If you’re looking for an introduction to the mathematics that make cryptography work, perhaps this list might help.
Why I’m looking for cryptography maths resources
I’m currently writing a book about Container Security for O’Reilly Media, and one of my chapters will deal with how and why X.509 certificates are used to secure connections between containers (or other entities in a distributed system). X.509 certificates make use of public/private key pairs for both identity and encryption purposes.
Now, the maths (I’m British, so I put an ‘s’ on it) of how these key pairs work is beyond the scope of my book – not to mention that I’m far from an expert. But it seems like an interesting direction that some readers might like to take. So I put out a call on Twitter.
I got some great responses, including one from Yiorgos Adamopoulos suggesting I turn the results into a blog post. So here’s what I learned:
Some classics don’t age well
Quite a few folks told me that Applied Cryptography was on their reading list at university, but it’s now considered one to avoid as it’s outdated. (We actually have a copy of this at home, and I have a vague, and possibly incorrect, recollection that during the 1990’s US ban on the export of cryptography this book wasn’t supposed to leave the country, so it was something of a badge of honour to own this book.)
Instead, consider one of the following options that were recommended in response to my tweet:
- An Introduction to Mathematical Cryptography by Hoffstein, Pipher & Silverman seems to be popular undergrad reading.
- Practical Cryptography by Schneier & Ferguson came up several times, but as per schneier.com this book is now superceded by Cryptography Engineering.
- Handbook of Applied Cryptography by Menezes, Oorshot & Vanstone (also available online)
- Stallings’ Cryptography & Network Security came up a few times, and is still on the reading list for some university courses
- Aumasson’s Serious Cryptography was recommended a few times, with the caveat that it’s less theoretical so has less maths in it.
- Holden’s Mathematics of Secrets was also mentioned.
If you want something immediate and possibly interactive, here are some options that folks suggested.
- Crypto 101
- CryptoPals looks like fun!
- MIT OpenCourseWare
- Talks by Tanja Lange
- The mere mention of the word “bitcoin” usually sets off my scepticism alarm, but I’m told that the section on Cryptography in Mastering Bitcoin is really good.
If you try out any of these books and resources, let me know what you think of them – and tell me if something good is missing!