Research paper/Cryptography

This is a discussion on Research paper/Cryptography within the A Brief History of Cprogramming.com forums, part of the Community Boards category; At my high school, we have to do a research paper and project our senior year, so I decided I'd ...

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    carry on JaWiB's Avatar
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    Research paper/Cryptography

    At my high school, we have to do a research paper and project our senior year, so I decided I'd try and pick a topic that's at least related to something I know. So I've decided I want to do something in the realm of computer science. Right now, I'm thinking about researching computer security--specifically cryptography.

    I don't really know much about cryptography, so I'm wondering how good an idea this would be for a research paper, because I need to make it at least somewhat understandable for my english teacher/graders. I suppose I would want to write about the history in brief, and then perhaps focus on practical applications and such.

    It seems like this would be pretty difficult to research...I checked the local libraries and they don't seem to have a great selection of books. Perhaps someone has reading suggestions?

    At this point I'm still open to changing my topic...
    "Think not but that I know these things; or think
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    unleashed alphaoide's Avatar
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    To find sources, you might want to go to some university's library, get on their publicily available computers and access their journals databases they subscribe to.
    source: compsci textbooks, cboard.cprogramming.com, world wide web, common sense

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    Good cryptography books are hard to find, anywhere. My advice would be to start by trawling through Wikipedia looking at cryptography topics, some of the articles go into some detail.

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    The best cryptography book I ever read was The Code Book. Unfortunately, it costs money, but the chances are actually very high you'll find it at the local library (I found it in Burwood library in Sydney, and if you live in Sydney, you'll know Burwood isn't exactly a hub of knowledge).

    The Code Book will walk you through the history of cryptography - how they were invented and how they are broken - from the first encryption techniques (replace every 'A' with 'Z' etc.) to the RSA and PGP systems that are used in computers today, and even up to quantum cryptography.

    It's a fantastic read too, rather like a novel, and you'll go through it pretty fast. It demonstrates all the techniques for making and breaking codes.

    Even if you didn't care much about cyrptography as a science, it's an awesome book.

    It got some excellent reviews on Amazon as well. I stronly suggest reading this book, not just to the OP but to everyone else who's interested in the subject. Certainly a must-read if you work as a programmer. And at $10 you can't go wrong.

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    Banned nickname_changed's Avatar
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    Oh, and its a fantastic topic for a research project. One of the few topics that apply to computer science as well as regular people and can keep them interested. That and pr0n.

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    C++ Witch laserlight's Avatar
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    Well, there are 3 books on cryptography that I've read, all of which have rather unimaginative names:

    Modern Cryptography, by Mao Wenbo (Wenbo Mao, if one uses the surname last convention)
    Applied Cryptography, by Bruce Schneier
    Practical Cryptography, by Niels Ferguson and Bruce Schneier

    The above books try to introduce cryptography and related security issues at some technical level, though not in depth.

    For lighter reading I liked Crypto, by Steven Levy. This one gave a more historical and political perspective.

    For online resources Wikipedia seems good, and you could also try some of the sites listed here.
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    S Sang-drax's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JaWiB
    I'm wondering how good an idea this would be for a research paper, because I need to make it at least somewhat understandable for my english teacher/graders.
    Shouldn't a paper like this be graded by maths teachers?

    As has been said, The Code Book is very good and has lots of history. It will be an excellent source of information for a historic approach to cryptography. Buy or borrow it.
    Last edited by Sang-drax : Tomorrow at 02:21 AM. Reason: Time travelling

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sang-drax
    Shouldn't a paper like this be graded by maths teachers?
    I wouldn't go that far. Most forms of cryptography, even things like the Enigma, don't take a whole lot of maths to understand. The only ones where you'd need a decent math background are newer techniques like RSA. Although given the average intelligence of a High School English teacher you might be asking a bit much

    Edit:
    That said, be sure to base what you write around the audience.

    If you're being graded by an English teacher, concentrate a little more on the history and reflecting on the development of cryptography, and especially the social issues (for example, should it be legal to encrypt messages? What if terrorists or rebels encrypted Evil Plans of Doom? But what about your right to privacy?). They'll be a lot more interested in this sort of discussion.

    But if it's a Math teacher grading the paper, sure they'll be a lot more interested in the technical content, and you can supply them with a complete algorithm for RSA and go so far as to mathematically prove it's impossible to break.
    Last edited by nickname_changed; 09-05-2005 at 08:47 AM.

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    Mayor of Awesometown Govtcheez's Avatar
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    This should help a bit - the Handbook of Applied Cryptography, available free and legal as a pdf:
    http://www.cacr.math.uwaterloo.ca/hac/

    Also, this is largely considered the Bible for Cryptography.

    Finally, read the Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. It's really light on the crypto, but it's still a pretty good book It might also help you write about crypto in an accessible way.

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    carry on JaWiB's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the replies! Lots of good info

    Quote Originally Posted by stovellp
    The best cryptography book I ever read was The Code Book.
    That's actually the only one that I was looking at before that is actually at the library

    The paper isn't actually going to be graded by a teacher (well, it's possible, but not a teacher at my school). They hire readers to grade them in an unbiased way, so I have no way of knowing what their mathematical background will be. I'll have to focus a lot less on the technical part than I'd like to, I guess. (For the project part though, I'll actually have to program something)
    "Think not but that I know these things; or think
    I know them not: not therefore am I short
    Of knowing what I ought."
    -John Milton, Paradise Regained (1671)

    "Work hard and it might happen."
    -XSquared

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