Review of “Introduction to Cryptography with Open-source Software” by Alasdair McAndrew

Again, a disclaimer: I got this book free and I know (by numerous emails over the years), the author of this text. Second, this book was also helped by Minh Van Nyuyen who I also know (by email); Minh was a student of McAndrew when the book was being written. If memory serves, I first emailed the author after reading his fine book Introduction to Digital Image Processing with MATLAB, hoping someone would write a corresponding book using Sage or Octave. That never happened, but this book did, and students of cryptography, old and young, will be grateful for it.

This is a well-written book on cryptography, suitable as a textbook for an undergraduate or graduate course in the topic. It is also useful for someone who just wants a reference book on how to do cryptographic computations in Sage. (Sage is a free and open-source mathematical software system, available from http://www.sagemath.org.)Each chapter has an extensive set of exercises, as well as a glossary. The exercises are broken into four groups: Review Exercises, Beginning Exercises, Sage Exercises, and Further (or more advanced) Exercises. The text tries to be self-contained, with definitions and key ideas illustrated with examples, many of which are supported by corresponding Sage commands.

The chapters will be briefly summarized next.

The first chapter, Introduction to Cryptography, sketches basic ideas such as confidentiality, various types of attacks, cryptographic protocols, and computer security. Some simple ciphers are given as examples.

Basic Number Theory is chapter 2. It covers some basic mathematical definitions in elementary number theory, talks about some of the commonly used computations such as the Euclidean algorithm and modular exponentiation.
Also, primality testing is covered.

Chapter 3 is Classical Cryptosystems. This covers the Caesar cipher, the Vigenère cipher, the one-time pad, and several permutation ciphers and matrix ciphers.

The fourth chapter, Introduction to Information Theory, introduces entropy and uncertainty, and illustrates the notions by estimating the entropy of typical English language text.

Chapter 5, Public-Key Cryptosystems Based on Factoring, covers the RSA cryptosystem, Rabin’s cryptosystem and ends with a discussion on the Pollard rho method of factoring large integers.

Public-Key Cryptosystems Based on Logarithms and Knapsacks, the sixth chapter, covers the discrete logarithm problem, El Gamal’s cryptosystem, the Diffie-Hellman key exchange, and Knapsack cryptosystems.

Chapter 7, Digital Signatures, talks about the RSA signature scheme, Rabin digital signatures, and the El Gamal digital signature scheme.

The eighth chapter, Block Ciphers and the Data Encryption Standard, discusses Block ciphers, DES, and Feistel ciphers.

Chapter 9 is a review of finite fields.

The Advanced Encryption Standard is chapter 10. This chapter covers both the usual AES but also a simplified Rijndael cipher. Both of these are implemented in Sage and Sage examples illiustrate the computations.

Chapter 11 is on Hash Functions. Their security, construction, and uses are discussed.

Chapter 12 is on Elliptic Curve Cryptosystems.About half the chapter sketches background on elliptic curves. This is a very technical topic, but one which Sage has a great deal of computational functionality implemented. The rest of the chapter covers elliptic curve cryptosystems, elliptic curve signature schemes, and related topics.

Random Numbers and Stream Ciphers is chapter 13. It covers such topics as pseudo-random number generators, Stream ciphers, RC4, and the Blum-Goldwasser cryptosystem.

The last chapter is Advanced Applications and Protocols. It covers topics such as zero knowledge proofs,
digital cash and voting protocols.

There are two appendices: one is an introduction to the mathematical software system Sage and the other summarizes some more advanced aspects of computational number theory. The book also has a good index.

2 thoughts on “Review of “Introduction to Cryptography with Open-source Software” by Alasdair McAndrew

  1. Thanks for the nice review! I’m still waiting for the publishers to send me a copy – I haven’t seen the finished product yet.

    • I’ve had mine for a week or two. Maybe the mail is slow? Anyway, it looks really good and the binding looks high-quality. I also posted a review on amazon.com (for the USA market?).

      Good luck with this book and hope you write anotther!

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