One of the sessions I liked most on Microsoft Technology Summit 2011 was one delivered by Krzysztof Bińkowski – it was about certificates and PKI in context of Windows Server 2008. I’m not going to describe the session here, but wanted to share the tool that might help better understand the world of cryptography.
To better explain theory provided on his slides, Krzysztof used CrypTool. Let me cite the authors of this tool to give you a basic idea on what CrypTool is:
CrypTool is a free, open-source e-learning application, used worldwide in the implementation and analysis of cryptographic algorithms. It supports both contemporary teaching methods at schools and universities as well as awareness training for employees and civil servants.
I think this is a great tool that can be used to systematize knowledge related to cryptography, e.g. hash functions, digital signature, PKI. You can play around with CrypTool and see on the fly how different methodologies / algorithms work and what they require. What I liked most were the flow diagrams that visualize how some techniques (e.g. digital signare generation, hybrid cryptography) work step by step and see the intermittent results (see below).
P.S. I used CrypTool 1.4.30 but there’s also CrypTool 2.0 (still beta) available at the official web site.