Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Crypto by Steven Levy

I finished reading the book "Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government - Saving Privacy in the Digital Age", by Steven Levy. This was a great book and I would highly recommend it to anyone. I think people would even find it interesting if they aren't interested in cryptography.

The book gives an account of the invention of public key cryptography and the people who were responsible for it. The book starts with the creation of the Diffie-Hellman key exchange algorithm followed by the invention of the RSA algorithm. Towards the end of the book, Phil Zimmerman's effort to create PGP is explained.

A common theme throughout the book is the US governments attempt to restrict the knowledge of the cryptographic research community from being made public. For example, many of the researchers were threatened with jail time for publishing papers on the topic of cryptography. What was truely interesting about this book is the insight into the personalities behind the algorithms and why they believed so strongly that cryptography should be made availiable to the masses.

The book chronicals the over twenty year battle that the crypto researchers had with organizations such as the NSA, FBI and US Congress. I knew before reading this book that the US government was mostly unsupportive of cryptography. I never knew the extent that agancies such as the NSA went through to prevent people from using encryption.

People such as Diffie, Hellman, Rivest, Shamir, Adleman, and Zimmerman went through great lengths to ensure that public's privacy is maintained. I admire what these individuals were able to accomplish by refusing to comprimise with the US government. For anyone interested in cryptography or a person's right to privacy this book is a must read.


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