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Challenge your cryptology skills

In science, mathematics, and informatics there are various problem solving competitions aimed at challenging and expanding the talents of high school students. In the biological science, we have the International Biology Olympiad, in mathematics the International Mathematical Olympiad, and in informatics the International Olympiad in Informatics and the Internet Problem Solving Contest.

But cryptology is very much at the intersection of mathematics and informatics. There are some famous competitions in cryptology such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) call in 1997 for a new encryption standard, a challenge that was met in late 2001 with the adoption of the Rijndael cipher as the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to replace the aging Data Encryption Standard (DES). The latest cryptology competition from NIST is a call for a new hash algorithm, called the Cryptographic Hash Algorithm Competition. As of this writing, the competition is in its third round of selection of a new hash algorithm.

The latter two competitions are oddly out of place for high school students. What comes close to a cryptology challenge for high school students is a competition I very recently learned about: the Crypto Challenge Contest. The contest is not really designed exclusively for high school students. You can find cryptology challenges suitable for high school students and up to cryptology researchers. However, many of the problems in Level I of the Crypto Challenge Contest are suitable for high school students. For those students who love a programming challenge, you might want to have a go at the problems in Level II. Happy problem solving.

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