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  • Kathryn Patterson

Hash Tags and Ciphers and Keys - Oh, My!!!

Cryptography is an indispensable tool for protecting information in computer systems. This course explains the inner workings of cryptographic primitives and how to correctly use them. Students will learn how to reason about the security of cryptographic constructions and how to apply this knowledge to real-world applications. ...
The course will include written homeworks and programming labs. The course is self-contained, however it will be helpful to have a basic understanding of discrete probability theory.  So I've spent the past five weeks learning the history of cryptography, the evolution of encryption algorithms, the introduction of hashing and hash tags, how to generate keys, and how much I've forgotten about discrete probability theory. The most important thing I've learned is...

When it comes to encryption algorithms, do not roll your own.

One of the most common methods used to protect wi-fi networks, WEP, is horribly insecure.  It would take me about 5-10 minutes to break into a WEP protected network.  The sad thing is that WEP is based on an ISO standard and went through the entire ISO review process. And it STILL is completely insecure. But throughout the lectures and homework, I found myself smiling.  Why?  Because I enjoy learning and stretching my brain.  The entire cryptography course required brain work, but the professor had informative lectures and the homework was doable, if sometimes difficult. And now?  I'm signed up for "An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python" starting next Monday, "Think Again: How to Reason and Argue" in late  November, and "Cryptography II" in January.

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