— Steven Levy is a great science writer. First, he understands both the technical side and the human and social side of our technologies. Second, he has a light, engaging writing style that makes even the most complex topics seem simple. Crypto has all of these characteristics.
Ever puzzle over the nature of modern encryption? Levy explains how it works in nice, easy to understand manner.
This is a topic of critical importance to all of us as we move into the era of ubiquitous information. All our information is available to us whenever we want it and wherever we may be. That's the good side.
Alas, all this same information is also thereby available to everyone else, no matter who they are, no matter where they be. The bad guys. Cryptography is the protection, but it gets mired in a complex mix of arguments, legalities, and political issues.
The government is correct: it must have access to our encrypted material in order to make the world safe from terrorists. The everyday citizen is right: we need privacy of our ideas and the history of government spying and misuse of evidence is too overwhelming to give us faith that we should simply "trust the government."
After all, we have secret ballots for a reason: there is nothing illegal about voting. There is nothing illegal about selecting one candidate over another. But the ballot has to be secret to protect the whole fabric of democracy. So too must our own private thoughts and business.
A great book.
(Also see "Secrets and Lies," on this website).