Learn Cryptography: The Definitive Guide (2018 Updated)

Cryptography is concerned with keeping our data and information secure. To protect ourselves from such attacks like cyber crimes we need the best encryption techniques. Here I will be giving the best ways to learn cryptography today.

If you ask people which is the best and easy way to learn cryptography they will probably tell you need to be very good in maths or something else.

Tell you what is not learning cryptography: reading every material and paper that has ever been written. What you need the most is the right materials and guides. For example you should start with basic tutorials then move to more advanced topics.

Should you bother learning cryptography? Yes it is very important in today’s information age as it will help us keep our data secure. It might not sound like a big deal but think about when you loss all your money in bank to some guy behind a computer.

There are a few things you should do to get started learning cryptography. Get a nice pdf that is easy to understand and follow. The best way would be learning with examples. Before trying to make your own techniques learn what others have worked on.

Don’t worry everyone starts as a beginner in anything and then with continuous learning and determination you get to advanced levels. It sounds silly but I would highly recommend starting with cryptography basics for beginners.

This will form a solid foundation for learning future complex concepts and you will enjoy it. Myself I started learning cryptography back in high school. I had to learn from scratch with zero prior knowledge in cryptography. Start with basic fundamentals and you will see yourself become an expert and also this can also land you a good cryptography job as a bonus.

Cryptography is not hard to learn when you have the right resources and you know exactly where to start. However learning cryptography is not for fainted hearts as it requires a great deal of understanding the basics and a bit of mathematics.

If you get the basics of cryptography right you will definitely love this science of protecting data and information. With the resources I will be highlighting later in the article you will be able to self-learn cryptography at home with just your computer.

I would like to let you know that learning cryptography is not the same as ethical hacking in anyway. To some extent they seem the same but as you will see they are completely different in their uses and applications.

Also you should decide whether to learn theoretical cryptography or the applied cryptography that is used to build various cryptosystems that we use everyday.

How to learn cryptography complete guide

To help you get started learning cryptography fast these are some of the topics I will be discussing:

  • Prerequisites to learning cryptography.
  • Best books to learn cryptography from basics to advanced levels.
  • Best resources and platforms for learning cryptography
  • Areas in mathematics needed to learn cryptography today.
  • Uses and benefits of learning cryptography.
  • Jobs and career paths in cryptography.

1) Prerequisites to learning cryptography

First there is not much needed before you start learning cryptography. With basic understanding of basic maths you will be able to start from there. The most important concept is number theory and also modular arithmetic.

A good understanding of prime numbers theorem will be an advantage as it is heavily used in many methods and techniques in cryptography.

There are nothing like certain programming languages that you are supposed to learn before you begin learning cryptography. However, you can use a programming language like python to learn. There is a cryptography python library that will be of great help.

The only cryptography programming you will interested in is how various encryption algorithms work to transform a given plaintext to cipher text. The logic on how encryption works on a basic level.

By utilizing various methods used for encryption and ciphers used in cryptography will enable you to learn effectively.

The subjects I would recommend before you begin in this field include basic understanding of number theory and arithmetic. You don’t want to worry too much about the level of mathematics you need at first.

Also to get the feel of what cryptography is about I would recommend playing with this basic ciphers and tools to see the power of cryptography and how it’s important in information security.

So you don’t have to worry about any programming knowledge you need before you can start learning cryptography.

2) Best books to learn cryptography from basics to advanced levels

For those who like reading these are some of the best books to learn cryptography. This list include books for both newbie and advanced cryptographers. These are great comprehensive cryptography textbooks that you can buy and start learning fast.

Cryptography for beginners books

A Handbook of Applied Cryptography: This book has many ideas about cryptography and also how to apply it in information security. You will learn many mathematical techniques and algorithms used for encryption.

Cryptography Theory and Practice: This presents mathematical techniques and theories of cryptography in very simple and easy to follow manner. This book will be for the intermediate learners as it goes deeper explaining how cryptography works on a very low level.

Cryptography and Network Security: This book explains the mechanisms of network cryptography. It takes practical approach to learning how to analyze networks. This is a great book for network administrators.

Understanding Cryptography: A great book for beginners and basic calculus concepts needed in cryptography. This will be a great book to understand how modern cryptography works and various algorithms.

Tutorial videos to learn about ciphers and cryptography

Cryptography introduction by Dr. Christof: This is series of classroom lectures that aim at introducing you to cryptography and also some complex concepts like data security. You will also learn key establishment methods and the symmetric theory in these cryptography tutorial videos series.

Cryptography by Prof. Dan Boneh: This series is aimed at helping you understand how cryptography primitives work and their applications. This is a great cryptography video series for information security.

Kelly Hanerhan and Leo Dregier Cryptography: This series is offered by cybrary. It explains encryption and decryption tools and how attacks work. This video series takes a hackers approach to teach you how information attacks work on a basic level.

3) Best resources and platforms to learn cryptography

The best way to learn cryptography the right way is when you have to right resources and great platforms. Here I will list out the resources you need to learn cryptography from the basics.

If you have been wondering and confused where to start your journey in cryptography, then these platforms and sites will just do that.

There are even android and iOS apps for learning cryptography that make it easy for you to emerge yourself in world of crypto.

Best websites to learn cryptography

Khan Academy: This site offers very informative courses in cryptography. You will from the best and better still you don’t need prior knowledge in this field. This site takes a great approach at introducing cryptography basics then follows with more advanced concepts as you progress. The videos are easy to follow and understand also there are video transcripts to help you fully understand difficult cryptography concept.

Applied cryptography course by Udacity: This is a great site to learn cryptography skills from the best in the field. Udacity have a video series that is completely free that aim at teaching basics of cryptography and how to use it for information security. The cryptography videos as awesome simple and direct to the point without complicating simple ideas.

Cryptography tutorials at TutorialPoint: This website does all the work for you and complex cryptographic concepts are explained in simple and clear language to understand. The good thing about this site is that you can download the cryptography pdf which is absolutely free and read at anytime even when you don’t have internet connection.

LearnCryptography: As the name suggests this site is all about cryptography. The great thing about this website is that it breaks down complicated cryptographic concepts and ideas in simple short to understand articles. This is the place to go to learn encryption techniques.

Cryptography tools: This is a great list of cryptographic tools that will be very helpful as you learn cryptography.

Cryptography course offered by Stanford on Coursera: This is a great online cryptography course offered by Stanford university through Coursera. It is a great resource for learning inner workings of cryptographic systems and also how they are used in various applications today.

Cryptography internships: Indeed is a great site to check for internships to improve your experience in cryptography by interacting with real time applications of cryptography and contribute to cryptography projects to enhance your skills.

Also there are several universities that offer major in cryptography.

Android app for learning cryptography basics.

4) Areas in mathematics needed to learn cryptography today

There is no need to worry about the level of mathematics you have to start studying cryptography.

If you make good use of the online cryptography resources I have highlighted then that’s all the mathematics you will need to understand cryptography.

In addition some of the maths topics to expect in cryptography include:

5) Uses and benefits of learning cryptography

Is learning cryptography useful? Tell you what learning cryptography is very beneficial as it teaches you how real life applications that protect our privacy work and how you and I can implement new cryptographic systems that are much better.

For example web developers need cryptography to ensure their applications are safe for use. Without cryptography it would be extremely hard to do business online due to all kinds of attacks that are likely to happen that can prevent transactions running smoothly.

Cryptography helps us keep sensitive data private and data is integrity is assured though the principles and techniques of encryption.

Also careers like computer security engineer needs cryptography to ensure devices are working correctly and counter-attacks that happens all the time in the network.

Also there are few projects that applying machine learning in cryptography to make even better systems that are able to detect data anomalies and attacks in real time and alert the system admin to take action before much damage has been done.

There are also developments like halftone visual in cryptography and VHDL for cryptography. Also in the field of software engineering there is need for cryptography so as to implement secure applications.

6) Jobs and career paths in cryptography

There so many interesting jobs in cryptography when you have the right skills. In order to start a career in cryptography you will need the set of skills that are required in the market today. And the great learning cryptography resources I have listed will do just that for you.

I would recommend learning cryptography together with other tools like: cryptography with Java or with Python. This way you will learn more as you progress.


Now I want to hear from you.

What do you think of this guide?

Or maybe I missed one of your favorite cryptography resource.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.

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