HPR 108c - Cryptography, Information Security, and Personal Privacy

Course Description

HPR 108c is an honors level course for students interested in Cyber Security. This course offers an introduction to internet purchases, ATM transactions, and secure electronic communication are examples of everyday activities that rely on cryptography. While "secret writing" has been used since ancient times, the Information Age has given impetus to its study as a mathematical discipline. This course surveys the historical development and impact of secret codes. The mathematics underlying the making and breaking of several significant classical codes, and the security of modern computer-based ciphers are presented. The balance between the right to individual privacy and the need for law enforcement and national security are also considered. Finally, the actual and potential uses of the trail of personal information we leave simply by living in the modern world are discussed. No Computer Science background is required to take this course.


Acceptance into the honors program at URI.

Semesters Taught

HPR 108c is taught in the Spring semesters.

Course Format

HPR 108c is an in-person course. The class meets twice a week, Monday and Wednesday.

Students will be assigned homework problems throughout the semester to reinforce the mathematical concepts and to demonstrate their knowledge of the codes presented. In addition, students will have the experience of "cracking the code" by solving several Crypto Challenges.

Three 3-5 page papers will also be assigned. These papers will be due at roughly even intervals throughout the semester.

  • The first is to focus on cryptographic protocols. In writing this paper, students will explore a cryptographic method of historical or technological interest that was not covered in class or the readings, or touched upon only lightly. They will be expected to consult outside references in completing this paper.
  • The second paper involves writing a review of a book related to the material in the course. This assignment will allow students to explore a particular aspect of the course in greater depth. The reports will be shared in class during the last two weeks of the semester.
  • The final paper is to focus on personal privacy and public policy. In preparing this assignment, students will be expected to include a personal response to one or more of the ethical issues discussed in the course.

Course Topics

  • The Magic of Secret Code
  • A History of Secret Communication
  • Cryptography in World War II
  • The Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking
  • Public Key Cryptography: The Modern Way to Keep Secrets
  • The Mathematics of Public Key Cryptography
  • Cryptography in the Information Age
  • Cryptography and Public Policy
  • Personal Privacy in the Information Age
  • Security and Anonymity
  • What Does the Future Hold?

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