After last week's Practical Anonymity, here is another book by Peter Loshin that you might need in this new world of ours. It's a practical, hands-on guide about how to use GnuPG, a command line tool that allows you to protect your data and communications.
About the author
Peter Loshin writes and consults about Internet protocols and open source network technologies. Formerly on staff at BYTE Magazine, Information Security Magazine and other publications, his work appears regularly in leading trade publications and websites including Computerworld, PC Magazine, Internet.com, and CNN.
Inside the book
From the very introduction, the author begins to teach. Here he is, talking to the reader about his or her motivation behind picking up the book, and a page later he has already explained - very simply and clearly - how to encrypt, decrypt, and verify a digitally signed file.
He continues in the same vein: explains the basic cryptography functions, advises on the OS you should use, and so on. By his own admission, he started writing a comprehensive book about cryptography and became bored, so he decided to write a short fictional story about a random guy (Bob) who lives in the dictator-run tiny state of Sylvania (also fictional), and wants to keep his dissident thoughts and writings out of the hands of the authorities.
He is aided by Sam, a guy who's sitting next to him at the airport and "just happens to know all about GnuPG." The entire book is written in the form of a one-on-one lesson between Bob and Sam and is interspersed with explanations about different concepts and practical instructions from the author (well, it's all written by the author, but you know what I mean).
If you wan't to learn how cryptography works, this is not a book for you. If you want to learn how to encrypt, decrypt, and digitally sign your data, how to create public and private keys, how (and why) to revoke them, public key functions, as well as useful security practices such as verifying data downloads, choosing good passphrases and how to encrypt a disk or your system hard drive, you will love it.
The book is extremely short, but for a good reason - it never strays far from the practical lessons. It does, however, contain many links to additional resources, should you want to improve your knowledge.