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Rowen Sewmungal

Book Review

209509607

Abstract
The Code Book is a book by Simon Singh. The book covers the history of codes
and how they were broken or left as a mystery. The book does not have an
academic flow to it and it gives the reader a sense of how long coded messages
has been passed on throughout the years. The author here doesnt focus mainly
on IT and Security personnel but to any audience. The concepts that are brought
up are presented in the book are straight forward and easy to grasp

Background & Overview


Simon Singh is a writer, journalist and presenter who specialises in science and
mathematics. He has a PhD in particle physics. He is also the author of the
famous science book entitled Fermats Enigma. His third book that deals with
The Simpsons and mathematics. Singh gives a good overall of the history of code
making and code breaking and shows the reader the evolution of codes and how
they are relevant today.

Review
From the outset of the books introduction, Singhs introduction to what to expect
from the book and gives the reader a sense of eagerness to dive into the book
and not put it down. He also doesnt go hard in to the technical part of code
making but rather explains to the layman how easy it is to make and how to
break it or make an attempt to break it.
Chapter 1 in the book deals with the early plot of Mary of the Scots and her
secret code writing of a plot to kill Queen Elizabeth. This showed that her
messages where intercepted and her code was broken. This chapter focuses
more on the evolution of secret writing as the Singh gives the reader a brief
history of the Greeks and Persians and how messages where written on a shaved
head, he goes on to mention steganography, cryptography as well as the two
branches of cryptography ( transposition and substitution). He went over how
cryptanalysis was born and how it would have never came to be if the Arabs
society did not have a high level of mathematics, statistics and linguistics.
Therefore saying to the user that they needed to have to be highly skilled in
these and yet he showed examples that would encourage those who arent
highly skilled in these three subjects to go out and codebreak.
Going on to chapter the two I felt that the book lost some flair that the
introduction had in keeping the reader enthralled in learning about the history of
code making and breaking, but it became rather dull as the dates jumped from
one place to another. Though this chapter brought about how the Vigenre code
was broken which once again lit up a bit of enthusiasm in me to press on and this
turned out fruitful as the next two chapters became increasingly enthralling
Chapter 3 was based around Enigma. Chapter 3 started off by stating that secret
writing was about to change from hand written to that of being made by
machines. This chapter showed the reader how the cipher disc mentioned in the
previous chapter was developed in to an electrical version by Arthur Scherbius
which was called Enigma. A detailed process of how the machine was made was
given to the reader and allowed one to understand how important this piece of
machinery is in the history of cryptography. The way the author gave the
description of the Enigma shows us that the Germans didnt bother if the
machine fell into enemy hands as it was a difficult machine to decrypt as the
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Rowen Sewmungal

Book Review

209509607

message initial setting was dictated by a codebook which was hard for enemies
to gain. The Enigma machine was shown to play an important role in the
Germans winning the First World War.
What was most interesting and would capture any audience as the author wrote
about how Enigma was cipher was broken. The chapter introduced who was
responsible for handing over a machine, a German man. This was given to the
Polish whom where the first to get a breakthrough in breaking the Enigma cipher,
in a machine called a bombe. As this chapter brought about the way Alan Turing
broke the Enigma cipher as he found its greatest weakness and exploited it
which resulted in the fall of Hitler. To the reader who has already watched the
Imitation Game, this chapter would be most interesting as it was much more
informative to the reader.
The author then introduced the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to the reader
which helped one understand how digitally encrypted items sent over the
internet today is safeguarded. He gave the reader an example of how Alice and
Bob would sent encrypted messages to each other through the public key. The
concepts of RSA, how quantum computing would render RSA and modern ciphers
useless as they would easily break the codes.

Integration with the ISTN729 Security module


The Code Book has a lot of topics covered in each of its chapters that are in line
with what this module deals with.
These topics are:

Vigenre Cipher
The Enigma Machine and how it was deciphered
Onetime pad
Public Key Infrastructure
RSA
Key Codes
Quantum Computing
Some Cryptography concepts

Conclusion
Simon Singh made a great effort to explain what would seem to be really hard
concepts to grasp to the layman and made it a fun and enjoyable read, though
the book does get a bit dull due to some history parts that could have been
written with a bit more enthusiasm. The author gives the reader the feeling of
being in the shoes of the code breaker.
You couldnt wish for a better guide than Singh Mail on Sunday
My Rating of The Code Book is: 4/5

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Rowen Sewmungal

Book Review

209509607

The Code Breakers Overview


Chapter 7
Dealt with telegraphs being enciphered and used by all including government.
Used nomenclators to encode telegraphs, tactical telegraphs needed protection
as telegraph wires could be tapped. Due to a race between offence and defence
in cryptology accelerated to its modern pace and saw the death of black
chambers and telegraph was born. These encrypted telegraphs were used in
military. Thomas Jefferson created a wheel cyhper that was well ahead of its time
during 1790-1800 and its still in use today. His cypher is still in use with the
American navy, he is known as the Father of American Cryptograhy. Provided us
with what Kerckhoffs contributions to cryptology

Chapter 15
Started off with an introduction to Pearl Habor and a brief history of what the
Japanese intentions where. Use of IBM machines to speed up cryptanalysis in an
office of about 30 people, which grew in number over time. This unit was tasked
to analyse the flag officers system. Thomas H. Dyer was known as the father of
machine cryptanalysis as he was the one who installed IBM machines to speed
up for a solution to the Japanese code. A codegroup was created in the Combat
Intelligence Unit. Codegroup and its meaning were punched into the IBM card
and fed into them and had human guidance to help with strip it and encicode it
and compare with other decoded cards. Yamamoto thought he had all areas
covered and relayed messages to all that detailed tactics to be used at Midway
but they were intercepted and IBM machine was used to analyse it. In the end
the cryptanalysts was the reason they had won

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