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5.0 out of 5 stars Plaintext review :)
It was a great to learn about the origins of crypto and the different people which brought about this revolution to protect privacy of everyone.At times i admit i had to read a paragraph twice as it became confusing sometimes but all in all a great book and a must read for anyone interested in crypto.
Published on Dec 8 2003 by Romin Cyrus Irani

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3.0 out of 5 stars Solid Journalism, Mediocre Literature
According to the flyleaf, David Kahn (who wrote "The
Codebreakers") said of this book that "Steven Levy has written
cryptography's 'The Soul of a New Machine'". There may be some
truth to that, but mostly it implies a level of prose that is not
in evidence in this book. Steven Levy is no Tracy Kidder, aside
from an occasional...
Published on Nov. 24 2003 by Amazon Customer


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5.0 out of 5 stars Plaintext review :), Dec 8 2003
By 
Romin Cyrus Irani (Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Crypto (Paperback)
It was a great to learn about the origins of crypto and the different people which brought about this revolution to protect privacy of everyone.At times i admit i had to read a paragraph twice as it became confusing sometimes but all in all a great book and a must read for anyone interested in crypto.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Solid Journalism, Mediocre Literature, Nov. 24 2003
By 
Amazon Customer (Acton, MA United States) - See all my reviews
According to the flyleaf, David Kahn (who wrote "The
Codebreakers") said of this book that "Steven Levy has written
cryptography's 'The Soul of a New Machine'". There may be some
truth to that, but mostly it implies a level of prose that is not
in evidence in this book. Steven Levy is no Tracy Kidder, aside
from an occasional tendency to let his prose override his
writing. What Levy is, however, is a pretty good technology
journalist, and the book is at its best when it trades on that
background. Indeed, Levy used a great deal of research in this
book which doesn't appear to have been used for his earlier
magazine articles. While the book is not footnoted, there is an
extensive "notes" section at the end. There is also a
bibiliography, and an index.
One thing that Levy fails to do is make his "characters" come
across as fascinating individuals. This is not for lack of
trying -- clearly he finds them fascinating himself. However,
his prose fails him, particularly when trying to raise what a
journalist would call "human interest."
The strength of the book is not in its revelations of fact
either. The events described are already well-known to anybody
with an interest in the subject (in a number of cases,
particularly for events over the last decade, this is due to
Levy's own journalism in "Wired" and elsewhere). Aside from
filling in the history for those previously unaware of it, Levy's
interviewing skills turn up new evidence of the answers to one of
the most frequently repeated questions in the history of open
cryptography: "what were they thinking?"
For me, that is both the most important and the most interesting
question that Levy needed to face, and he takes it head-on. In
particular, he adds considerable scope (although little depth) to
describing the history of the Clipper chip. What were the NSA
(and the politicians) thinking? Well, as Levy describes it, the
key was the conflict between the FBI and the NSA, and the
illogical government approach was largely driven by the resulting
schizophrenia. Conspiracy nuts won't like that conclusion, but
it makes more sense than believing that the government really
expected it could put the crypto genie back into its bottle.
For those who don't appreciate the importance of crypto in the
Internet-connected age, this book is the best education in that
area. There is room for a better one to replace it, but it
doesn't exist now, and likely won't be written.
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5.0 out of 5 stars History of modern cryptography, Nov. 6 2003
By 
Uri Raz (Israel) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Crypto (Paperback)
I've read Simon Singh's book on the history of cryptography, and had some doubts whether this book would add much, but having enjoyed Levy's "Hackers", I bought this book as well.
This book focuses on the second half of the 20th century, and on the subjects of privacy in the digital era, and thus has little in common with Singh's book.
The book covers a lot of ground in a relatively short text (about 300 pages) in a clear and fascinating way, and I've enjoyed the book and finished it in a couple of days.
Other reviewers noted that the book contains little technical information. I think it makes for better focus on the larger issues of privacy, security, e-commerce, etc.
For the gory details, one can read books such as Bruce Schneier's Applied Cryptography.
My only problem with the book is that it is somewhat biased against the U.S. government's position.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, Oct. 3 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Crypto (Paperback)
Mr. Levy needs to write more books. Crypto is an excellent examination of modern day cryptography inteleaved with intrigue. It's just a stupendous story that will blow your hair back. When you finish this book, the first thing you will do is go find out what happens where Levy leaves off. Exellent book.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Drab and Uninteresting, Jan. 31 2003
By 
aikisen (Calcutta, WB India) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Crypto (Paperback)
It is more of a history of the characters than the history of RSA or cryptography. I would recommend Simon Singh's The Code Book for anyone wanting to learn about the history of cryptography. In just one chapter of the Code Book, Simon Singh puts in more unbiased and detailed information in an infinitely more interesting and readable manner than Levy crams in this whole book of uninteresting chapters.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Good Presentation :-), Jan. 13 2003
This review is from: Crypto (Paperback)
I enjoyed reading this book; Mr. Levy has an engaging and readable style. One can always wish for more, but in my case, I would have liked a chapter about crypto activities in other countries besides the U.S. and Great Britain. For example, what do we know, if anything about what the Soviet Union or, say, Israel was doing in this field over the years. As example, do we have evidence that U.S. developments were actually put to use by other countries. Otherwise, for me, now on to read "Hackers"!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A major contribution about to the History of crypto, July 24 2002
This review is from: Crypto (Paperback)
This book is a contribution to the History of crypto and computing, assuming that this history changes very much our everyday life even if we are not into computer field.
It focuses on the story of the people who opened the crypto Pandora's box, allowing todays e-business long before the word was even invented. It starts with Whit Diffie (Diffie-Hellman) in the late 60's, through Rivest, Shamir and Adleman (RSA) and ends with Zimmerman (Pgp) and Helsingius (remailer). It also follows other conributors to crypto and business people (eg. : from RSA, Lotus) as well as some politicians and people involved at the NSA.
The author describes the oppositions between the pro-crypto-for-everyone and the US government, the government self-contradictions and oppositions with the tech firms. This includes facts about the NSA, the Clipper Chip issue, the patents problems, etc. These are always seen from the viewpoint of the various people involved at that time.
It is easy to read and does not need any technical or maths background. If focuses on the people. It does not discuss the subject : it tells us the story.
If you are looking for a book about crypto in order to understand "how it works", forget this book. If you want to understand how people with one obsession can change the world, just read it.
The author manages suspens very well, from the beginning to the end. This book is hard to close : you really want to get to the next page.
So why not 5 stars ? Because I think this book could have been perfect with just a few diagrams showing the crypto algorithm (eg. : differences between Diffie-Hellman and RSA are not clear). Ok... ok... I give 5 stars only to books which change my life. This one is exciting, informative and well written, but not to that point.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and Readable, June 14 2002
By 
frumiousb "frumiousb" (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Crypto (Paperback)
Levy does a good job of making a complex and potentially dry subject readable for a wide audience. Using an approach similar to the approach he took in _Hackers_, he uses the the personal history of the participants as a lens to study the history of a technology development.
_Crypto_ outlines the history of cryptography as it lurched towards public availability. Levy provides an overview of both technical and political obstacles that occurred along the way. Examines issues of control, personal freedom, and national security.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Telling History of Cryptography, April 21 2002
By 
"donkiely" (Fairbanks, Alaska USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Crypto (Paperback)
Cryptography has become one of the most important technologies in a secure digital world. It makes possible digital signatures, protection of confidential information, protection against tampering--or at least provides notification that tampering has occurred--and secure authentication of users. In an age when the simplest security breeches of highly visible dot-coms makes the front page of the popular press, cryptography and related technologies are making their ways into almost all of the software products we use daily.
But it's easy to forget that only recently did cryptography become available for non-government users. Reaching this point was a long and hard battle with what used to be the most secret of government organizations, the National Security Agency (NSA). Bit by bit, researchers outside the agency made fundamental discoveries that eroded NSA's ability to control cryptography. Until finally the government was forced to come to terms with the digital age where the secrets could make their way around the globe in seconds.
This is the story that Steven Levy tells. Although the book tends to portray researchers outside the NSA as skillful and lucky heroes, and those inside the NSA as pompous but brilliant ideologues, it's a compelling story. The book is roughly chronological, starting with Whit Diffie's independent discovery of public key cryptography, one of the major breakthroughs that made the field feasible, the story of RSA, the ill-fated Clipper chip, and concessions the NSA was forced into against overwhelming pressure.
The author outlines the development of a people's cryptography and its collision with the U.S. government. The book is about privacy in the information age and about the people who saw many years ago that the Internet's greatest virtue was its greatest drawback: free access to information that leads to a loss of privacy.
From a developer's standpoint, the story is interesting because it explains many of the features of cryptography as we know it today, making it easier to put them to efficient use. For example, what was the big deal with keys longer than 40-bits that the government restricted them from export? And just how much safer are 128-bit keys? Sure, we all have heard the number of hours or millennia today's computers take to break such keys, but why those specific numbers?
As with most complex controversies, both the government and the outsiders make compelling arguments for their case. Cryptography has long been the province of governments, and wars have been won and lost on the success of keeping secrets secret. But in a demographic society, individual privacy is almost sacrosanct, even though it is not explicitly guaranteed in any of the documents on which the U.S. is founded. Crypto tells the story of how these conflicting interests have been sorted out to the current state of affairs.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Would the story be different after 9/11?, Dec 26 2001
By 
D. Berman (Potomac, MD USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Crypto (Hardcover)
Interesting book that really summarizes the efforts of the multitude of techies trying to keep cryptogrophy out of the government sponsored purview. However, in reading the book I kept wondering, especially with regards to the whole Clipper fiasco, if the story might have turned out differently if the starting point was after 9/11. I am still waiting to see/hear about encoded messages that were decoded after the attack, that might have warned us before hand. In no way do I think the government should have an open hand into my communications, but when factored against stopping the slaughter of thousands, then I become a little unsure. All in all, the book was excellent and did what all good books should do - it made me think. Mr. Lvey - Loved Hackers as well. Just bought Artificial Life to see if you are consistent.
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Crypto by Steven Levy (Paperback - Dec 7 2001)
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