ABOUT THIS BOOK - Hacking Secret Ciphers with Python (2013)

Hacking Secret Ciphers with Python (2013)


There are many books that teach beginners how to write secret messages using ciphers. There are a couple books that teach beginners how to hack ciphers. As far as I can tell, there are no books to teach beginners how to write programs to hack ciphers. This book fills that gap.

This book is for complete beginners who do not know anything about encryption, hacking, or cryptography. The ciphers in this book (except for the RSA cipher in the last chapter) are all centuries old, and modern computers now have the computational power to hack their encrypted messages. No modern organization or individuals use these ciphers anymore. As such, there’s no reasonable context in which you could get into legal trouble for the information in this book.

This book is for complete beginners who have never programmed before. This book teaches basic programming concepts with the Python programming language. Python is the best language for beginners to learn programming: it is simple and readable yet also a powerful programming language used by professional software developers. The Python software can be downloaded for free from http://python.org and runs on Linux, Windows, OS X, and the Raspberry Pi.

There are two definitions of “hacker”. A hacker is a person who studies a system (such as the rules of a cipher or a piece of software) to understand it so well that they are not limited by the original rules of that system and can creatively modify it to work in new ways. “Hacker” is also used to mean criminals who break into computer systems, violate people’s privacy, and cause damage. This book uses “hacker” in the first sense. Hackers are cool. Criminals are just people who think they’re being clever by breaking stuff. Personally, my day job as a software developer pays me way more for less work than writing a virus or doing an Internet scam would.

On a side note, don’t use any of the encryption programs in this book for your actual files. They’re fun to play with but they don’t provide true security. And in general, you shouldn’t trust the ciphers that you yourself make. As legendary cryptographer Bruce Schneier put it, “Anyone, from the most clueless amateur to the best cryptographer, can create an algorithm that he himself can’t break. It’s not even hard. What is hard is creating an algorithm that no one else can break, even after years of analysis. And the only way to prove that is to subject the algorithm to years of analysis by the best cryptographers around.”