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UMD Sponsoring Free, Online Class in Cryptography

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:41 PM
P. H. Madore
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:41 PM

The University of Maryland at College Park, which is tied for #15 in computer science with Columbia and UC San Diego (source: US News & World Report 2014 college rankings), has partnered with Coursera to offer a legitimate, free class in cryptography .

Taught by Professor Jonathan Katz – not to be confused with Slashdot contributor and technology writer Jon Katz  – the next six-week long session begins March 9th, 2015, with a study of Classical Encryption Schemes. Interesting to note, Katz earned his Master of Philosophy in Computer Science at Columbia in 2001. He also worked as a Research Fellow at UCLA’s Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics in 2006.

“Classical encryption scheme” typically means a study of ancient cryptographic protocols like those used by Napolean and Julius Caesar.

After more basics, the course will go on to cover things like “The Public-Key revolution” and “Signatures VS. MACs.”

A Great Opportunity for Bitcoiners

Those in the Bitcoinosphere will take a particular interest in this course. One would assume that it is bound to mention Bitcoin at some point, but on a more basic level there are many in the community with little or no understanding of actual cryptography and how it is underlies the currency beloved by so many. The author includes himself in this statement. Thus, what better way to get a handle on the subject than a basic, cost-free course?

A snippet from the description:

This course will introduce you to the foundations of modern cryptography, with an eye toward practical applications. We will learn the importance of carefully defining security; of relying on a set of well-studied “hardness assumptions” (e.g., the hardness of factoring large numbers); and of the possibility of proving security of complicated constructions based on low-level primitives. We will not only cover these ideas in theory, but will also explore their real-world impact. You will learn about cryptographic primitives in wide use today, and see how these can be combined to develop modern protocols for secure communication.

Now, while the course is free for anyone just wanting to learn, amongst a host of other computer science courses – all part of Coursera’s mission to help students “learn better – and faster” – for $49USD (0.1311BTC at current rate) you can get an actual certificate for use with your resumé or perhaps even for credit in your existing Computer Science program. “You can start verifying your work for free and pay anytime before the final week of the course. Coursera Financial Aid is also available for learners with limited economic means,” says the informational page. One would hope that Bitpay or Coinpayments.net will make an effort to get the company accepting Cryptocurrency by the time the course launches in March.

Competing Courses

Coursera also offers a similar course from Stanford (tied for #1 in Computer Science with MIT and Carnegie Mellon on the same list), the next session of which begins January 5th and will be administered by Dan Boneh.

Udacity offers a perhaps less prestigious course in Cryptography  as well.

To take the UMD course through Coursera, you will need five to seven spare hours per week, a “prior course covering discrete mathematics and basic probability,” and some familiarity with basic programming, IE, a base understanding of C-based programming languages. The course is intended for those pursuing computer science-based or mathematics degrees but, again, is open to the general public.

Will you be enrolling in this course? How important is an understanding of cryptography to Bitcoin involvement? Comment below!

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