MA410      Half Unit
Information, Communication and Cryptography

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Jozef Skokan and Dr Robert Simon


This course is available on the MSc in Applicable Mathematics and MSc in Operations Research & Analytics. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


Students should be taking the course MA407 Algorithms and Computation or have taken an equivalent course to provide a basic knowledge of algorithms, and should have experience with proofs and proof techniques used in pure mathematics.

Course content

This course provides an introduction, for students with a mathematical background, to the applications of mathematics in information theory, coding theory, cryptography, and related areas. The course will cover mathematical aspects of the following topics: Noiseless coding, the Kraft-McMillan criterion, optimal coding, entropy, Shannon's first theorem; Noisy channels, capacity, system entropy; Error-correcting codes, decoding rules, bounds, construction and properties of linear and cyclic codes; Structure of natural languages, redundancy, the frequency table, making and breaking cryptosystems, historic examples; Public-key cryptography, complexity issues, the RSA system, authentication schemes, the ElGamal system. Subject to available time we may also cover elliptic curve cryptography and/or cryptocurrencies. 


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 30 hours across Michaelmas Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of virtual classes and lectures delivered as online videos.

Formative coursework

Weekly exercises are set and discussed in seminars.

Students will be expected to produce 5 exercises in the MT which will be marked.

Indicative reading

N L Biggs, Codes, An Introduction to Information, Communication and Cryptography: G A Jones & J M Jones, Information and Coding Theory; C M Goldie & R G E Pinch, Communication Theory; D J A Welsh, Codes and Cryptography; D T Stinson, Cryptography Theory and Practice.


Exam (75%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.
Coursework (25%) in the MT.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Mathematics

Total students 2019/20: 8

Average class size 2019/20: 8

Controlled access 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills