CryptoLogic

CryptoLogic app iconYear: 2015.

Summer Research Scholarship project at the University of Auckland. Supervised by Sathiamoorthy Manoharan.

Introduction

CryptoLogic is an iOS app to teach classical cryptography to young university students. Development involved research, design, Swift and Xcode.

Was showcased at the University of Auckland’s Courses & Careers Day and the Museum of Transport and Technology‘s science fair.

Press Release

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (February 24, 2016) – As we advance deeper into the Digital Age and hackers find new ways to compromise cyber security, cryptography – the study of securely hiding secrets – is becoming more important than ever, but the latest generation of students is hindered by the lack of appropriate digital learning tools. In response, the University of Auckland funded a project to develop a visual tool to effectively teach cryptography for a world dominated by smartphones.

“While there are some tools available online, they aren’t focused on learning the algorithms — they are rather focused on message decryption, and in some instances, encryption,” said Professor Sathiamoorthy Manoharan. “Besides, some are based on Flash, a technology that is not supported on mobile platforms.”

The university’s project, implemented by summer scholarship student Brian Cham, was determined to clear away old approaches and design a learning experience for today’s youth. Yet it soon became clear that new approaches also aren’t up to scratch and can’t be relied on either. Many apps touted as educational are just shiny distractions or interactive flash cards with no real content or scientific basis.

So instead of starting with the app development as usual, care was taken to first review the latest educational and psychological research. The project was then built firmly grounded upon this scientific core. The result was an iOS app called CryptoLogic, a fun and effective experience to teach cryptographic systems.

“Experience” is the key word – gone are the days of passive learning and slogging through textbooks. Users can experiment with cipher demos by rotating and shaking the device for memorable, physical engagement. The bulk of CryptoLogic involves a game-like journey with enticing challenges, meaningful concepts and a fun spy story.

Results look promising. Testing sessions with real students showed that CryptoLogic held their interest all the way through. Even with no prior cryptography experience, they were able to grasp the concepts and figure out all the challenges without outside help. Completion time ranged between 30 to 40 minutes – not bad for a lesson that covered 1900 years of cipher advancements!

CryptoLogic will be made available for computer science students at the University of Auckland in 2016, with further distribution pending.

Pictures

Figure 1. Structure of CryptoLogic on iPhone. Left: Main menu. Centre: Stage II. Right: A challenge page.

Figure 1. Structure of CryptoLogic on iPhone. Left: Main menu. Centre: Stage II. Right: A challenge page.

 

Figure 2. Caesar cipher demonstration on iPad. When the device is rotated, the cipher wheels automatically rotate and the ciphertext is updated in real-time. Left: Key is 0 and ciphertext is “AUCKLAND”. Right: Key is 4 and ciphertext is “EYGPERH”.

Figure 2. Caesar cipher demonstration on iPad. When the device is rotated, the cipher wheels automatically rotate and the ciphertext is updated in real-time. Left: Key is 0 and ciphertext is “AUCKLAND”. Right: Key is 4 and ciphertext is “EYGPERH”.

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