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On-line cipher tools

This is a follow-on of my "Grade School Crypto" introduction to the fundamentals of cryptography. While constructing examples from my class, I came across a nice little web site called "Count On," that includes a page of basic crypto tools.

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A gentle crypto introduction

Grade School CryptoLast week I produced an introductory crypto video. It uses animation to illustrate simple substitution ciphers. The 10-minute video introduces the concepts of algorithm, key, key sharing, modular arithmetic, cipher disks, and code cracking via frequency analysis.

I used a 3D modeling package to produce cartoon characters for Bob, Alice, and Eve. In the back story they are school children, and only Eve has a cell phone. Bob and Alice use simple ciphers to share texts via Eve's cell phone, and the ciphers keep Eve from reading the texts first.

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Rejecting the Licensing Culture

Copyright symbol

Have you ever replied to an email message by including the sender's email message? Did you ask for a license first?

I'm sorry, but you are guilty of copyright infringement, and may be liable for prosecution, as lovingly explained whenever we watch a prerecorded video.

Yes, it's true. Copyright is completely out of control in this country. It all started with "copyright reform" in 1976 and it's only gotten worse. Cautious publishers collect permission for EVERY image, photo, or quotation that might come from somewhere else. Never mind the notion of "fair use;" many publishers pretend it doesn't exist.

As a teacher, I rely heavily on "fair use" exemptions. Some classroom materials have a clear and simple licensing regime, but a lot of things are just "out there" without a clear process for licensing. It seriously interferes with education and even free speech when everything needs a license.

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Cyber Security Self Study

NSTISSI 4011 trainingI've deployed my training program at

Students can earn CPE credits and a US Government-endorsed training certificate in information security. They study the textbook (Elementary Information Security, of course), discuss topics with me on the book's discussion forums if they want, and take on-line tests on the material. Once they pass all exams, they earn the certificate.

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Information Security Self-Study Program

I am putting together a self-study program for working through my textbook Elementary Information Security. 

When deployed, the program will give readers an opportunity to earn an NSTISSI 4011 training certificate, with the CNSS seal, via self-study. The program will break each chapter into two parts to be studied, and provide an on-line test to verify the reader's awareness of each part. Each successfully completed part should also qualify the student for 3 hours' worth of continuing professional education (CPE) credit. 

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Earning IACE Certification Using a Certified Textbook

CNSS certified to conform to NSTISSI 4011The U.S. government certifies courses of study in information security under the Information Assurance Courseware Evaluation (IACE) program. If a course is certified under one of the approved standards, then students are eligible to receive a certificate that carries the seal of the U.S. Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS, left) to indicate they have completed an approved course of study.

My new textbook, Elementary Information Security, has just earned certification that it conforms fully to the CNSS national training standard for information security professionals (NSTISSI 4011).

It can be challenging for an institution to get its course of study certified. Many of the topics are obvious ones for information security training, but others are relatively obscure. Several topics, like TEMPEST, COMSEC, and transmission security, have lurked in the domain of classified documents for decades.

This new text provides a comprehensive and widely available source for all topics required for NSTISSI 4011 certification. An institution can use the textbook along with the details of its NSTISSI 4011 topic mapping to establish its own certified course of study.

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Elementary Information Security Topic Mapping for NSTISSI 4011

Elementary Information SecurityElementary Information Security has been certified to conform fully to  to the Committee on National Security System’s national training standard for information security professionals (NSTISSI 4011). To do this, I had to map each topic required by the standard to the information as it appears in the textbook. Instructors who map their courses to the standard must map the topics to lectures, readings, or other materials used in those courses.

I have exported the textbook's mapping to an Excel spreadsheet file. Curriculum developers may use this information to develop a course of study that complies with NSTISSI 4011 and is eligible for certification. I'm describing the courseware mapping process in another post. Read that post first.

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The First Textbook Certified by the NSA

CNSS LogoI received an email this morning announcing that Elementary Information Security has been certified by the NSA's Information Assurance Courseware Evaluation program as covering all topics required for training information security professionals. Here is the certification letter.

This is the first time thay have certified textbooks. In the past they've only certified training programs and degree programs.

The evaluation is based on the national training standard NSTISSI 4011. The book also covers the core learning outcomes for Information Assurance and Security listed in the Information Technology 2008 Curriculum Recommendations from the ACM and IEEE Computer Society.

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Whither the book?

I started reading ebooks on my Palm III in 1998. Now that I have a tablet, paper books seem quaint and even annoying some times.

(C) 2011 Rick Smith, Creative Commons Attribution

Two households in our family own hardcover copies of Clavell's Noble House , an alarmingly thick novel from 1981. It weighs over 3.5 pounds. It makes good travel reading. I've read chapters out of different copies while on visits, but never managed to finish it. And I wasn't going to carry it on a plane. I finally bought the Kindle edition. It lives weightlessly alongside a few hundred other books on my 1.4 pound iPad.

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Tales of Bob and Alice

While writing Elementary Information Security, I wanted simple and obvious reasons to introduce various obscure security topics. Initially I wrote a series of stories about those famous cryptographic protagonists, Bob and Alice.

The actual stories never made it into the textbook, so I'm posting them on the web site.

There are eight or nine of them. I've posted two so far and will post the rest as time permits.

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