The best books about how to break things (encryption, passwords, etc.)

Why am I passionate about this?

I have had the opportunity to write (I have written over 30 college textbooks on technology, most of them in the area of cybersecurity), study (my PhD dissertation was on cybersecurity), teach (I have taught at colleges and universities my entire career about technology, networking, and cybersecurity), and research (I have published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles) on the topic of cybersecurity. But I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the average computer user who struggles with how to protect their technology devices. This has helped drive my passion to focus on practical cybersecurity for everyone.


I wrote...

Security Awareness: Applying Practical Security in Your World

By Mark Ciampa,

Book cover of Security Awareness: Applying Practical Security in Your World

What is my book about?

Cybersecurity attacks are a major worry for technology users today. Yet cybersecurity defenses are a major puzzle for technology users today. What steps should you take to protect your technology? Which steps are the most important? How do you install software patches? Should you have antivirus software on your mobile device? What does a firewall do? How can you test your computer to know that it is not vulnerable? Knowing how to make and then keep technology devices secure can be a daunting task. This book provides you with the knowledge and tools you need to make your computer and related technology equipment—tablets, laptops, smartphones, and wireless networks—secure. The revised 6th edition will be available Fall 2022.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography

Mark Ciampa Why did I love this book?

Rarely can a book intertwine the inner workings, history, and applications of something--particularly when that something is a complicated topic like cryptography. But Simon Singh pulls it off with style. The Code Book delves into the history of ciphers, how they have been used, and how they have impacted history, from the 1500s through today. It also explains how these ciphers actually work, using language and illustrations that do not require a PhD in mathematics to understand. You will come away with a greater understanding and appreciation for how cryptography makes us more secure.

By Simon Singh,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Code Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his first book since the bestselling Fermat's Enigma, Simon Singh offers the first sweeping history of encryption, tracing its evolution and revealing the dramatic effects codes have had on wars, nations, and individual lives. From Mary, Queen of Scots, trapped by her own code, to the Navajo Code Talkers who helped the Allies win World War II, to the incredible (and incredibly simple) logisitical breakthrough that made Internet commerce secure, The Code Book tells the story of the most powerful intellectual weapon ever known: secrecy.

Throughout the text are clear technical and mathematical explanations, and portraits of the remarkable…


Book cover of Hash Crack: Password Cracking Manual

Mark Ciampa Why did I love this book?

Passwords: everybody has them and everybody abuses them. Passwords can provide good security, but very few users use passwords correctly in order to take advantage of the protections they provide. The key to our poor implementation of passwords is a complete misunderstanding of how attackers break our passwords. Without this understanding users create weak passwords that are easy to break. Joshua Picolet's book is a reference guide for cracking passwords, but by explaining how to break passwords it also provides valuable information about how to make them strong to protect passwords from attacks. This book provides the proof of why we should treat passwords like our underwear: don't let people see it, change it often, and don't share it with strangers.

By Joshua Picolet,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hash Crack as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Hash Crack: Password Cracking Manual v3 is an expanded reference guide for password recovery (cracking) methods, tools, and analysis techniques. A compilation of basic and advanced techniques to assist penetration testers and network security professionals evaluate their organization's posture. The Hash Crack manual contains syntax and examples for the most popular cracking and analysis tools and will save you hours of research looking up tool usage. It also includes basic cracking knowledge and methodologies every security professional should know when dealing with password attack capabilities. Hash Crack contains all the tables, commands, online resources, and more to complete your…


Book cover of Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II

Mark Ciampa Why did I love this book?

It is hard to underestimate the significance of code breaking during World War II. Without the work of dedicated mathematicians, linguists, and others the great conflicts such as the Battle of Midway and the German U-boat "wolfpacks" that sank over 13 million tons of Allied supplies could have easily been up for grabs. But due to the codebreakers the balance shifted to the Allies. And what is even equally impressive is that the Axis powers never knew that their encoded messages were being read. Stephen Budiansky traces how the codebreakers pulled off this feat while at the same time often battling within their own ranks about who should decode the message, how the messages should be used, and who should get the credit.

By Stephen Budiansky,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Battle of Wits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Drawing from newly declassified documents, the author chronicles the story of codebreaking during the last world war, from cat-and-mouse games with Nazi U-boats to the invasion of Normandy.


Book cover of Seizing the Enigma: The Race to Break the German U-boat Codes, 1939-1943

Mark Ciampa Why did I love this book?

David Kahn explains the most widely-known effort (widely-known today but in complete secrecy then) to decipher messages sent by the Germans using their Enigma machines during World War II. This book looks at the groundbreaking work done by Polish mathematicians in the 1930s, how Enigma machines were rescued from sinking German U-boats, and how Bletchley Park in Britain became the focal point of breaking these transmissions. Much of the book focuses on how Enigma machines, rotors, and codebooks were confiscated from German submarines and surface vessels, and how these were then used to allow the Allies, by the war's end, to read German messages almost as quickly as the Germans could send them.

By David Kahn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Seizing the Enigma as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Seizing the Enigma tells the thrilling story of the Royal Navy's battle to crack the Germans' supposedly unbreakable U-boat Enigma code, which would allow the vital Allied convoys in the North Atlantic to be routed away from Doenitz's wolfpacks. This battle was fought both on shore and at sea: by an assortment of scientists, chess champions and linguists, including Alan Turing, the father of the modern computer, who struggled to crack Enigma at Bletchley Park, and in the Atlantic by sailors and intelligence officers, such as Ian Fleming, the future creator of James Bond, who undertook dangerous and often fatal…


Book cover of The Battle of Midway

Mark Ciampa Why did I love this book?

Perhaps the best book on the epic World War II Battle of Midway, Craig Symonds brings together all the pieces that became the turning point in the Pacific War. Looking at the leadup to the battle from both the Japanese and American perspectives, Symonds shows how the Japanese, in their typical style, created a battle plan that was overly complicated for its objective. Symonds explains how American Joe Rochefort and his eclectic band (he even had commissioned naval musicians) worked to bend (but not entirely break) the Japanese naval code. This allowed the Allies to surmise Midway as the Japanese target and set in place their own battle plan. Symonds clearly explains how the codebreaking efforts played a huge role in this battle of battles.

By Craig L. Symonds,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Battle of Midway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There are few moments in American history in which the course of events tipped so suddenly and so dramatically as at the Battle of Midway. At dawn of June 4, 1942, a rampaging Japanese navy ruled the Pacific. By sunset, their vaunted carrier force (the Kido Butai) had been sunk and their grip on the Pacific had been loosened forever.

In this riveting account of a key moment in the history of World War II, one of America's leading naval historians, Craig L. Symonds, paints an unforgettable portrait of ingenuity, courage, and sacrifice. Symonds begins with the arrival of Admiral…


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By Amy T. Waldman, Peter Jest,

Book cover of We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

Amy T. Waldman

New book alert!

What is my book about?

This irreverent biography provides a rare window into the music industry from a promoter’s perspective. From a young age, Peter Jest was determined to make a career in live music, and despite naysayers and obstacles, he did just that, bringing national acts to his college campus atUW-Milwaukee, booking thousands of concerts across Wisconsin and the Midwest, and opening Shank Hall, the beloved Milwaukee venue named after a club in the cult film This Is Spinal Tap.

Jest established lasting friendships with John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, and others, but ultimately, this book tells a universal story of love and hope…

We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

By Amy T. Waldman, Peter Jest,

What is this book about?

The entertaining and inspiring story of a stubbornly independent promoter and club owner 

This irreverent biography provides a rare window into the music industry from a promoter’s perspective. From a young age, Peter Jest was determined to make a career in live music, and despite naysayers and obstacles, he did just that, bringing national acts to his college campus at UW–Milwaukee, booking thousands of concerts across Wisconsin and the Midwest, and opening Shank Hall, the beloved Milwaukee venue named after a club in the cult film This Is Spinal Tap.

This funny, nostalgia-inducing book details the lasting friendships Jest established…


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Interested in the Battle of Midway, submarines, and presidential biography?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Battle of Midway, submarines, and presidential biography.

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