Books: Ode to Code

How hackers saved your e-mail from the Feds

0ne day in 1975, Whitfield Diffie greeted his wife at the door with the words "I think I've made a great discovery." Diffie, a brilliant, eccentric and somewhat paranoid M.I.T. graduate, had spent the past few years wandering around the country in a beat-up Datsun 510 thinking about cryptography, the study of codes and ciphers. His discovery was a revolutionary technique called public key encryption that would rescue personal privacy in the Internet era by allowing data to be encoded quickly and easily. Steven Levy's meticulous Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government--Saving Privacy in the Digital Age (Viking; 356...

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