Book review by Joe Moran
August 23, 2002
Charlie Kaufman, Radia Perlman, Mike Speciner
Publisher: Prentice Hall
When I first laid eyes on this book, I thought that it
would be best to read it down at the beach, since the material
looked a little dry. After all, it's hard cover, over 700
pages, and deals with the subject of network security.
The book is primarily intended for developers who need
to implement various types of security in a product or as
part a larger system. It could also quite easily serve as
a textbook in an advanced computer science class, and indeed
the authors eschew chapter summaries in lieu of "Homework"
sections, which are, not surprisingly, a series of questions
that relate to the information introduced in the chapter.
The 26 chapters are divided into five overall categories:
Cryptography, Authentication, Standards, Electronics Mail,
and Leftovers, the latter (as the name suggests) dealing
with information that does not fit nicely into one of the
other four areas.
The individual chapters deal in considerable depth with
the inner workings of the myriad alphabet soup that make
up contemporary security standards and protocols-things
like PKI, SSL, DES, RSA, PGP, and so on. In essence this
is primarily a book about encryption inasmuch as any discussion
of security is ultimately about encryption.
In spite of the subject matter, the authors do make considerable
efforts to make the material as accessible as possible.
To illustrate some points, they include quotes from authors,
cinema, and even a used car salesman.
Lest you come away with the impression that the authors
are staid and stern engineering types, they do exhibit a
considerable sense of humor in their writing style, as if
to provide that your technical depth need not preclude interesting
One example of this sense of humor is the fact that the
book's dedication is written in ciphertext. The authors
also pepper the text with amusing comments and asides, if
not the occasional joke (A private key, a public key, and
a hash algorithm went into a bar togetherů).
The authors all but admit that not all of the chapters
will be relevant to all audiences and in the Introduction
they point out which chapters may be safely skipped without
compromising your understanding of the rest of the book.
(One good candidate is Chapter 8, "Math with AES and Elliptic
Network Security, Private Communication in a Public World
is deeper than the North Atlantic, so it's not the right
choice if you're simply looking for a basic or conceptual
understanding. But if you really need to grok the nitty-gritty
of Network Security, you could do a lot worse than this