Seminar: Practical Cryptographic Systems

Seminar in Summer Semester 2014

Instructor: Dr. Aniket Kate
Time and Place: Friday 10:15 to 12:00, E1 7 (MMCI), room 0.01
Instruction Language: English
Teaching Assistant:Tim Ruffing
Contact Email and Registration:
Mailing list:


Over the last thirty years, the cryptographic protocols have become an indispensable part for our day-to-day life. We use cryptography when we unlock our cell-phones, perform our banking transactions, and even when we vote during an election.

However, not all of the employed cryptographic constructions have been designed and incorporated in the practical systems with at most care, and every so often we come across much-publicized attacks on the cryptographic systems; e.g., flaws in random number generators, the WEP protocol or satellite phone encryption, side-channel attacks, credit card PIN cracking, and many more. Some of these breaks have severe physical, psychological and economical consequences, and it is important that we learn the lessons from them as we do not want to make similar mistakes while amending to the broken systems, or while designing the new protocols.

In this seminar, we will study some of these practical cryptographic systems used in daily life. We will choose some interesting cryptographic systems from a variety of areas ranging from trusted computing to bitcoins. back to top

Presentation Schedule

Every student presents one paper. Furthermore, every student is required to to review the presented paper plus four additional papers (details). The presenter and the reviewers are indicated below the respective paper.

Note that attending the presentations is mandatory.

back to top

Requirement for Obtaining Credit Points (Short Summary)

  • Prepare and give a 30-minute presentation for your selected paper.
  • Write reviews for at least five pre-assigned papers.
  • Attend and actively participate in the paper discussions moderated by the presenters. If you are ill, let us know in advance.
  • Prepare a short proposal and 5-page report for your project.
  • Prepare and give a 10-minute presentation for your project.
You can also earn bonus points by performing better than expected in class discussions, your paper-reviews or your project. For more details see Course Structure below.

Note that for project ideas possibly leading to publications with more efforts, it is possible to extend them for an additional master practical training (6 credit points). We expect to generate at least two-three workshop-quality publications from the course, and encourage students to put more efforts towards their projects. back to top

Course Structure

The seminar will primarily consist of reading, reviewing, and presenting research papers and working on a small research project. Your grade in the course depends upon the following four task:
Paper Presentation40%
Paper Reviews15%
Class Participation10%
Course Project35%

Paper Presentation

Two papers will be assigned to each class period; each paper will be presented to the class by one student, in a 30-minute presentation. The student presenting the paper will then lead the class in a discussion of the paper, taking 45 minutes for the presentation and discussion in total for each paper. We will also save 2-3 minutes during these 45 minutes to give a constructive feedback to the presenter. All students are encouraged to read both of the papers before the class.


Every student is required to review the presented paper plus four additional papers. The reviews are due two days before the corresponding paper is presented. A conference style review system will be available.


Students are expected to work in pairs on an original research project on some topic related to cryptographic systems. Each pair will submit a proposal to the instructor by a pre-decided date. Students will be provided some feedback on their proposals in two weeks after that. At the end of class period, they will present their proposal/work to the class with a 10-minute presentation.

In addition, by the end of the semester, they will produce a 5-page report describing their project. It is also possible to make a group of different sizes; however, the expectations may vary accordingly.

Bonus Points

You can also earn bonus points by performing better than expected in class discussions, your paper-reviews or your project. They will improve your grade in the following ways. One bonus point corresponds to a third mark in the German grading system. therefore, three bonus points will improve your final grade by a full mark, e.g., from 2.7 (C+) to 1.7 (B+).
  • For every two above expectation paper-reviews, you will be awarded one bonus point.
  • For an excellent project (with an emphasis on novelty), you will be awarded one bonus point.
  • For the best participation in classroom discussions, two students will be awarded one bonus point each. back to top

Useful Links

  • Organizational Meeting Slides: [PDF]
  • A nice article about paper reading: How To Read a Paper by S. Keshav [PDF]
  • back to top