Data Privacy and Security
LoC QA76.9.A25S65. 465 pages. $59.95. Index, bibliography, glossary, Cryptography Timeline, Answers to Exercises and 4 appendices. ISBN 0-387-00311-8.
Reviewed by Robert Bruen August 1, 2003
There are lots of cryptography books available these days. There were many before Bruce Schneier wrote Applied Cryptography and there will be more to come. Excluding something brand new, the list of topics covered is a fairly well defined list, so any new contribution will have to be distinguished by the quality of the explanations, the depth of coverage, the understanding demonstrated by the author and how comprehensive the book is. In any discipline with many participants, just how good you are matters.
Given these standards, Salomon's excellent treatment of cryptography is at the top, however it is a serious work not for the faint of heart. It is not a mathematical textbook, but there is enough math to satisfy anyone. He has included a tutorial appendix on Galois Fields because finite fields are used in the Rijndael algorithm (Advanced Encryption Standard) and in stream ciphers. If you are interested in crypto but lack the advanced math skills, this book will be very helpful. There are full discussions of the history of encryption going back to Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece through the early modern science period to modern days.
The historical perspective is important because we need to learn the same techniques to progress to the more mathematical techniques of today.No matter how much fun the substitution ciphers in the newspapers may be, sooner or later, we have to face the issues of algorithms using finite fields. The progress is very clear, once you understand how each type of crypto works and leads into the next type.
Fortunately, Salomon gives us clear examples of how each stage works with great examples. There are exercises throughout the book interspersed in the chapters, although it would have been helpful if they were gathered at the end of each chapter. The exercises are challenging and useful. The text covers the easy and the difficult from the simple to the advanced in a pedagogical manner. If you take the time to work on the exercises as you go along, your learning experience will be considerably enhanced. Some of the examples even include Mathematica code.
This is the book I would use if I were teaching a course is Cryptography. The topics are explained very well with and without the math. The author covers steganography, elliptic curve cryptography, wavelets, digital audio and a host of other topics. He gives us a history of both encryption (and decryption) within a social context (Thomas Jefferson, Enigma) and within a mathematical context that developed over the centuries into ideas such as quantum cryptography.
This is a highly recommended book for learning from and teaching from. It is one of the better presentations of cryptography because of the scholarship that went into producing it.