The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Month: December 2014

NFC Chips

I have struggled to find a lot of information about my topic. There is not a problem in finding sources of information: I have 10 sources that are very good. Sifting through and combining them into relevant and on topic information is not a problem either. Most of the information can be condensed from how the sources presented it. I have researched all aspects of it from the stages to developing the chips, how they actually work, how security elements work within them, the present applications and the future applications. I have even extended to as far as to comparing the uses of NFC chips with QR codes and as to why one would be better than the other. I have also examined the possible security risks and benefits to the present uses of near field communication chips as well as to the future uses of the near field communication chips. The most challenging part is making sure I meet the word count requirements. I do understand that there has to be some substance there but I also believe that saying something simply is better than being too wordy. The most enjoyable part of my project is researching current and future uses of the NFC chips. This is because I realize how technology is going to advance and converge in the future, it is rather exciting.

Writing Process

For this project, I chose to write about the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart devices. My system was to first create an outline of how I wanted to structure my paper. Here I got into detail about what specific questions needed to be researched. It should start with a general explanation of what the Internet of Things actually is and how it affects our lives now and how it will do so in the future. Since I will also be talking about smart devices, I will discuss how our smart devices already communicate with each other and what types of new devices are being developed that will further increase and improve this machine to machine communication. I also wrote out a clear thesis so I can focus on what I am actually arguing and avoid getting side tracked. Now that I have the structure I just need to write out the paper. What I still need to do is finalize my research so I can organize the rest of my argument. The most challenging part was finding scholarly papers on my topic, it was much easier to find informative articles on blogs instead. The best part was doing all the research and learning a lot more about the Internet of Things.

Blog Assignment #7

Ghost WriterFor your seventh and final blog assignment, write a post between 200 and 400 words that responds to one of these prompts:

Option 1 – What connections do you see between the documentary Citizenfour and your practical cryptography paper topic? In what ways, if any, do you plan to approach your final paper differently, given what you saw in Citizenfour?

Option 2 – Describe and reflect on your process for writing your practical cryptography paper. What steps have you taken? What’s left to do? Which parts of the process have been most challenging and why? Which parts have been more enjoyable and why?

Please (1) give your post a descriptive title, (2) assign it to the “Student Posts” category, and (3) give it at least three useful tags.  Your post is due by 8 a.m. on Wednesday, December 3rd.

Practical Cryptography – Rubric

Here’s a nearly final version of the rubric I’ll use to grade your practical cryptography papers: Paper #3 Rubric [PDF]. I say “nearly” because I reserve the right to tweak the rubric once I start grading your papers. This version should, however, give you a good sense of what I’m looking for in these final papers. If you have any questions about the rubric, please feel free to ask.

As a reminder, here’s what I said about your final paper in the syllabus. All of this is still relevant to the assignment.

For your final assignment, you will contribute a chapter to an online guide to practical cryptography written by our class.  Each chapter will focus on one way that cryptography is (or could be) relevant to the digital life of a college student in 2014.  You might address one of the ways that cryptography is embedded in the computer systems we already use (e.g. how credit card information is encrypted by websites) or explain how to better protect one’s online privacy by adopting new practices (e.g. sending and receiving encrypted emails).  Your chapter will have an expository component, in which you explain cryptographic and/or mathematical processes in ways a fellow student can understand, and an argumentative component, in which you make the case for why a fellow student should care about the topic you’ve chosen.

Your chapter should be between 2500 and 3000 words in length, and it will be graded on the strength and clarity of your arguments as well as the effectiveness of your technical explanations.

Lesson Learned about Keeping Secrets

Just before Thanksgiving break, I asked you to spend some time reflecting on lessons you’ve learned this semester about keeping secrets, given all the examples of cryptography and cryptanalysis we’ve seen this fall. Here’s what you came up with:

Lesson Learned (Part 1)Lesson Learned (Part 2)(Click on a photo to see a larger version.)

Here’s the same list, without all the nonlinear connections:

  • You can’t keep secrets forever.
  • Someone will break your cipher.
  • You don’t know how clever the enemy is.
  • Change ciphers frequently.
  • One of your allies will screw up / betray you.
  • Minimize errors through simple systems.
  • Keep your circle of allies small. (Trust no one few.)
  • Persistence / computing power will defeat you.
  • Assume the worst. Double check.
  • Use discretion in your plaintext.
  • Kerckhoff’s Principle: The strength of your system shouldn’t depend on keeping its mechanics secret.
  • Schneier’s Principle: Use a system lots of people have tried to break.
  • Prioritize your secrets. Which secrets? From whom?
  • Minimize ciphertext.

Be sure to draw on these lessons learned in your final papers on practical cryptography!

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