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Cryptology resource reviews

Army Field Manual on Basic Cryptanalysis

  • Reading level: Straightforward.
  • Cryptology level: Concentrates on classical crypto.
  • Reference book quality: It is available on the web. Good reference material.

    Review: Straightforward, easy to understand. I would probably advise reading this before Lanaki's Classical Cryptography Course.

    Lanaki's Classical Cryptography Course

  • Reading level: Maybe not quite as straightforward as the "Army Field Manual", but about the same. The text is speckled with references and terminology that may make it confusing for a beginning crypto fan.
  • Cryptology level: About the same as the Army Field manual, concentrates on classical crypto.
  • Reference book quality: Available on the web, good reference material, lots of handy charts.

    Review: Another readily available resource for people wanting to evaluate the field before committing money to books. Change the file extensions to *.rtf before you open the files, otherwise you won't be able to read the files. The first 12 lessons are available here if you have trouble opening the files.

    The Code Book The Evolution of Secrecy from Mary, Queen of Scots to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh

  • Reading level: easy
  • Cryptology level: easy-medium
  • Reference book quality: medium

    Review: Concentrates primarily on classical cryptography, but goes all the way to the quantum cryptography theories. Simple enough explanations. Cipher challenge at end of book.

    American Cryptogram Association Web Page (PDF version) or

    (Older html version) American Cryptogram Association Web Page (with some errors)

  • Reading level: Simple.
  • Cryptology level: Classical crypto. Allows one to find a variety of classical crypto methods quickly and easily.
  • Reference quality: Very handy.

    Review: A potpourri of classical crypto methods in an alphabetical list. Very easy to use, and very simple format. Helpful for people at a variety of experience levels.

    Elementary Cryptanalysis: A Mathematical Approach by Abraham Sinkov

  • Reading level: medium.
  • Cryptology level: Classical Crypto,with medium mathematics.
  • Reference quality: handy.

    Review: Surprisingly helpful for such a little book. Assumes the reader is familiar with mathematics. A nice change from the public library collection.

    The Code-Breakers (The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet) by David Kahn

  • Reading level: medium
  • Cryptology level: not beginner level
  • Reference book quality: keep

    Review: This book is over 1000 pages long, but is an excellent reference book for those wanting to get more serious in the field of crypto. It is a historical guide to the development of "how" cryptology came to be today, and has been updated since it was written because of the development of cryptology in recent years. I would advise a true beginner to do some basic reading before reading this book. This book concentrates more on -classical- cryptography.

    Applied Cryptography (Protocols, Algorithms, and Source Code in C) by Bruce Schneier

  • Reading level: medium
  • Cryptology/Mathematics level: advanced
  • Reference book quality: keep

    Review: This book is over 700 pages long, and, even if you don't know how to program in C or C++, you can still follow the cryptological theory, -if- you have at least read David Kahn's book. College-level mathematics is advised. A large section of code in C is included in the back of the book. This book concentrates more on -modern- cryptography.

    Secrets & Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World by Bruce Schneier

  • Reading level: straightforward
  • Cryptology level: not a lot
  • Reference book quality: depends on if you are into computers or not

    Review: This book was published after Bruce Schneier's "Applied Cryptography" book, and concentrates a lot on computer network security. It is a straightforward read, especially if you are already reasonably familiar with computer network security and/or protocols (FTP, TCP/IP, etc.) It isn't a hardcore "numbercrunching crypto" book, but it does address security issues that were not taken into account in his previous book.

    Practical Cryptography by Niels Ferguson and Bruce Schneier

  • Reading level: varies by section (some with lots of pseudocode, some with narrative)
  • Cryptology level: "'Applied Cryptography' lite" is a good way to describe this.
  • Reference book quality: again, very concentrated on computers.

    Review: Given the ever-changing world of cryptography, updates are necessary. However, after reading "Applied Cryptography", one feels almost surprised to read a book like this. For example, the chapter on the uses (and vulnerabilities) of a clock with cryptographic systems. Easily explained, real life situations, and gives the reader a real life grasp of "Maybe things can easily be a lot more vulnerable than the way they seem in 'Applied Cryptography'."

    Codebreakers, The inside story of Bletchley Park, by F.H. Hinsley and Alan Stripp

  • Reading level: Easy
  • Cryptology level: Easy
  • Reference book quality: Low

    Review: This is -not- the same as "The Codebreakers" by David Kahn. This book is a collection of memoirs of people involved with Bletchley Park. It does contain some cryptological information, but it is more about history than cryptology.

    Code Breaking, A History and Exploration, by Rudolph Kippenhahn (translated from original German)

  • Reading level: Medium
  • Crypto level: Easy-Medium
  • Reference book level: Medium-low

    Review: Lots of good information on the Enigma. Classical and modern crypto. Not the most comprehensive book on cryptology, however.

    Codes, Ciphers and Other Cryptic and Clandestine Communication: 400 Ways to Send Secret Messages from Hieroglyphs to the Internet by Fred B. Wrixon

  • Reading level: Medium
  • Crypto level: Medium
  • Reference book level: Medium

    Review: Lots of examples (to the point of being redundant.) Extremely wordy (680 pgs). I had the feeling I was reading a high school history textbook rather than a reference manual. Elonka's recommended reading list Review: A list of recommended cryptology resources by Elonka Dunin.

    Juvenile section

    Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing by Martin Gardner

  • Reading level: very easy
  • Cryptology level: very simple
  • Reference book quality: donate to the library

    Review: This book can be read in an evening while watching your favorite sitcoms. If you are genuinely brand new to cryptology, or just want to send a message to your friend in junior high school, this may be helpful. 92 pages long. The last chapter on alien contacts was completely irrelevant, and could have been edited out, in my opinion.

    Codes and Ciphers: Secret Writing Through the Ages by John Laffin

  • Reading level: very easy
  • Cryptology level: rather simple
  • Reference book quality: low

    Review: A quick read. A good starter if you can't find Martin Gardner's "Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing" (A different book with a similar title on an easier level).

    Codes Ciphers and Other Secrets by Karin N Mango

  • R,C,R level: Elementary (Kid-oriented)

    The Secret Code Book by Helen Huckle

  • R,C,R level: Elementary (Kid-oriented)

    Top Secret (Handbook of codes, ciphers, and secret writing) by Paul B Janeczko

  • R,C,R level: Elementary (Young reader-oriented)

    Unsung Heroes of World War II (The Story of The Navajo Code Talkers)

  • R,C,R level: Elementary (Young reader-oriented, more history than crypto)

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