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Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government--Saving Privacy in the Digital Age by [Steven Levy]

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Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government--Saving Privacy in the Digital Age Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 73 ratings

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Length: 370 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled Page Flip: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If the National Security Agency (NSA) had wanted to make sure that strong encryption would reach the masses, it couldn't have done much better than to tell the cranky geniuses of the world not to do it. Author Steven Levy, deservedly famous for his enlightening Hackers, tells the story of the cypherpunks, their foes, and their allies in Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government. From the determined research of Whitfield Diffie and Marty Hellman, in the face of the NSA's decades-old security lock, to the commercial world's turn-of-the-century embrace of encrypted e-commerce, Levy finds drama and intellectual challenge everywhere he looks. Although he writes, "Behind every great cryptographer, it seems, there is a driving pathology," his respect for the mathematicians and programmers who spearheaded public key encryption as the solution to Information Age privacy invasion shines throughout. Even the governmental bad guys are presented more as hapless control fetishists who lack the prescience to see the inevitability of strong encryption as more than a conspiracy of evil.

Each cryptological advance that was made outside the confines of the NSA's Fort Meade complex was met with increasing legislative and judicial resistance. Levy's storytelling acumen tugs the reader along through mathematical and legal hassles that would stop most narratives in their tracks--his words make even the depressingly silly Clipper chip fiasco vibrant. Hardcore privacy nerds will value Crypto as a review of 30 years of wrangling; those readers with less familiarity with the subject will find it a terrific and well-documented launching pad for further research. From notables like Phil Zimmerman to obscure but important figures like James Ellis, Crypto dishes the dirt on folks who know how to keep a secret. --Rob Lightner

From Scientific American

The government's argument, doggedly pressed mainly by such security-obsessed arms as the Department of Defense, the Justice Department and the National Security Agency: cryptography should be under firm government control, with strong codes to protect national security and weak ones for the public so that the government can break them to catch criminals and terrorists. The counterargument, pressed with equal determination by a mixed group that Levy rather unflatteringly calls the Cypherpunks: secure codes are vital to business transactions in the digital age and to people wanting privacy in electronic communications. Levy, chief technology writer for Newsweek, goes deeply into the 30-year battle over which side would prevail. He tours the landmarks of the battlefield, among them the government's Data Encryption Standard, public-key cryptography, the key escrow plan and the Clipper Chip. And he vividly portrays the leading actors on both sides. In the end, it was the burgeoning of the Internet and the necessities of e-commerce that won the day for the Cypherpunks. As Judge Betty B. Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit put it in a decision handed down last year: "Government attempts to control encryption ... may well implicate not only First Amendment rights of cryptographers but also the constitutional rights of each of us as potential recipients of encryption's bounty."

EDITORS OF SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN


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Top international reviews

Jeremy Walton
4.0 out of 5 stars Tales from the crypt
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 8, 2018
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la Plume de ma Tante
5.0 out of 5 stars If you want the inside story on the NSA and GCHQ you must read this book!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 8, 2014
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Federico Ruiz
5.0 out of 5 stars Un libro extremadamente interesante, entrega irreprochable
Reviewed in Spain on August 3, 2017
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Maarten van Emden
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent.
Reviewed in Canada on March 23, 2017
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