We're focusing largely on the mathematical and technical material from Singh Chapter 6, but here are some reading questions that look at other aspects, in case they're useful to you. We'll defer discussion of the security / privacy debate until after Singh Chapter 7.

  1. The National Security Agency made sure that the Data Encryption Standard (DES) was weak enough that the NSA could break it if necessary.  This, however, meant that businesses were forced to rely on security that was less than optimal.  Was the NSA justified in doing this?  Why or why not?
  2. Singh writes on page 254, “[Whitfield] Diffie believed that if people then used their computers to exchange emails, they deserved the right to encrypt their messages in order to guarantee their privacy.”  Do you agree that private citizens have a right to have access to secure encryption technologies?
  3. Who invented public key cryptography-the GCHQ researchers Ellis, Cocks, and Williamson or the academic researchers Diffie, Hellman, Merkle, Rivest, Shamir, and Adleman?
  4. This chapter included discussion of several different mathematical aspects of modern cryptography.  What was one mathematical idea in this chapter that made sense to you?  What was one that didn’t make sense to you?