Cryptography I at Coursera.org

I enrolled and worked through this course. I think, I could write another review to help people to see if this course is for them or not.

First of all I have to tell you, that at the university (a couple of years ago) I had a semester with cryptography lectures. It was overwhelming that time (too much courses parallel and I wasn’t really interested in the topic). Now I thought it could be possibly fun and and informative because nowadays security plays a a big role in writing web applications and being present on the web (Facebook, private and company sites, blogs, twitter, email) and it would not be nice if someone could tamper with your data (read confident information, write emails in your name and so). So knowing some of the popular security systems and methods (and the vulnerability of them) is essential for a developer.

The lectures themselves were good designed. Prof. Boneh did a good job on this, they had a good structure and the course flow very well, based on topics which were covered in previous lectures. I really liked the in-video questions / mini-quizzes where the solution was explained accordingly. I travel a lot so I download and watch the videos on my tablet but for this class I tried to watch them on-line to do these mini-quizzes too. It gives you a feedback on understanding the material.

The weekly quizzes were good too and I really liked the variety of answers: you could not easily go and do the quiz two times because the possible answers changes time-to-time. Those questions proved you on the deep understanding of concepts and eventually you had to use previously learned lessons to compete. Besides this you have 4 attempts to achieve a maximum score.

Besides the quizzes there were optional programming assignments. I marked optional bold because they were in a previous offering of the course mandatory and many of the participants failed at those (as a forum post mentioned). However they were optional, you could earn extra credits for solving them. And besides the extra points you could try in practice what you’ve learned. I did most of the optional assignments and I have to say they were fun.

After the six weeks of lectures and quizzes there was a final exam too: overlapping the whole course material, and required for finishing the course. Its difficulty was the same than of the other quizzes so if you learned thoroughly those weeks you could do it without much effort and a good score. And here you have only two attempts — like at a good university (or at least in Hungary).

Conclusion

If you are interested in cryptography or just wonder, how security algorithms (i.e. AES) or security systems / key exchange protocols (OpenSSL, El-Gamal) work, than this is a good introductory course. Besides this, Stanford University (and Prof Boneh) is offering a second part Cryptography II at Coursera which is based on the knowledge in these course and goes deeper into the concepts of designing a good cryptographic system (eventually use always the standard because there exists no known attack).

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