Cryptography -- the use of secret codes -- has traditionally been the province of puzzle geeks and government spies. But just in time for the Internet -- which radically alters the way we share information -- a band of outsiders triggered a revolution in this once-cloistered field. But this was a revolution that the government wanted to kill....
Crypto is about privacy in the information age and about the nerds and visionaries who, nearly twenty years ago, predicted that the Internet's greatest virtue -- free access to information -- was also its most perilous drawback: a possible end to privacy.
Levy explores what turned out to be a decisive development in the crypto wars: the unlikely alliance between the computer geeks and big business as they fought the government's stranglehold on the keys to information in a networked world.
The players come alive here in a narrative that reads like the best of futuristic spy fiction. There is Whit Diffie, the long-haired Newton of crypto who invented the astounding "public key" solution; David Chaum, whose "anonymous digital money" actually threatened the global financial infrastructure; and "cypherpunks" like Phil Zimmermann, who freely distributed military-strength codes under the nose of the U.S. government. There is also the first behind-the-scenes account of what the secretive National Security Agency really had in mind when it created the controversial "clipper chip" -- and how the Clinton administration bungled the operation.
Sure to appeal to everyone who kept David Kahn's sweeping The Codebreakers in print for more than thirty years and readers who are making Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, Mark's Between Silk and Cyanide, andSingh's The Code Book bestsellers, Crypto will soon be the new classic of its subject.