Cryptography and Computer Security

Course Description

This course is intended to provide a graduate level introduction to broad set of topics in the areas of cryptography and computer security. The course will assume a basic understanding of complexity theory, number theory, and probability as a  common foundation upon which to build. Other foundation topics, such as information theory, will be introduced when necessary.

The course will be concerned with cryptography (descriptions of various ciphers), cryptographic protocols, cryptanalysis, and computer security from the point of view of both the intruder and the system administrator. Students will each present several research papers and the lead the dicussion of those papers.

Several distinguished speakers have also been invited to lecture to the class.

Required Reading

The main reference text for the course is:

  • Bruce Schneier, Applied Cryptography, Second edition, John Wiley & Sons: New York, 1996.

Bruce Schneier's book provides a good basis from where we can discuss the current research literature. It is encyclopedic in scope, and provides an excellent reference for many of the topics that we will be discussing over the course of the quarter.

If you are interested in cryptography, cryptanalysis and topics in mathematics such as number theory, drop by my office and I can suggest some books for you to read.

You may be also interesting in browsing the Rainbow Series of books.

The main readings are a collection of a few dozen research papers, which we will cover at the rate of approximately two per class meeting.

Students sign up for presentations using the following link:

Course Requirements

The course will consist of reading, presentation and discussion of research papers in various areas of cryptography and computer security. Some of these papers, such as Shannon's original 1949 publication on communications secrecy are classics and foundational, but most papers will be from the current research literature. The topics are eclectic, but designed to give the student an good understanding of the pervasiveness of computer securty issues in modern life.

Each student will be expected to lead the discussion several research papers. The goal is to help hone your presentation skills, one of the most critical skills that you will develop during graduate school. The most common method is for the student to prepare a Power Point presenation on the content of the paper, much as one might see at a research conference. Alternatively, an "old school" approach of taking chalk in hand is also acceptable.

All students are expected to carefully read each paper and engage in its discussion. Passive listening to the presentation is not considered sufficient engagement in the seminar.


Each student is required to write a term paper can be original research (preferred), an in depth survey of an area of cryptography and computer security, or for the more practical minded an approved implementation project. Topic proposals are required at the beginning of the third week of the course. 

The term paper or project constitutes the largest part of your grade (50%), so you should start early and put in your best effort. We will discuss some ideas in class, and you are invited to visit me during office hours to discuss other ideas.

A long time ago, my friends at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories put together this guide for project proposals. It is a simple one page document, and your should follow it when submitting your term paper of project proposal.


  • Term paper or project: 50%
  • Presentation of research papers: 30%
  • Contribution to the discussion: 20%

Instructors and Assistants