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Welcome to World of Spies: Keeping Secrets!

Before we begin this adventure, I would like to clarify a few things.

In this course, “world” refers to various entities with the common interest of collecting information, and “spies” refers to various entities in the US that spy on people. This includes government agencies that spy on criminals and other governments, but it also refers to corporate espionage and data collection on everyday people. Some of this same spying also occurs outside of the US, but this is not discussed specifically in this course. However, one of the greatest strengths of online courses is that we can learn from people all over the world, who will share their own knowledge about spying.

Unfortunately, this is not a course on how to become an international spy. However, you will be provided some opportunities to solve cryptographic puzzles similar to real ones being solved today, even puzzles that are currently considered “unsolvable.” If you find this type of work intriguing, you can click on links provided to take an interactive “tour” of various US agencies and complete surveys that will help you determine if you have the skills, background, and interests for various career opportunities in the field. These will be located in Week 1 under “See Also” in the last activity section.

We hope that this course will provide some insight into various methods of information collection in use today and give you the tools to keep your information safe. The evolution of technology often lacks oversight, and this can create unforeseeable issues. We want to give you a voice and allow you to become part of the conversation.

In order to understand the bigger picture, we will explore the following:

• In Week 1 you will meet the course facilitators as well as other learners in the course who will work with you to challenge you and support you. We will explore spying and investigate US agencies that collect information, or intelligence.

• In Week 2, we will analyze traditional encryption methods to better understand the foundations of cryptography, or the science of secret messages. We will also practice enciphering and encoding using a key.

• In Week 3 we will use logical thinking and linguistic patterns to decipher messages without a key. This will allow us to evaluate the inherent weaknesses of various methods and will provide a foundation for Week 4.

• In Week 4, we will discuss modern encryption and internet security. You will read about ways that information you willingly provide could be used to spy on you. We will also debate the necessity and effectiveness of protecting information.

Although cryptology is commonly associated with mathematics and computer science, these skills are not required here. A sense of adventure and a love of puzzles are all that is needed.

I’m excited to have a platform where different people all over the world can work together to solve puzzles. I am interested to see the different ways you approach problem-solving, and I believe that we can all learn from each other.

So, you are probably wondering…who am I working with, and what are our motives?

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This article is from the free online course:

World of Spies: Keeping Secrets

Purdue University