Security

Follow a university course in cryptography for free


Have you ever wanted to learn about cryptography at college, but just never really had the opportunity? The University of Washington has made it possible without having to set foot outside your home or pay a penny in tuition fees. CSE P 590TU: Practical Aspects of Modern Cryptography is now available online.

I don't know about you, but to me this sounds like it could be a lot of fun. Cryptography is one of the most interesting and important subjects in the IT industry, in my opinion -- right up there with AI. Something they both have in common is that they are open-ended fields that will not ever really have a single, clean "solution", as far as I can tell. Like strategies for a game of Go, there's always room for advancement, which means there's always another challenge ahead.

As such, I'm always interested in another approach to teaching the topic. There is always something new to learn. As such, I'll be going through the materials available in this online presentation of the University of Washington course as soon as I can set the time aside. I estimate I'll get around to it in January.

In a recent IBM-sponsored webcast titled Securing Networks Without Borders, in which I was one of the featured guests, the subject of how to secure our online activities when they are so rarely limited by the traditional network perimeters defined by firewalls and routers was central to discussion. In a discussion that was less than an hour long and covered such a wide range of topics, I could not be sure I knew what everyone thought about every subject of discussion, of course. It's hard to imagine, though, that a security professional like John Pironti (another featured guest) doesn't regard encryption as a matter central to the ability to secure our data when it leaves the perimeters of our networks.

That being the case, it seems obvious to me that anyone with an eye toward the effective security techniques of the near future should familiarize himself or herself with the basic concepts of cryptography. While I have not been through all the materials yet, the textbook list alone is encouraging. Some of the most respected introductory texts on cryptography in the world are represented there.

People ask me fairly often about the best places to start learning about IT security, and the question came up in that 28 November webcast. I wrote an article about that for my first entry here at TechRepublic's IT Security weblog, but that was only a general overview to give you an idea where to start searching. More specifics depend on which areas of IT security you think deserve your focus. Your needs will differ depending on what you are going to do with your growing knowledge, of course, such as whether you will be writing software for a web startup or protecting a medical records database -- or even just trying to protect yourself while using the wireless network at a coffee shop.

If you see cryptography in your future, the free, online availability of a complete college course in "practical aspects of modern cryptography", complete with presentation slides and recordings of class sessions, is nothing to sneeze at.

About

Chad Perrin is an IT consultant, developer, and freelance professional writer. He holds both Microsoft and CompTIA certifications and is a graduate of two IT industry trade schools.

19 comments
gloryc2000
gloryc2000

I would really take advantage of this great opportunity to learn the course. Thank you so much for the offer.

sawriters
sawriters

I'm an educator and it gladdens my heart when institutions do things like this. Education should made easily and readily available and not only to the "elite". Cryptography or rather the lack of cryptography is becoming a massive problem and giving people access to free tools such as this will go a long way to eliminate this problem. Thank you Mr. Perrin for an enlightening and very informative article

Funker
Funker

Treis cool! I've read a lot of history on crytography but have yet to take a course (time and opportunities are lacking). It looks like a conceptual course, which is great. Has anyone had time to look this over and confirm this? I'll be disappointed if all it turns out to be is 'encryption in dot net' or whatever environment they use.

burntfinger1
burntfinger1

Thanks again for another really useful article, I'll be checking the class out today. My daughter (14) and I are taking a course together from Harvard Extension school and enjoy doing it. Maybe this will be another "adventure" for us as she has a teenager's interest in cryptography.

apotheon
apotheon

I wasn't sure what kind of reception this article would get. I thought it might be largely ignored. I'm glad people are finding it valuable.

apotheon
apotheon

I'll be adding that to my browser's "bookmarks".

Tig2
Tig2

That will cover cryptography from a conceptual view. The books that are suggested reading don't slant to a specific technology e.g. .Net, etc.

apotheon
apotheon

I love hearing about things like this -- parents and their children learning together, especially when the subject matter is something so near and dear to my heart as security matters like this. I think it's simply wonderful that you're encouraging your daughter's interest in cryptography. I wish I had that kind of interest and support at that age.

bnemec
bnemec

The link you provided is broken. Please post an alternate. Thanks.

Jaqui
Jaqui

It's a fairly good listing, but there are tons more such courses than even that site lists.

burntfinger1
burntfinger1

She's also a dead shot with a pistol, shoots 50 caliber black powder rifles in competition, throws knife and Tomahawk in competition, dances at powwows, reads extensively, runs her dad ragged trying to keep up with her, and all in all is a typical teenager. The cryptography intrest started with an interest in secret codes, then took on a life of its own. She likes the beauty of numbers and (though she don't realize it yet) the order of math.

burntfinger1
burntfinger1

That thought scares the daylights out of me, but thanks a bunch.

apotheon
apotheon

I think the world needs more parents like you. Seriously.

burntfinger1
burntfinger1

I didn't enjoy school much because the day was so chopped up. By the time I got my mind around what we were doing, the bell rang and we'd do something else! Bridget don't have that problem because we homeschool. If we want to do math two days in a row, all day, we do it. Ditto anything else. Now if she just keeps on being good I'll be happy.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]She's also a dead shot with a pistol, shoots 50 caliber black powder rifles in competition, throws knife and Tomahawk in competition, dances at powwows, reads extensively[/i]" Sounds like the perfect woman. "[i]all in all is a typical teenager.[/i]" Whoops, that ruined it. Heh. "[i]The cryptography intrest started with an interest in secret codes, then took on a life of its own. She likes the beauty of numbers and (though she don't realize it yet) the order of math.[/i]" That's definitely worth encouraging. Public education stunted my interest in mathematics early on, and as a result I now feel like I've missed incredible opportunities in the course of my life. My interest in such matters came a bit too late -- I always feel like I'm playing catch-up now.