Association of Former Intelligence Officers

THE CODE BOOK, by Simon Singh, Doubleday, 1999, 402 pages. This book offers a fascinating glimpse into the mostly secret competition between codemakers and code breakers. They've been at it since humans invented writing. This is a competition populated by brilliant, and often eccentric, individuals. When Winston Churchil visited the Bletchley Park code and cipher facility during the war, after speaking to a representative genius - friendly, approachable, but unshaven, with nails "stuffed with dirt, and in rumpled clothing, the muttered to his intelligence chief:"I told you to leave no stone unturned but I didn't expect you to take me so literally." Singh makes it all very readable, from Ceasar Shift to Vignere ciphers, from homophonic substitution to public key cryptography. And as a kicker, the book offers a complex 10-stage cipher challenge that will reward the first person to solve it (by October 2000) with a $15,000 prize.

Cryptography has a growing relevance to our daily lives, from ATM transactions to purchases online. Read this entertaining book. Solve the puzzle and make $15K! (based on a review by W. Nicholson, USA Today 1 Nov 99, p. D5) (Roy J)

Reviewed in AFIO Weekly Intelligence Notes #44-99 6 Nov 1999

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