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The Code Book by Simon Singh

The Code Book

by Simon Singh (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (54)  Yiddish (2)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (59)
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
My take-aways from this book:

* simple language
* effectively explains even the most complex of technologies
* enjoyable read and never bored ( )
  nmarun | Mar 11, 2014 |
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 the few. John Chadwick. The Decipherment of Linear B.

109 182 6 11 88 214 74 77 153 177 109 195 76 37 188 ( )
  mdubois | Mar 3, 2014 |
The book was written in 1999, so the 'recent developments' as presented in this work are a bit outdated. Nevertheless, the history of cryptography and cryptanalysis remains a fascinating one. It would be interesting to know how quantum cryptography has developed in the new millennium. ( )
  Akubra | Dec 2, 2013 |
Singh, author of [b:Fermat's Enigma|38412|Fermat's Enigma The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem|Simon Singh|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1266456761s/38412.jpg|38182], 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, [b:The Bible Code|521542|The Bible Code|Michael Drosnin|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1175497374s/521542.jpg|1456262], 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. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
Excellent. Engaging and accurate. That's the book you must read if you wanna know how code breaking works. ( )
  amarcobio | Aug 19, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Singh, SimonAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coqueret, CatherineTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fritz, KlausTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brogren, MargaretaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flothuis, MeaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Canonical title
Original title
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Original publication date
Important places
Important events
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For my mother and father, Sawaran Kaur and Mehnga Singh
First words
On the morning of Wednesday, 15 October 1586, Queen Mary entered the crowded courtroom at Fotheringhay Castle.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
The Code Book: How to Make It, Break It, Hack It, Crack It is not the same as the original Simon Singh book. It was significantly revised for younger readers.
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Information from the Japanese Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Original language
Book description
Haiku summary
A history of
Cryptology from Caesar
To the modern day.

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385495323, Paperback)

People love secrets. Ever since the first word was written, humans have sent coded messages to each other. In The Code Book, Simon Singh, author of the bestselling Fermat's Enigma, offers a peek into the world of cryptography and codes, from ancient texts through computer encryption. Singh's compelling history is woven through with stories of how codes and ciphers have played a vital role in warfare, politics, and royal intrigue. The major theme of The Code Book is what Singh calls "the ongoing evolutionary battle between codemakers and codebreakers," never more clear than in the chapters devoted to World War II. Cryptography came of age during that conflict, as secret communications became critical to both sides' success.

Confronted with the prospect of defeat, the Allied cryptanalysts had worked night and day to penetrate German ciphers. It would appear that fear was the main driving force, and that adversity is one of the foundations of successful codebreaking.

In the information age, the fear that drives cryptographic improvements is both capitalistic and libertarian--corporations need encryption to ensure that their secrets don't fall into the hands of competitors and regulators, and ordinary people need encryption to keep their everyday communications private in a free society. Similarly, the battles for greater decryption power come from said competitors and governments wary of insurrection.

The Code Book is an excellent primer for those wishing to understand how the human need for privacy has manifested itself through cryptography. Singh's accessible style and clear explanations of complex algorithms cut through the arcane mathematical details without oversimplifying. --Therese Littleton

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:40:25 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"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.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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