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Practical Cryptography [Paperback]

Niels Ferguson , Bruce Schneier
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 17 2003
Security is the number one concern for businesses worldwide. The gold standard for attaining security is cryptography because it provides the most reliable tools for storing or transmitting digital information. Written by Niels Ferguson, lead cryptographer for Counterpane, Bruce Schneier's security company, and Bruce Schneier himself, this is the much anticipated follow-up book to Schneier's seminal encyclopedic reference, Applied Cryptography, Second Edition (0-471-11709-9), which has sold more than 150,000 copies.
Niels Ferguson (Amsterdam, Netherlands) is a cryptographic engineer and consultant at Counterpane Internet Security. He has extensive experience in the creation and design of security algorithms, protocols, and multinational security infrastructures. Previously, Ferguson was a cryptographer for DigiCash and CWI. At CWI he developed the first generation of off-line payment protocols. He has published numerous scientific papers.
Bruce Schneier (Minneapolis, MN) is Founder and Chief Technical Officer at Counterpane Internet Security, a managed-security monitoring company. He is also the author of Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World (0-471-25311-1).

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"...the insight into the world of security that is offered here makes for an interesting read...any readers who are responsible for network and data security will find plenty of valuable pointers..." (PC Utilities, June 2003)

"...absolutely brilliantly written.... I loved the chapters on PKI...a must read!..." (Information Security Bulletin, July 2003) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Two of the world’s top experts in cryptography teach you how to secure your digital future

In today’s world, security is a top concern for businesses worldwide. Without a secure computer system, you don’t make money, you don’t expand, and–bottom line–you don’t survive. Cryptography holds great promise as the technology to provide security in cyberspace. Amazingly enough, no literature exists about how to implement cryptography and how to incorporate it into real-world systems. With Practical Cryptography, an author team of international renown provides you with the first hands-on cryptographic product implementation guide, bridging the gap between cryptographic theory and real-world cryptographic applications.

This follow-up guide to the bestselling Applied Cryptography dives in and explains the how-to of cryptography. You’ll find discussions on:

  • Practical rules for choosing and using cryptographic primitives, from block ciphers to digital signatures
  • Implementing cryptographic algorithms and systems in a secure way on today’s computers
  • A consistent design philosophy to ensure that every part of the system achieves the required security level
  • Why security affects every part of the system, and why it has to be a primary goal of the project
  • How simple interfaces for cryptographic primitives reduce system complexity and increase system security

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
This book is about security: about how to build secure cryptographic systems. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concrete presentation of a difficult subject Dec 10 2003
I've read a large number of cryptography books. Very few of them come down to brass tacks. They give you a description of a few algorithms, their strengths and weaknesses, and leave it at that. Either that, or they describe in lovingly complex detail the implementation of a particular protocol, one usually so fraught with options and details that you wonder how, at the end of it, that anybody writes a conforming implementation.
Practical Cryptography does neither of these things. It presents algorithm classes, why they exist, and what the best known algorithms are in each class. It explains how the various strengths and weaknesses of algorithms in each class combine to make a cryptosystem weaker or stronger. Then it goes on to show you how to use that information to build working cryptosystems.
People have complained about the book's seeming schizophrenia. On one hand, the authors are trying to show you how to build a secure cryptosystem. On the other, they're telling you how hopeless a task it is to build one that has no vulnerabilities, even if you're an expert in such things.
This can be annoying, but I more find it refreshing. Writing a secure cryptosystem is very hard. People should be aware that it is hard, and they are likely to make mistakes. It isn't something that should be attempted lightly. The current state of computer security is depressingly abysmal. People should be encouraged, as much as possible, to not contribute to the problem.
I'm not following my own advice, and I am building a new cryptosystem. I have found this book a more valuable resource than any other book on cryptography that I have yet read. Even if you aren't building your own cryptosystem, I think you will find the insights this book has into complexity and design to be useful tools in evaluating other cryptosystems.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Same old stuff, different day Nov. 13 2003
By A Customer
If Bruce Schneier has acquired a habit, it is the ability to take the same old material and rehash it into different books, year after year. My guess is that, next year, he'll use another slightly different angle and try to sell you the same basic information. What you need to do, as a consumer, is step back and see this book for what it is: supplemental income and marketing for Bruce Schneier.
Years ago, Bruce was laid off from AT&T Bell Labs. Since then, Bruce has been using rubes like you to augment his salary. Let's face it; if Bruce were a Ken Thompson or a Claude Shannon, he'd probably still have his job at Bell Labs. But he isn't. Instead he wrote a book and touted himself as an expert to an industry of people who didn't know any better.
What I find truly onerous about his books is the condescending tone that Schneier adopts when addressing the reader. It's if he's saying "I am so much more elite than you, I can't even begin to tell you." I agree with previous reviewers, I was a little put off by the fact that he recommends you hire an expert to implement a cryptosystem. Hire an expert? Then why in god's name should we buy the book? Entertainment value? Please, do tell Bruce, we're all waiting to hear why you made us waste $20.00. Did you buy a new sports car?
Recently I spoke with a PhD, from Brown, who performed decades of research in number theory. He recommended "Cryptography in C and C++," by Michael Welschenbach. He also said "I don't know why people think Applied Cryptography is such a good book. He [Schneier] doesn't seem to understand the mathematics very well." Pick up Applied Cryptography sometime and compare it side-by-side with Welschenbach's book. You'll see what that PhD was talking about.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent cryptography resource Aug. 31 2003
Classic books are often by definition, boring. Moby Dick is an American classic, and an insomniacs delight. Similarly, Bruce Schneier's Applied Cryptography is the definitive book on cryptography, but is far too complex and mathematical for most readers.
With that, Practical Cryptography is a superb text for anyone needing to know the core details of cryptography, but don't want to be bogged down with theoretical and abstract cryptographic ideas.
Where Applied Cryptography is a reference, Practical Cryptography is meant to be a narrative. The book follows the design of a secure cryptographic system from its algorithm selection, design philosophy, analysis, debugging and implementation.
The implementation aspect is crucial, as while there are many books available on the theory of cryptography, there is amazingly little about its practical implementation. While Practical Cryptography is a much easier read than Applied Cryptography, it is primarily geared for the applications
While Practical Cryptography is not as technical as its older brother Applied Cryptography, it is still not a For Dummies type of book. The average reader will likely find most of the book far too abstract for their needs. But for those that are looking for a practical and usable book about implementing cryptography, this is the definitive reference.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Simply excellent! July 31 2003
The combination Schneier - Ferguson invites to travel the basic aspects of the cryptography and inclusive it proposes the best queries of what one has learned and we should learn on this process.
In the personal thing the chapter 6: Work Hash; the chapter 7: MAC; the chapter 14 referred to the cryptographic protocols; the chapters 19 and 20 referred to PKI consider they are excellent. They have a quite practical point of view, realist, didactic and very realistic overalls.
I consider that the mathematical aspect has been covered with the space that deserves.
Very good decision of publishing a book more about applied cryptography and in that sense my recommendations to the book.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars this book has no substance
The authors spend far too much time preaching that cryptography is only a small (albeit important) part of security. This is not a new revelation. Read more
Published on Dec 23 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars this is applied crypro lite
If you liked Applied Cryptography, but were turned off by all the math, get this book.
It is Applied Cryptography Light. Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2003 by Eric Kent
5.0 out of 5 stars Trust Schneier & Ferguson, they know their security
If you want an honest and extremely realistic analysis of security and encryption in general, this is the book for you. Read more
Published on June 1 2003 by Ben Lane Hodson
5.0 out of 5 stars Beethoven and Schubert's "Learn to play piano already"
Two of the leading world cryptographers take their time to show engineers of all kinds, not just programmers, how the security is to be implemented. Read more
Published on May 20 2003 by Dmitry Dvoinikov
3.0 out of 5 stars Can't really recommend it
Well, I can't really recommend the book. It's readable enough,
but I can't figure out their target audience. Read more
Published on May 18 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars Schneier has his cake and eats it.
With its heritage in "Applied Cryptography", the world's most famous book on the subject, I had high hopes for "Practical Cryptography". Read more
Published on May 11 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding in every way
I preordered and my copied arrived end of last week... the first two chapters alone are worth the price of the book. Read more
Published on April 22 2003 by Jeremey L. Barrett
2.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelmed
I appreciate the authors trying to get people to "do it right" by not offering a range of options. But, at the same time, there's not enough flexibility built into this book for... Read more
Published on April 22 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars A practical (bit boring) executive summary of AC
For those of you (including myself) who were expecting an updated version of the Applied Cryptography, this book is NOT it. Read more
Published on April 16 2003 by Hiroo Yamagata
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