Hands-on cryptography

Aim

The aim of this workshop is to teach basic working knowledge of cryptographic and cryptanalytic concepts, such as basic encoding techniques and basic techniques to crack encoded messages.

How it works

This workshop was designed to have people experiment with the concepts they learn:

  1. first they are taught an encryption method and are asked to encrypt small words with it;
  2. then they are taught two techniques to crack messages and are then asked to decode some prepared sentences;
  3. a more advanced method is then taught and explained with as much maths as the audience allows (there is not much maths to it, trust me!);
  4. the audience is then taught a more advanced technique to decypher messages and then applies it to a bigger text message, usually working together.

I have given this workshop many times and the contents can easily be adapted to the age of the audience/their prior knowledge. With younger kids I usually stick to pen and paper and that was how this workshop originally started; with older kids we can use some programming to automate things.

More basic versions of this workshop are suitable for kids as young as \(12\) but kids with \(14\) years or more will appreciate the workshop more. I have also made this advanced enough for college-level students.

This workshop ends up being fun because of the engagement one builds with the audience while cracking the messages.