Crypto 101: free Stanford course online

Stanford's Dan Boneh is offering a free Cryptography course through Coursera. It has a 5-7 hour/week workload, and runs for six weeks. It's just started.

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 begins with a detailed discussion of how two parties who have a shared secret key can communicate securely when a powerful adversary eavesdrops and tampers with traffic. We will examine many deployed protocols and analyze mistakes in existing systems. The second half of the course discusses public-key techniques that let two or more parties generate a shared secret key. We will cover the relevant number theory and discuss public-key encryption and basic key-exchange. Throughout the course students will be exposed to many exciting open problems in the field.

Cryptography I


  1. I’m wondering how much this course will cost. Looking at the site, I never saw a price-tag.  Surely it won’t be free of charge.

    1. All the Coursera classes are completely free and totally awesome. (NAYY, but I’ve taken three classes.)

      The classes are fairly self contained, so although there are recommended books, I’ve yet to need one. The format is about 3 hours of video lecture a week, pdfs covering the same material, online forums to get help from your fellow students, and weekly homework assignments and/or quizzes.

      The level of the class is pretty close to the level at the university it’s originally taught at. I took Algorithms over the summer from Coursera/Stanford, and am finding the same class at my local state university this semester to be WAY easier. Definitely pay attention to the prerequisites and estimated workload. That said, if you have the prereqs, the classes seem to be geared to a wide range of experience levels, the lectures are high quality, and the on-line forums can get you through a jam. I highly recommend it.

      1. Thanks, I’ll certainly look in to it.

        I have a B.Sc in IT, but that was in the early 80s and haven’t really kept up. Sure, I’m fluent in C but so much has happened since then.If there is one thing I have a lot of, it’s time. For the past year I’ve been doing the SUN courses for Java etc and while they are great, studying at the same pace as others seems very attractive. I miss the feedback when working on problems.

  2. This is a SUPERB course; I took it last winter. But, be prepared: 5-7 hours per week is a significant understatement. I was very well qualified for this course and put in much closer to 15-20 hours per week. Still, it was well worth it; Professor Boneh is a fabulous instructor and I learned a lot.

  3. Great course. If you have never programmed before you may have trouble with some of the problem sets. However when I took it they did adjust some of the assignments to focus less on programming skill but you still needed to either learn as you went or have some previous experience.

    I was kind of distracted by welcoming our 1st child to the world so I will probably sit through it a second time. They were talking about a second Crypto course which I hope is up and running by now.

  4. Stanford offers a number of free classes on iTunes. I took an iOS programming course. Okay, I tried taking an iOS programming course but started doing the Facebook and the Twitter and learned nothing.

  5. This came up just as the Scala course was ending, so I signed up more or less to keep my good momentum.

    It’s worth noting that the programming component is optional.

  6. I just took this one in the last batch. It has a refreshing amount of maths in it, and even more refreshingly demands not rote usage of equations but the actual practice and ability of thinking about the maths to draw correct conclusions about things not explicitly covered in the presentations. Modern cryptography is a serious mathematical discipline and Prof Boneh does not shirk his duties. This is really quite good.

  7.  The programming component is optional, but was for me the most fun part of the course.  Because most of them involved demonstrating WHY a particular discredited practice is bad by breaking a cryptosystem using it.

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