Schneier on Security
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February 12, 2010
Crypto Comic Book
I have no idea.
EDITED TO ADD (4/10): It's out. Here's a review.
Posted on February 12, 2010 at 1:48 PM
• 31 Comments
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I anticipate quite a high "wince to word" ratio.
They also apparently love CAPSLOCK, and have never heard that one should underline or italicize the titles of works published alone, and use quotation marks for works published in compilations (short stories, book chapters, etc).
Carl, it's pretty common in press releases and other sources for people to capitalize titles. Not saying it's "right," but for certain realms, putting the title in caps is widespread. In normally written articles, you're going to see it underlined/italicized as you say.
I think the got the release date wrong... should have been April 1...
So, is this "Swordfish" type codebreaking, or real codebreaking? Because I doubt the lives of real codebreakers are quite 007 style as suggested here...
"CODEBREAKERS totally delivers realistic action that will have you dying to turn the next page."
The only totally realistic cryptanalytic technique that I can imagine would hold the attention of the average comic-book reader for longer than a page would be rubber hose cryptanalysis.
I'd figure on a standard action storyline with a few cryptographic buzzwords thrown in for ornamentation.
Gives new meaning to the term "Security Theater"... :-)
we're all gonna get to say 'bazinga!' a lot.
@Lars "So, is this "Swordfish" type codebreaking, or real codebreaking?"
Sign me up for the Swordfish code breaking; puleeze!
As this could be anything
from [Insert Crypto-Gab Here],
to Hardy Boys Secret Decoder Rings,
to Gold Bug redux,
to the modern Dancing Men,
to Numbers gone crypto,
to the Crypt Locker,
to Inside SchneierManTec CrayFish R & D Analysis Lab,
I am curious, fellow.
"The only totally realistic cryptanalytic technique that I can imagine would hold the attention of the average comic-book reader for longer than a page would be rubber hose cryptanalysis."
Yeah or whatever else rocks their water board...
It will bring a new meaning to "surfing for information"
And such expressions such as "pulling a rip curl" will have new meaning to Goldie (now lacks) locks.
I dread to think what other "surfer slang" could be used for faux "intel gathering" via less than gental questioning.
Am I the only one wondering why the protagonists are FBI and not NSA?
NSA agent waves his hand in front of Dan Lynch's face and says in an Obi Wan voice... "These are not the cryptographers you are looking for. The NSA does not exist. Move alone."
I consider myself something of a comic book connosoir. I've never heard of any of booms! titles.
I'm guessing mediocre comics with worse tech speek than 24.
@ Dan Lynch
Well, contrary to popular belief, the FBI solves most crimes related to cryptography. They have a unit dedicated to it and run into it a lot when dealing with drug traffickers and other organized crime. NSA is mostly focused on foreign stuff or intelligence gathering.
@ Nick P
and what is the CIA doing then (in contrary to FBI and NSA)? As an outsider I recently (say post-2001) got a bit confused about who does what over there in the USA ...
First, a little full disclosure. I'm a writer for BOOM! Studios and have written numerous titles for them. Also, the writer of Codebreakers is a personal friend of mine whom I think is a fantastic writer and story teller. So be aware that I'm a little biased here.
I've been reading the Schneier on Security blog for about a year now and I was pleasantly surprised to see Mr. Schneier post a link to my friend's book. But I was disappointed by how some were ready to dismiss the book out of hand.
Look, I get it. For many of you, cryptography is part of what you do for a living or it's a major focus of study. You're professionals. So I completely understand the skepticism. But you should really read the book before passing judgment. Yes, it's quite possible that my friend got everything wrong and that the story's rank ignorance will make you want to claw your eyes out. But it's also possible that he tells a compelling, interesting, and entertaining story that does justice to the intelligence and security communities. Most likely, it will be somewhere in between. All I ask is that you read it first. Then, if you feel that his research was superficial and that he has no idea what he's talking about, slag away. Again, I'm biased, but I think you all will be pleasantly surprised.
Oh, and one other thing...
@ Sortkatt: "I consider myself something of a comic book connosoir. I've never heard of any of booms! titles.
I'm guessing mediocre comics with worse tech speek than 24."
Sorry to pick on you, but I have to call shenanigans. Now, I won't fault anyone for calling our books mediocre. That is, if they've READ them. But don't guess. Know.
And I have a hard time believing that someone who considers him/herself a comic book connoisseur has never heard of ANY of our titles. Really? NONE of them? Now, the average reader? Sure. BOOM! is still a relatively new publisher. But Mark Waid, one of the best writers in the business, has been our EiC for three years now and has written several critically acclaimed titles for us, such as Irredeemable, The Unknown, Potter's Field, and Pixar's The Incredibles. Yes, we have licenses with Disney/Pixar--not exactly something you get by being mediocre (for those not familiar with Mark's work, he's written Kingdom Come--one of the best selling graphic novels of all time, Amazing Spider-Man #583--you know, the one with Obama, and Superman: Birthright just to name a few).
Again, your average reader may not have heard of any of our titles. When almost 90% of the market share is in the hands of Marvel and DC, it's hard to get noticed. But we HAVE been noticed. Diamond just awarded us Publisher of the Year (under 4% market share) and we are now the 6th largest comics publisher in the US. I understand how those numbers may not look very impressive to someone who doesn't read comics, but for a connoisseur, those numbers should tell a much more impressive story.
All I'm trying to say is that we are very proud of our books. We work extremely hard to give readers the best reading experience that we can. We do good work, folks. Yes, we sometimes fall short of the mark, but we take the criticisms in stride and strive to improve ourselves.
Please, praise or condemn us based on our merit, not the mere presumptions of our merit.
*I think many people here are jaded since cryptography and computer security is so often the victim of a good plot. The over-the-top press release sent out by BOOM! really doesn't help matters.
As the comic isn't out until April, it might be wise to release some preview pages which show that the comic takes its subject matter seriously. Dispeling much scepticism/doom saying in the community and building interest/credibility.
*I look forward with great interest to the release of CODEBREAKERS. Comics are the probably the only medium which could do cryptanalysis justice. There is a strong visual component to computer science in general, and cryptography especially that can be enjoyed and, atleast partially, understood by complete outsiders.
See also one of the better, non- rigorious, explanations of AES: http://www.moserware.com/2009/09/...
@André at February 14, 2010 1:09 PM
The CIA is supposed to operate only outside of the US. The CIA is to the FBI what James Bond is to the police. Or something to that general effect anyways.
I'm not terribly familar with whatever overlap there is between the CIA and the NSA, but generally the CIA is responsible for actual field work, as I understand it.
"There is a strong visual component to computer science in general"
Is this why shows like CSI make sure that all of the computers have absurd 3d graphical interfaces and movies like Transformers portray signal analysis as something along the lines of looking for hidden 3d hieroglyphics in oscilloscope readouts?
I think that attempts at creating a strong visual component of CS is exactly where so many things go wrong. The main issue I see here is most people (perhaps wrongly?) associate comicbooks/graphic novels with action of the violence and mayhem variety, a combination of math and action traditionally has been rather cringeworthy.
I thought the over-the-top, 70's style was pretty funny and interesting. If the comic comes true to the state-of-the-art cryptanalysis all the better, but I think the main thing is that it has to be entertaining. That's why 24 is a success.
@jgreco - in theory yes CIA/NSA is not allow to operate domestically, but intelligence agencies are famous for feature creep. For example the NSA now likes to believe they run the executive branch and have been attempting to blackmail members of Obama cabinet .
In regards to visual components, I haven't seen an action movie really try to visualize computer science or cryptography, but I do recommend sorting out sorting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3oKjPT5Khg .
So, guys in an office sitting in cubes looking at crypto tool output?
@Cube Dweller: How about people in a office gathered around a whiteboard having witty banter and heated arguments about math, morality cryptography, sigINT strategy, and crypto lore. It worked for LOGICOMIX's treatment of the quest for the foundations of mathematics. You just need interesting characters.
Or have a 'CODEBREAKER' get locked in a bike shed and have her break 512 bit RSA with a mechanical number field sieve built out of bike chains to escape. So much good material that to dismiss it as 'guys in a cube' is unimaginative.
I work with computers and it is always more than that. Hell, even my software engineering job would make a decent comic.
Will this comic be available at any brick and mortar stores?
"Will this comic be available at any brick and mortar stores?"
and as Michael Alan Nelson, anyone who regularly peruses the monthly previews of upcoming comics releases will know of BOOM! and its portfolio of books.
myself, i didn't add this book to my monthly pull list at my local comics shop, but i'm currently picking up BOOM!'s 24-part adaptation of philip k. dick's 'do androids dream of electric sheep'.
One shouldn't equal the medium to the genre.
"The only totally realistic cryptanalytic technique that I can imagine would hold the attention of the average comic-book reader for longer than a page would be rubber hose cryptanalysis"
Comics doesn't necessarily mean "action packed violent sequences". There are so many counter-examples (of course, none of them from superhero mainstream): Blankets, Pyongyang and Scott McCloud's books (in which he discusses a lot of abstract stuff and also some computer-related topics), Will Eisner's books, etc.
Comics are just a medium.
Schneier.com is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of BT.