Dictionary book

Crypto Dictionary, Book Review: A Useful AZ of Crypto Definitions

Crypto Dictionary: 500 Tasty Tidbits for the Curious Cryptographer • by Jean-Philippe Aumasson • No Starch / Penguin Random House • 160 pages • ISBN: 9781718501409 • £ 20.99 / $ 24.99

Cryptography is perhaps the most important thing you use every day – from e-commerce and messaging apps to retrieving your emails, withdrawing money from an ATM on TV by satellite – without knowing it. It is a complex and important area that is generally not fun or accessible.

that of Jean-Philippe Aumasson Serious cryptography is a classic (and serious) introduction to the field. Arranged as alphabetical dictionary definitions with occasional additional details, its Crypto dictionary: 500 tasty bites for the curious cryptographer is a rather less serious, but surprisingly comprehensive, collection of nuggets of crypto information that will make you smile and sometimes scratch your head.

Sometimes the writing is concise: Base64 is simply labeled “no encryption”, while the fundamental concept of cryptocurrency Proof of work is (precisely) defined as “the contribution of cryptography to environmental problems”. Sometimes it’s both concise and useful: in addition to calling blockchain “both a blessing and a curse,” the book offers an unbiased discussion of the downsides and benefits of so much interest in technology.

Not all jokes are funny (or appropriate), with some being so enigmatic that they will escape anyone who isn’t an expert (although it’s worth researching why the author is referring to Time AI like “the Fyre Cryptography Festival”). The author can’t resist the weird hobbyhorse that doesn’t add much, and you’ll need some math skills and a passing grasp of the basics of cryptography to get the most out of the definitions plus techniques.

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But there are also a lot of really useful entries with useful explanations, basics of Diffie-Hellman encryption at Bruce schneierThe famous warning signs to spot crypto systems that are more hype than real security. Cryptographic dictionary covers standards, conferences, key websites, historical references and anecdotes – like the infamous banking rep asking for the fundamentals of TLS 1.3 to change when the standard was almost decided – which makes it as much a collection as a dictionary.

Cryptographic dictionary won’t teach you how to do cryptography or how to judge if something is cryptographically strong. But if you want to search for a specific cryptography cipher, technique or protocol, know what rainbow tables are and how they help crack passwords, or learn the difference between quantum and post-quantum cryptography (the former being both post-quantum but also not part of the latter), then this book is an ideal starting point. It will also likely pique your interest in another concept when you turn to the relevant page.


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