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Cryptography Made Simple

Nigel P. Smart
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
Information Security and Cryptography
[Reviewed by
Allen Stenger
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This is a very thorough introduction to cryptography, aimed at lower-division undergraduates. It is an engineering textbook that uses modern mathematical terminology (such as groups and finite fields). It is a reworking of the author’s earlier book Cryptography: An Introduction (McGraw-Hill, 2004).

The “Simple” in the title means that it is mathematically non-rigorous; it hints at a lot of mathematics, and uses mathematical language, but is not very mathematical. The book is far from simple, and includes a tremendous amount of useful detail on cryptosystems. The book points out, correctly, that many treatments of cryptography view cryptography as an exercise in mathematics, not as a subject in itself. This book, in contrast, is centered on the security problem and investigates many kinds of attacks on cryptosystems.

Despite this emphasis, the book doesn’t get around to discussing security per se until halfway through; the first quarter of the book (and a lengthy appendix) is devoted to mathematical background, and the second quarter is devoted to historical cryptosystems, including a long chapter on the German Enigma machine. One peculiarity is that the book has no exercises.

Bottom line: really for engineers, and a useful book if used carefully; the organization makes is easy to get overwhelmed by the background material before you get to the “good stuff”, and even the good stuff has an overwhelming amount of detail.

Allen Stenger is a math hobbyist and retired software developer. He is an editor of the Missouri Journal of Mathematical Sciences. His mathematical interests are number theory and classical analysis.

See the table of contents in the publisher's webpage.