ELE 538: Information Theoretic Security

Prof. Paul Cuff, Princeton University, Fall Semester 2016-17.

Course Description

This course focuses on secure communication built on information theory, which does not assume that an adversary has computational limitations. We will begin from the basics of information theory, which will provide a foundation for the study of modern research on physical-layer security, secret key agreement, secure source coding, and differential privacy. Various information metrics for security will be compared. Prior exposure to information theory is a plus but not a requirement.

Prerequisites: Basic Probability.

(registrar course listing)


Information-theoretic security and cryptograph (basic introduction to Diffie-Hellman, AES, and side-channel attacks)

Optimality of one-time-pad for perfect secrecy in Shannon cipher

Basic information theory (entropy, mutual information, channel capacity, rate distortion theory, tools for proofs, some multi-user settings to introduce superposition codes and random binning)

Wyner's wiretap channel (also with arbitrarily-varying state and random state)

Secrecy metrics (strong, weak, semantic security, partial secrecy)

Recent new tools (likelihood encoder and soft covering)

Secret key agreement (one direction of public communication, two-way, unlimited rate, and quantum key exchange)

Secure source coding: rate-distortion theory for secrecy systems

Secure source coding: side information at receivers

Differential privacy

Distributed channel synthesis

Teaching Staff


Prof. Paul Cuff
Office location: B-316 E-quad
Office hours: T/Th 3-4pm

Time and Location


Room: B-205 E-Quad
T/Th 1:30-2:50pm


No textbook purchase is required.

The following textbook is a useful general resource for information theory:

Elements of Information Theory, second edition, Cover and Thomas.

Picture of Textbook 

The next two textbooks are good research references, covering a wide variety of relevant results. Both cover some of the same content, although the second introduces more tools specific to security.

Network Information Theory, El Gamal and Kim.

Picture of Textbook 

Physical-Layer Security, Bloch and Barros.

Picture of Textbook 

Also, Curt Schieler and I wrote a chapter for a textbook about secure source coding.


Blackboard may be used for problem sets and reporting grades but not much else.