Secure Reads: Contemporary Cryptography

Read a review of the book Contemporary Cryptography.

Contemporary Cryptography
By Rolf Oppliger
Artech House, 503 pages, $99.95

In the increasingly large infosecurity bookshelf, few titles are considered best of breed. Contemporary Cryptography may well be the next classic reference book in cryptography, following in the footsteps of Bruce Schneier's Applied Cryptography.

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Contemporary Cryptography
@exe While not necessarily needing to prove that the probability of an attack against a particular public key algorithm is below a quantifiable minimum, the average infosecurity pro should understand the theoretical underpinnings of different cryptographic algorithms in the evaluation of competing cryptographic APIs--included material in Contemporary Cryptography. It won't make an expert out of the lay reader, but marginally experienced and interested infosecurity pros will certainly benefit from the text's attention to detail and well-written prose.

The chapters of Contemporary Cryptography brim with discrete mathematics, probability theory, information theory and formal algorithms. Although one would expect stilted language from a theoretical computer scientist, the reader is pleasantly surprised--the prose sparkles with clarity. The book takes a generalist approach with its four major sections: foundational mathematics, unkeyed cryptosystems, secret-key cryptosystems and public-key cryptosystems. The author anchors the text with meticulous footnotes and references.

Not only is Contemporary Cryptography comprehensive in scope, but the author ensures it's up to date by covering elliptical curve cryptography (ECC)--a theory basing the security of the encryption algorithm on the mathematically difficult task of computing discrete logarithms for an elliptical curve. The book provides the necessary mathematical foundations for ECC, and then returns to flesh out its application in formal algorithms. Other emerging cryptography concepts such as quantum cryptography are also covered, though the attention paid to them is roughly proportional to their current practical importance. More developed areas of cryptography, like traditional DES and RSA cryptosystems, are covered in more detail.

Although the core audience of cryptographic researchers and designers for Contemporary Cryptography is quite small, this phenomenal new entry to the cryptography field will find a place on the shelves of those more general infosecurity practitioners who are seeking a deep understanding of cryptography.

--Patrick Mueller

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CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide, Second Edition by Shon Harris is an excellent source of security information--whether you take the test or not!
--L. Barry Lyons IV, IA Systems Engineer, Northrop Grumman

Download Chapter 5 of CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide, Second Edition
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This was first published in October 2005

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