers. I was never left a little bored at parts as I occasionally am during non-fiction books because it is a continuous story that flows throughout the pages. It keeps you in suspense over the fate of the queen of Scotland, the behind-the-scenes intelligence conflict in the midst of World War II, and the secret of the Beale treasure. For anyone interested in the matter, it is a must read, and for anyone who think they might enjoy the subject, I highly suggest it. The history contained in this near-novel doesn't merely end a long time ago, but extends up to the very present, and discusses the exciting possibilities of cryptography in the future. Quantum computers and qubits enter the scene, hopefully presenting the holy grail of code-making, letting the code makers win the struggle forever. Our modern lives lay on the foundation of the public and private key system, including everything from the internet to checks. The only reason you are capable having your own private account in security is that complex math is occurring behind the scenes, multiplying two prime numbers hundreds of digits long so that any computer would take the lifetime of the universe to decode the messages you send. If you want to understand our modern age, you should definitely read this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    This is a *must* read before reading Cryptonomicon. Or maybe after, like I did. If you at all feel uncomfortable in your knowledge of one time pad cyphers, public/private keys, or the importance of really good cryptography for average folks, please read this book! It's sadly a bit out of date, but Singh does such a brilliant job of methodically building up the complexity in cyphers though history, that you will inevitably learn a ton. This is a *must* read before reading Cryptonomicon. Or maybe after, like I did. If you at all feel uncomfortable in your knowledge of one time pad cyphers, public/private keys, or the importance of really good cryptography for average folks, please read this book! It's sadly a bit out of date, but Singh does such a brilliant job of methodically building up the complexity in cyphers though history, that you will inevitably learn a ton.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hristina

    Read for the Reading Without Walls challenge, for 'a topic you don't know much about'. And even though I didn't finish it in a week, CHALLENGE COMPLETE. I really enjoyed The Code Book. The explanations were well-done, and the history lessons amazed me, which is odd because I'm not a history fan. I learned a lot about codes and ciphers and how they work, and that was the best part of it all. I liked the writing, so I think I might pick up another Simon Singh book in the future. Read for the Reading Without Walls challenge, for 'a topic you don't know much about'. And even though I didn't finish it in a week, CHALLENGE COMPLETE. I really enjoyed The Code Book. The explanations were well-done, and the history lessons amazed me, which is odd because I'm not a history fan. I learned a lot about codes and ciphers and how they work, and that was the best part of it all. I liked the writing, so I think I might pick up another Simon Singh book in the future.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    i picked this up at my brother in law's house and started reading it, immediately went out and bought a copy.... wow... what a FANTASTIC book... mathematically oriented non-fiction that reads like an anthology of suspense stories... highly enjoyable... i picked this up at my brother in law's house and started reading it, immediately went out and bought a copy.... wow... what a FANTASTIC book... mathematically oriented non-fiction that reads like an anthology of suspense stories... highly enjoyable...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eric_W

    Singh, author of Fermat's Enigma, has even included a code to practice one's deciphering skills on. The successful cryptanalyst will win $15,000. In the appendix, he discusses other famous attempts at breaking codes, including the recent book, The Bible Code, by Michael Drosnin. This work caused quite a stir a couple of years ago when Drosnin, building really on the work of several Hebrew scholars, claimed to have discovered several prophecies hidden in the text of the Bible, a forecast of the a Singh, author of Fermat's Enigma, has even included a code to practice one's deciphering skills on. The successful cryptanalyst will win $15,000. In the appendix, he discusses other famous attempts at breaking codes, including the recent book, The Bible Code, by Michael Drosnin. This work caused quite a stir a couple of years ago when Drosnin, building really on the work of several Hebrew scholars, claimed to have discovered several prophecies hidden in the text of the Bible, a forecast of the assassination of the Kennedys and of Anwar Sadat. The Biblical code was an EDLS (equidistant letter sequence) code, where you take any text, pick a particular starting letter and jump ahead a given number of letters to spell out a sentence. As critics have pointed out, any large text will produce all sorts of things. Brendan McKay at the Australian National University used Drosnin's technique to search Moby Dick and discovered similar predictions of assassinations that have occurred. Hebrew texts, Singh notes, are particularly rich in EDLSs because Hebrew has no vowels, which means interpreters can insert vowels as they see fit. Codes are constantly evolving; as code breakers break them, new ones must be developed. The supposed one-time pads, as in the Cryptonomicon, even had weaknesses — for example, if used more than once or from patterns inadvertently created by typists, patterns being the entry into most ciphers. Cryptanalysis, or the process of code breaking, was really invented by Islamic scholars in the 19th century. Substitution ciphers, where another alphabet is substituted for the original, were believed to be unbreakable; there were so many possible combinations of 26 letters that it would take billions of years to test all of them. The Islamic scholars, while analyzing the Koran, discovered that the frequency of letters was not the same. In English, for example, the letter 'e' appears much more frequently than 'z' By analysis of letter frequency and knowing the language of the cipher, deciphering became quite simple. Blaise de Vigeniere solved this weakness by inventing the Vigeniere square, which provided multiple cipher alphabets using keywords to link letters with particular alphabets, a polyalphabetic cipher. The beauty of his scheme was that the letter “e” might be represented by several other letters, so frequency became irrelevant C or so everyone thought. To decipher the code, all one needed was the keyword, easy to remember, and not necessary to write down anywhere. Deciphering was a tedious process, however, and his impregnable ciphering system was not widely used. The Great Cipher was created by a father and son team working for Louis XIV. Their system was to use a combination of various types of ciphers. Unfortunately, they died without recording how their cipher worked, and many documents in French archives remained completely unreadable until the late 19th century when a French cryptanalyst spent several years painstakingly applying his knowledge of ciphers to the problem. Several of the documents thus finally deciphered revealed the identity of the Man in the Iron Mask. Charles Babbage, inventor of the modern calculator and computer, was the one who broke Vigeniere's polyalphabetic system, by using statistics to create an algorithm that helped reveal the keyword. The problem in the twentieth century has not been the development of undecipherable ciphers. The computer makes encoding very easy and quite unbreakable. But each ciphered message can only be deciphered using a key. The recipient has to know the key. Banks would hire messengers to deliver keys to encrypted messages that needed to be sent from one bank to another. That proved to be a bureaucratic nightmare, and as the Internet created a need for encrypted messages between individuals and online stores or other persons, the deliverer of the key became very important. Martin Hellman, Ralph Merkle, and Whitfield Diffie decided the problem was not insoluble. As Hellman said, “God rewards fools.” Only a fool would be willing to work on a problem for which the experts had said there was no solution, and to be willing to keep getting excited by an idea only to have it flop, then try another. Their solution was unique. They eliminated the need for key exchange. Just how they did this is marvelous in its simplicity, but if I told you you wouldn't need to read the book, which is what I heartily recommend. PQP, the cipher made public so that anyone could use it, made the government nervous and civil libertarians and others in favor of privacy leap for joy. Now anyone could encrypt a message with total security. We hear constantly about the worry that the NSA, CIA, and others in government have about the easy ability of ordinary people to have a level of encryption that is indecipherable. But, of course, it=s in their interest to make everyone think they have an indecipherable message, so my guess is that those agencies already know how to break the unbreakable codes but just don't want anyone to know they can.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Krycek

    I was fascinated with codes and ciphers when I was a kid. I even had a "junior spy code kit" with a bunch of cool stuff and I could send little notes to friends with secret messages like "Mr. Nutzenjammer is a dork" and "Cindy eats her boogers" and we would all congratulate ourselves with our cleverness. That's all pretty juvenile, but the ciphers included in my little spy kit were the basics in modern encryption systems and you can read all about it in Simon Singh's The Code Book, an excellent I was fascinated with codes and ciphers when I was a kid. I even had a "junior spy code kit" with a bunch of cool stuff and I could send little notes to friends with secret messages like "Mr. Nutzenjammer is a dork" and "Cindy eats her boogers" and we would all congratulate ourselves with our cleverness. That's all pretty juvenile, but the ciphers included in my little spy kit were the basics in modern encryption systems and you can read all about it in Simon Singh's The Code Book, an excellent primer for understanding encryption methods and a fascinating account of its development through history. Amazingly, Singh has the ability to make this rather complex topic understandable as well as entertaining. I am by no means mathematically inclined, but Singh explains the processes involved in each cipher he describes through baby steps and multiple analogies. If one doesn't work for you then the next will until you get it. This book actually makes you feel like you're learning something.  Nevertheless, some of the concepts are mind boggling. Imagine for a moment this number: 10^130. It's a huge number but can be factored by a computer in about 15 seconds. Now imagine the number 10^308, which is ten million billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion times bigger than the number 10^130. It would take more than a thousand years for a hundred million personal computers working together to crack a cipher using a value such as this in its key, yet this is the scale of numbers that most modern banking encryptions use. As one might guess, these encryptions are pretty much unbreakable. Things truly get weird when Singh describes the concept of quantum cryptography, which I won't try to describe but will just say that I re-read that section a couple of times. Although quantum cryptography was just in a conceptual stage at the time of The Code Book's publication, who knows? It might be in usage now. The Code Book was first published in 2000 and a lot has changed since then (probably more than we realize, considering the secretive nature of the topic). At any rate, Singh makes a good point that cryptography, while historically of vital importance in political intrigues, is now of vital importance to most of our daily lives since the internet, for better or worse, has basically connected the world. Because of internet banking and commerce, information security is of prime importance. Singh also, however, does a good job of telling the stories of code makers and code breakers. Particularly interesting and moving is the story of the brilliant cryptanalyst Alan Turning who committed suicide after the war when attempts to "cure" his homosexuality drove him into a deep depression. However, Turing was one of those unsung heroes working in secrecy, without whom the Allies may very well have lost World War II. Singh's ability to weave these stories into the complex mechanics of cryptography make for an engrossing narrative and one that has excited my intellectual imagination like few others have. So ditch the "junior spy kit." That's kid stuff. Read The Code Book and you will know how to send inter-office gossip with complete security.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    I thought this book would be dry and boring, but oh no! I love a good puzzle, and this history of making, cracking, and innovating secret codes was enthralling. And it gets better ... at the end of the book there are codes to try your hand out. I got pretty excited when I solved the first (and easiest one). They got harder and the book became overdue at the library so I gave it up. For about a week I had the idea that I was going to be the best code cracker ever and that the CIA would HAVE to hi I thought this book would be dry and boring, but oh no! I love a good puzzle, and this history of making, cracking, and innovating secret codes was enthralling. And it gets better ... at the end of the book there are codes to try your hand out. I got pretty excited when I solved the first (and easiest one). They got harder and the book became overdue at the library so I gave it up. For about a week I had the idea that I was going to be the best code cracker ever and that the CIA would HAVE to hire me and I would find the secret buried treasure in the hills of Virginia (or wherever). I even bought a book of New York Times crossword puzzles to exercise my brain, and I have since come to accept reality. I will probably never solve an entire crossword puzzle on my own (by the way, the Wall Street Journal is sooooo much harder than NYT--just looking at them makes me feel stupid), much less crack secret codes.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    The Code Book has wide appeal and is a good read for anyone who is of the polymath mindset. If you like history pertaining to computing or are interested in algorithms, it is a monumental book. Singh may be the best science writer out there. He has that rare ability to take complex science and math topics and explain in very straightforward layman’s terms.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Zainab Moazzam

    The extent to which human brain can produce such encryptions is beautiful... all for the sake of just one thing, secrecy!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Abhishek Desikan

    If you're looking for an excellent primer to the world of cryptography and cryptanalysis, then The Code Book, is the one you must lay your hands on. The book can be looked at in three perspectives. At a micro level, it is a guide to the various techniques of secret writing, and how they can be deciphered. Right from Caesar's cipher to quantum cryptography, the book traces how encryption and decryption has evolved in the last two millennia, which, by itself is fascinating. Second, it can be looke If you're looking for an excellent primer to the world of cryptography and cryptanalysis, then The Code Book, is the one you must lay your hands on. The book can be looked at in three perspectives. At a micro level, it is a guide to the various techniques of secret writing, and how they can be deciphered. Right from Caesar's cipher to quantum cryptography, the book traces how encryption and decryption has evolved in the last two millennia, which, by itself is fascinating. Second, it can be looked at as a history book. Not many of us may be aware of how cryptography has shaped world history, and it might come as a shock to know some of the key moments in countless wars were decided by the strength or weakness of a particular cipher. Be it the cracking of the enigma during World War II, or Charles Babbage's excellent method of cracking the "Le Chiffre Indechiffrable", it is a treat for history lovers. Finally, the book is a testimony to the will power and ingenuity of countless skilled men and women, who at various points of time, have contributed in one way or the other, knowingly or unknowingly, to ensure a safer and better world for us all. The constant battle between the cryptanalysts and the cryptographers is a recurring theme throughout the book, each one taking the lead in turns. Published in 1999, Simon Singh gives a hint at the future of encryption and also on how it would affect the privacy of every individual, something which is now transpiring. Would the code breakers have the final say, or will the code makers thwart their attempts again? It remains to be seen.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nicolle

    This is the second work of Simon Singh that I have read, and in my opinion it is the greater of the two. It explores the art of ciphering codes and encryption which has developed profusely over the centuries, with alot of help from Charles Babbage and the computer. Singh delves into the story of Mary Queen of Scots and explains in an epic and intersting way about how Mary's life depended upon whether her encrypted messages were deciphered. It goes on to the key role of mathematicians in WWII par This is the second work of Simon Singh that I have read, and in my opinion it is the greater of the two. It explores the art of ciphering codes and encryption which has developed profusely over the centuries, with alot of help from Charles Babbage and the computer. Singh delves into the story of Mary Queen of Scots and explains in an epic and intersting way about how Mary's life depended upon whether her encrypted messages were deciphered. It goes on to the key role of mathematicians in WWII particulatly the ones based in the England, who successfully decoded messages that the Germans sent to each other and it is said that without mathematicians we would've lost the war! This is an engaging insight into the history of cryptography and a must read for any puzzle wizzes, mathematicians or historians.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Manuel Antão

    Humpty Dumpty: "The Code Book - The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography" by Simon Singh “[ ] One-way functions are sometimes called Humpty Dumpty functions. Modular arithmetic, sometimes called clock arithmetic in schools, is an area of mathematics that is rich in one-way functions. In modular arithmetic, mathematicians consider a finite group of numbers arranged in a loop [ ].” The two greatest hazards of the internet are pornography and security. I have no idea how thi Humpty Dumpty: "The Code Book - The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography" by Simon Singh “[ ] One-way functions are sometimes called Humpty Dumpty functions. Modular arithmetic, sometimes called clock arithmetic in schools, is an area of mathematics that is rich in one-way functions. In modular arithmetic, mathematicians consider a finite group of numbers arranged in a loop [ ].” The two greatest hazards of the internet are pornography and security. I have no idea how this is so, or how these myths have become so dominant in our collective consciousness. In fact is that quality pornography is available from the bookshops (so I’ve been told…), and the internet is fundamentally more secure than the world it’s replacing. There’s only one catch: one should not be stupid! The rest of this review can be found on my blog.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bryce Holt

    Prepare to dork out with your bad self, because this book is for those of us who A) Had a code dial as a kid (like Ralphie in "A Christmas Story"), and B) Didn't get laid until at least college. The truth is, though, that Simon Singh's "The Code Book" rocks the pants. This guy's knowledge and history is astounding, and while much of it is beyond me to fully understand, I am enamored with the way the stories unravel. Enjoyably crafted and with the lay reader in mind, I think many could enjoy this Prepare to dork out with your bad self, because this book is for those of us who A) Had a code dial as a kid (like Ralphie in "A Christmas Story"), and B) Didn't get laid until at least college. The truth is, though, that Simon Singh's "The Code Book" rocks the pants. This guy's knowledge and history is astounding, and while much of it is beyond me to fully understand, I am enamored with the way the stories unravel. Enjoyably crafted and with the lay reader in mind, I think many could enjoy this tome...if they could get past their worry of whether or not they will understand how to correctly Caesar-Shift once Singh has explained it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    James

    It gives a good description of many encryption methods used throughout history, and how they were broken. I found the history of it interesting. Can get confusing at times.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tobias Langhoff

    I have a romantic view of old-fashioned, analog cryptography (and stenography). Every time I read about it, I feel like a kid again, sitting in a treehouse with the neighboring kids who make up our small detective/spy club, encrypting messages we hoped someone would care to attempt to read. If I were born a decade or two earlier, I surely would have become a ham radio operator. Recommendations for spy novels that capture this childish feeling are appreciated. This book details the world history o I have a romantic view of old-fashioned, analog cryptography (and stenography). Every time I read about it, I feel like a kid again, sitting in a treehouse with the neighboring kids who make up our small detective/spy club, encrypting messages we hoped someone would care to attempt to read. If I were born a decade or two earlier, I surely would have become a ham radio operator. Recommendations for spy novels that capture this childish feeling are appreciated. This book details the world history of cryptography, all the way from simple letter substitution (which was easily broken once scholars discovered frequency analysis) to the possibilities presented by future quantum computers (which would render all current cryptography broken, but make way for unbreakable encryption). This history is presented as the evolution of cryptography by codebreaking selection. The book pedagogically explains in layman’s terms how each major cipher used throughout history works, and how its ingenious creators considered them unbreakable. Inevitably, it was broken, through an equal spark of ingenuity, and the world moved its secret communiques to another cipher, thinking that this time they had found the one that was impossible to crack, and the cycle begins again – a mental arms race between mathematicians and logicians. Sprinkled through this historical timeline are extremely interesting stories and anecdotes. I was happy that Singh give the Polish researchers who broke Enigma’s encryption the credit they deserve (something The Imitation Game does not, the recent film about Alan Turing and Bletchley Park, which are also given ample discussion in the book). These stories read as thrilling, miniature, real-life spy novels in their own right, and I've checked out the "further reading" section on each of them. Singh also touches upon the inherent conflicts of interest between the public, who want to guard their data as securely as possible, and government agencies, who want to be able to break encryption to safeguard national security. As the book explains, in the early days of computer cryptography, this was easily achieved because governments had access to vast computing resources compared to the public. This book was written in 1999, however, and after its publication – and especially after 9/11 – one such agency in particular, the NSA, has become infamous in this regard. Indeed, just as I’m typing up this review (literally!), Apple has publicly announced that they defy an FBI order of building a backdoor into the iPhone. After reading this book, and its clairvoyant Chapter 7 (about the heralding of the Information Age, or the Infocalypse), it becomes quite clear why Apple felt the need to write this customer letter. A minor complaint: Singh admits he has left out some important stories and ciphers, which is inevitable, but I was disappointed that he presented a few ciphers considered unbreakable without explaining how they were eventually broken. An example of this is the ADFGVX cipher. I feel I now understand the string of ciphers that make up the evolution of cryptography through history, but although I understand there are some intentional holes in that understanding because of complete omissions, I feel slightly cheated because some of the holes were presented but never plugged by the book. All in all a fantastic and exhilerating book for anyone interesting in cryptography, communication, secrecy, war (both hot and cold), technology, history and everything between.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Julia Hughes

    Mr Singh manages to explain concepts that should be way beyond this thickie's level of understanding. That he manages to do so in an entertaining page turning manner is testament to his skill both as a mathematician and a writer. This book examines how from earliest history in parallel with writing, it became necessary for human kind to devise ways to send messages in code. So we learn how complex codes developed from very simple ones, and Simon explains along the way that there are ancient code Mr Singh manages to explain concepts that should be way beyond this thickie's level of understanding. That he manages to do so in an entertaining page turning manner is testament to his skill both as a mathematician and a writer. This book examines how from earliest history in parallel with writing, it became necessary for human kind to devise ways to send messages in code. So we learn how complex codes developed from very simple ones, and Simon explains along the way that there are ancient codes still waiting to be decoded and we also learn how to identify when a code is actually being deployed. It seems the best codes are the simplest, but if you need to tell more than two people a code, like a secret, it becomes more vulnerable. Entwined with the stories of code, are the stories of people who throughout history have relied on those codes being unbreakable - in some cases paying with their lives (eg Mary Queen of Scot) when it this is proved not to be the case. We're all intrigued by codes - witness the popularity of newspaper coffee break pages which will usually include a codeword problem. This book is well illustrated, extremely readable and throws new light on an already fascinating subject.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore

    Singh does an excellent job explaining the development and process of cryptography and cryptanalysis in easy to understand terms (except (for me) perhaps the working of the Enigma, which still is a bit of an enigma!)- in fact so easy does he make it sound that one might be tempted to believe that one can be a cryptanalyst oneself- well until on turns to practically solving problems anyway. I also liked the way he wove the explanations of the actual process and working of encryption and cryptanal Singh does an excellent job explaining the development and process of cryptography and cryptanalysis in easy to understand terms (except (for me) perhaps the working of the Enigma, which still is a bit of an enigma!)- in fact so easy does he make it sound that one might be tempted to believe that one can be a cryptanalyst oneself- well until on turns to practically solving problems anyway. I also liked the way he wove the explanations of the actual process and working of encryption and cryptanalysis with the history and stories of how they evolved and were used and finally broken. Another plus for me was his inclusion of ancient scripts and their decipherment. The book is both informative and thoroughly enjoyable! The one issue I had was with the edition that I bought in which some of the pictures were really dark and hard to see.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tessa

    A history of cryptography ought to have spy stories and treasure hunts and daring wartime conspiracies, which Simon Singh provides, but he grounds it all in strikingly clear mathematical and logical explanations of cryptographic methods. He tells the history as a back and forth between cryptographers and cryptanalysts, with one group having the upper hand at different points in history. With the very early ciphers, I already had a background intuition about how they might be deciphered, but by t A history of cryptography ought to have spy stories and treasure hunts and daring wartime conspiracies, which Simon Singh provides, but he grounds it all in strikingly clear mathematical and logical explanations of cryptographic methods. He tells the history as a back and forth between cryptographers and cryptanalysts, with one group having the upper hand at different points in history. With the very early ciphers, I already had a background intuition about how they might be deciphered, but by the third chapter I was experiencing amazement along with cryptographers of various centuries as different ciphers were unraveled. One of the best nonfiction I've read lately.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Clear explanations of cryptography put into a historical context.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Neeraj Adhikari

    A brilliantly written history of cryptography. It does not bore the lay reader with minute details but still avoids being superficial. Post-WW2 developments in cryptography are something most students of computer science know about or have at least heard of, so to me the really fascinating parts were the wartime efforts to break Enigma and the centuries of cryptographic and cryptanalytic history that it builds upon. The only downside of the book is that having been published in 1999, it stops at A brilliantly written history of cryptography. It does not bore the lay reader with minute details but still avoids being superficial. Post-WW2 developments in cryptography are something most students of computer science know about or have at least heard of, so to me the really fascinating parts were the wartime efforts to break Enigma and the centuries of cryptographic and cryptanalytic history that it builds upon. The only downside of the book is that having been published in 1999, it stops at 1999. A lot has happened in the world of security and cryptography since then. I would love to read a history of the past 20 years of cryptography if someone wrote it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mario the lone bookwolf

    A journey through the history of coding, cryptography, and codebreaking. Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested. Chronologically arranged, the book begins in ancient times and describes simple forms of encryption such as shaving the head, tattooing a message, waiting a few weeks or wrapping a leather strip described with essential words around a stick of specified thickness. The further the time progresses, the more complex and wi A journey through the history of coding, cryptography, and codebreaking. Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested. Chronologically arranged, the book begins in ancient times and describes simple forms of encryption such as shaving the head, tattooing a message, waiting a few weeks or wrapping a leather strip described with essential words around a stick of specified thickness. The further the time progresses, the more complex and with an ever shorter expiration date the techniques of the specialists are provided. The methods used are described comprehensible and pleasant enough illustrated, which is unusual for beginners to advanced, for professionals too easy and probably too complicated for the total layman. Because of this, it is sometimes advisable to read over the purely theoretical descriptions as in my case (laziness and layman). The military-historical and political aspects are anyway much more interesting for philistines of applied science. Thus, in the race between decoders and creative code writers, not only the reputation of the technicians but often also the history of the world history was at stake. An earlier, later, or even non-occurrence of an encryption or decryption technique would almost certainly have led to another current geopolitical map. The closer the book comes to the present, the more explosive the stories become, such as a virtually undecipherable, standard and US-prevented encryption technique, which should never be widely used. The big unanswered question at the end of the book is whether today's very secure encryption technology has already been silently banished by an unknown nemesis called quantum computer into the ark of no longer reliable and thus antiquated encryption techniques. It would be interesting to know that almost all private and commercial traffic is secured in this way. Let us be surprised. Ein Streifzug durch die Geschichte von Kodierung, Kryptographie und Codeknackerei. Chronologisch aufgereiht beginnt das Buch in der Antike und schlichten Formen der Verschlüsselung wie Kopf rasieren, Nachricht tätowieren, ein paar Wochen warten oder einen mit wichtigen Botschaften beschriebenen Lederstreifen um einen Stock bestimmter Dicke zu wickeln. Je weiter die Zeit voranschreitet, umso komplexer und mit immer kürzerem Ablaufdatum versehen werden die Techniken der Spezialisten. Die jeweils angewandten Methoden werden verständlich und angenehm ausreichend bebildert beschrieben, was für Anfänger bis Fortgeschrittene interessant, für Profis zu leicht und für totale Laien vermutlich zu komplex sein dürfte. Deswegen ist teils ein Überlesen der rein theoretischen Beschreibungen wie in meinem Fall (Faulheit und Laie) anzuraten wäre. Die militärhistorischen und politischen Aspekte sind für Muffel der angewandten Naturwissenschaft ohnehin wesentlich interessanter. So stand im Wettlauf zwischen Dekodierern und kreativen Codetüftlern oft nicht nur das Renommee der Techniker, sondern oftmals auch die weltgeschichtliche Entwicklung auf dem Spiel. Ein früheres, späteres oder gar nicht erfolgtes Auftreten einer Verschlüsselungs- beziehungsweise Entschlüsselungstechnik hätte mit an Sicherheit grenzender Wahrscheinlichkeit zu einer anderen aktuellen geopolitischen Landkarte geführt. Je näher das Buch der Gegenwart kommt, desto brisanter werden die Geschichten, wie etwa eine praktisch unentschlüsselbare, billige und von den USA verhinderte Verschlüsselungstechnik, die niemals breite Anwendung finden dürfte. Die große unbeantwortete Frage gegen Ende des Buches ist, ob die heutige, auch sehr sichere Verschlüsselungstechnik bereits von einer unbekannten Nemesis namens Quantencomputer still und leise in die Lade der nicht mehr sicheren und damit antiquierten Verschlüsselungstechniken verbannt worden ist. Wäre eigentlich interessant zu wissen, da fast der gesamte private und wirtschaftliche Datenverkehr auf solche Weise gesichert wird. Lassen wir uns überraschen.

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