Preface

I have written this book partly to correct a mistake.

Seven years ago I wrote another book: Applied Cryptography. In it I described a mathematical utopia: algorithms that would keep your deepest secrets safe for millennia, protocols that could perform the most fantastical electronic interactions—unregulated gambling, undetectable authentication, anonymous cash—safely and securely. In my vision cryptography was the great technological equalizer; anyone with a cheap (and getting cheaper every year) computer could have the same security as the largest government. In the second edition of the same book, written two years later, I went so far as to write: “It is insufficient to protect ourselves with laws; we need to protect ourselves with mathematics.”

It's just not true. Cryptography can't do any of that.

It's not that cryptography has gotten weaker since 1994, or that the things I described in that book are no longer true; it's that cryptography doesn't exist in a vacuum.

Cryptography is a branch of mathematics. And like all mathematics, it involves numbers, equations, and logic. Security, palpable security that you or I might find useful in our lives, involves people: things people know, relationships between people, people and how they relate to machines. Digital security involves computers: complex, unstable, buggy computers.

Mathematics is perfect; reality is subjective. Mathematics is defined; computers are ornery. Mathematics is logical; people are erratic, capricious, ...

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