Quick Look: Cryptography for the Masses

Clear explanations for the security non-expert

This book begins with a rather simplistic explanation of why we need security and how operating systems work (fortunately I don't start most books at the beginning; if I had I might have pitched it). But then it continues with lucid descriptions of symmetric-key cryptography and its management, public key cryptography, the x.509 standard, digital signatures (both explanation and legal implications), application, network and transport security protocols (including IPSec), and hardware solutions (tokens, smart cards, biometrics) . It ends with relatively useless, brief sections on attacks and security standards.

Pro: Easy to read, clear, explanations of modern cryptographic terminology and practices.
Con: Not enough on biometrics and other hardware based solutions; simplistic explanations of some areas.
Verdict: IT staff without much background will find this an easy ramp up.

The value of this book is that is clearly describes complex topics so that anyone can understand them. If you already understand these topics, and don't need to ever explain them to someone else, then this book is not for you. Otherwise, use it to get up to speed on cryptography, fill gaps in your knowledge, or as an answer to the fiftieth request for an explanation, in layman's terms, of a cryptographic algorithm.

About the Author

Roberta Bragg, MCSE: Security, CISSP, Security+, and Microsoft MVP is a Redmond contributing editor and the owner of Have Computer Will Travel Inc., an independent firm specializing in information security and operating systems. She's series editor for Osborne/McGraw-Hill's Hardening series, books that instruct you on how to secure your networks before you are hacked, and author of the first book in the series, Hardening Windows Systems.

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