Bitcoin for Nonmathematicians: Exploring the Foundations of Crypto Payments


Posted on by Ben Rothke

Mystery surrounds Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin. It’s unclear where he lives, if he’s even a real person, or perhaps a composite of many Bitcoin developers.

For many people, an equally mysterious topic is the mathematics surrounding cryptography. Cryptography was so intimidating a topic for many people studying for the CISSP certification exam, that the ISC2 removed it as one of the 10 core domains of the CISSP common body of knowledge. There are now 8 domains and cryptography is now but a sub-topic within the security engineering domain.

For those looking to understand the cryptography behind payment systems and specifically Bitcoin; Slava Gomzin has a new book Bitcoin for Nonmathematicians: Exploring the Foundations of Crypto Payments (Universal Publishers ISBN-13: 978-1627340717), that provides a good overview of the topic.

Bitcoin

At just under 100 pages, the book is a quick read that gives the reader a high-level overview of the topic. The first half deals with various types of payment systems. Gomzin describes ancient systems of bartering, then progressing to modern commodities and digital currencies.

The second half gets into the core topic where a description of the various types of encryption and security mechanisms used by Bitcoin are detailed. Gomzin does a good job a providing the reader with an overview of random numbers, blockchains, elliptic curve cryptography and more.

The book is indeed made for the non-mathematician reader who won’t be overwhelmed by that math in the book.

In making this a brief book, there’s no introduction to the history, technology and operations behind Bitcoin. The author assumes the reader already has a grasp on Bitcoin operations.

There’s a debate in Bitcoin circles about the viability of the currency, In January Bitcoin developer Mike Hearn said the cryptocurrency has failed in a widely circulated Medium post. There he announced the end to his involvement with Bitcoin. He stated that the fundamentals are broken and whatever happens to the price of a Bitcoin in the short term, the long term trend should probably be downwards, and that he will no longer be taking part in Bitcoin development and have sold all his coins.

While the future of Bitcoin may be in limbo, for those that want to gain an understanding of the cryptography that provides the underlying security behind it, Bitcoin for Nonmathematicians is a good place to start.


Contributors
Ben Rothke

Senior Information Security Specialist, Tapad

key management security operations

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