Understanding Cryptography: A Textbook for Students and Practitioners

Understanding Cryptography: A Textbook for Students and Practitioners

Cryptography is now ubiquitous – moving beyond the traditional environments, such as government communications and banking systems, we see cryptographic techniques realized in Web browsers, e-mail programs, cell phones, manufacturing systems, embedded software, smart buildings, cars, and even medical implants. Today’s designers need a comprehensive understanding of applied cryptography. After an introduction to cryptography and data security, the authors explain the main techniques in modern c

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  1. Mike G. says:
    12 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Great Book!, September 20, 2010
    By 
    Mike G.

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Understanding Cryptography: A Textbook for Students and Practitioners (Hardcover)

    I came across this book on accident. I was googling around for articles by Preneel and found this book, in which he wrote the foreword. Frankly, I hope this book eventually replaces most, if not all of the mainstream texts on cryptography. My only complaint about this book is that I no longer feel like one of the rare geniuses that thoroughly and completely understands cryptography. Thanks to this book, any dummy off the street can understand cryptography nearly as well as I do and they do not need a computer science or math degree. No prerequisite knowledge is required, other than the ability to read but there is plenty of math if you want to study it. (Warning: I might be exaggerating a little. I really enjoy math and might be taking my math skills for granted. Just so I am clear, this is a Math textbook, which means the encryption algorithms are formally defined using math notation. However, the author’s explanation of the math & algorithms is the most clear and easy to understand I have ever seen; which to me means, you do not need a strong background in mathematics to understand this material.)

    The following categories are scored 1-10. 1 being the lowest, through 10, the highest…

    - Readability (i.e. authors style of writing, is he to the point, write clear, how does he approach the topic, does he motivate, etc…)
    Score: 10
    I personally do not care for analogies in cryptography books. If the author knows what he is talking about and can explain it, there is absolutely no need for stupid analogies. Another thing that drives me crazy is authors that “challenge you to think” too much. They can never get to the point and come right out and tell you something. Half the time, I can’t figure out if they actually either do not know what they are talking about, or they simply do not know how to explain something and hide it behind a series of challenging questions…which they themselves cannot answer(as if to be objective or something). Frankly, I am a professional with over 10 years of experience. I do not buy books so that authors can beat around the bush with their knowledge; which, by the way, I find condescending, because they are supposed to be the experts. When I pay money for a technical book, I do it with the expectation that the author is knowledgeable, qualified to write about the topic, and will not waste my time playing mind games with me. That is what is so surprising about this book; it clearly says “textbook” on the cover, which made me hesitate, thinking… maybe this is too elementary, or like many college textbooks, challenges you to think too much. However, contrary to my concerns, this book is to the point and carefully explains details that other authors seem to miss. In addition, it is very practical coverage and still challenging enough to be motivational, in other words, you do not have to drink twelve cups of coffee just to get through it. To summarize this section, at this stage in my career, I really appreciate authors that can “thoroughly explain things in the fewest possible words, while still being crystal clear!” (Apparently, this is something I myself cannot do, as evidence above, but that is why I do not write books)

    - Organization
    Score: 10
    I have many cryptography books that talk about critical aspects of the encryption processes in isolation without tying them together; this book is very well organized in that respect.

    - Real world Application (i.e. is this how it works in the real world or is this just theory that never gets used in practice)
    Score: 9
    This is another category that makes this book stand out because the coverage is very practical.

    - Thoroughness (i.e. how rigorous is the book, is it a comprehensive review of technologies)
    Score: 7
    Great Introduction to many areas!

    - Application & Implementation on Computer (i.e. code, algorithms, data-types, programming language tips/tricks…etc)
    Score: 5
    Most books attempt to provide code but the code is based on static input and is poorly written, leaving you to wonder, why on earth they even bothered to try. Actually coding algorithms is not the focus of this book… I don’t think it contains one line of code, but you can encrypt and decrypt, end-2-end on paper, if you want to, after reading it. As I mentioned earlier, this is a math book, so the algorithms are presented in mathematical notation.

    …………
    Edit: I have to add a disclaimer to this review. I originally read this book when I was knee deep in research and loved this book so much because the author tied together some concepts in such a concise explanation. This book is definitely a five star book but now that my initial excitement has worn off I think that some of my claims above may have been overinflated. I would recommend that the reader is comfortable with at least advanced algebra and discrete math…

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  2. Maor says:
    6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Perfection!, July 10, 2010
    By 
    Maor

    This review is from: Understanding Cryptography: A Textbook for Students and Practitioners (Hardcover)

    It is a summer tradition for me to pick a technical topic, find a textbook that represents the subject from an introductory point of view, and self-study as much of it as I can. This summer, I picked cryptography. After searching all over the place for a decent introductory book on the subject, I stumbled upon this one. Even though it only had 2 reviews at the time, I could tell that it was exactly what I was looking for. After reading the first 6 chapters of this book, all I can say is this: WOW!

    Cryptography lies at the intersection of mathematics, computer science, and electrical engineering. This book borrows ideas from all 3 fields in order to describe the core ideas of cryptography in a surprisingly elegant way. The tone of the book is formal enough so that the book isn’t disorganized or overly verbose, but not too formal that it makes the readings a chore.

    As stated above, the content of the book is highly organized. The first 5 chapters deal with symmetric algorithms, and the next 5 or so deal with asymmetric algorithms. The last few chapters deal with hash functions and message authentication algorithms. In between highly-technical sections, you will find informal topics that are concerned with general security topics, history, or similar subjects. These sections are a wonderful break from the technical ones, and make this highly technical book read somewhat like a novel.

    The figures in this book are wonderful, and really help the reader understand the encryption algorithms more fully. For example, the DES algorithm is somewhat convoluted, but the figures in the chapter make it very simple to see exactly what is happening at each stage of the process. Every permutation, bit slicing operation, and XOR operation is clearly evident from the flow diagrams. These diagrams, the mathematical descriptions of the encryption schemes, and the interesting discussions that follow make learning cryptography very simple!

    After reading chapters 3, 4, and 5, I decided to make my own DES implementation in Python. Even though the book gives a wonderful description of the inner-workings of the DES algorithm, it doesn’t provide many plaintext-key-ciphertext examples that can be used to test out my own implementation. I had to search Google for quite some time and use many different references to make sure that my implementation worked correctly. Thus, one of my only complaints about this book is that it doesn’t go into quite enough technical details at some parts. I felt the same way when trying to implement the 3DES algorithm with modes other than ECB. The book doesn’t seem to provide an answer as to how to combine 3DES with OFB or CBC, and I haven’t quite found an answer on Google yet. However, this isn’t meant to be a handbook of cryptography. It is meant to provide an understandable introduction to cryptography which will make the reader be able to keep up with more advanced books. This book does that perfectly.

    It doesn’t matter too much, but I’ll include this anyway: I found a tiny error in chapter 2, and I told the authors about it. They very VERY friendly, and were very appreciative. It doesn’t really change the quality of the book, but its nice to know that the authors really care about the quality of their work.

    If I had one more complaint, it would be that this book is so interesting that it keeps me up until 3 AM every night! I miss sleeping!

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  3. Christoph Ruland, University of Siegen, Germany says:
    6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Excellent Course Book, March 4, 2010
    This review is from: Understanding Cryptography: A Textbook for Students and Practitioners (Hardcover)

    I used the book “Understanding Cryptography” as text book for a basic course in cryptography. It is execellent structured, compact and clearly written and reaches the goal to be “Understandable”. It offers a basic course, but it opens many possibilities to deepen the content and to explain the mathematical background. It fills a gap of well known cryptographic bestsellers, which are too detailled for a basic course. It is suitable also for engineers and students, who want to learn actual cryptography by self study. It contains the cryptographic mechanisms and algorithms, which are (or should be) used today (2010), for example presenting Elliptic Curve Cryptography not as an exotic cryptography, but as state of the art. Thanks to the authors, also for the well designed exercises.

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