A Kinesthetic Approach to Learning Encryption

Antoinette Stevens

Antoinette Stevens

Speaker Bio

Antoinette Stevens is a Georgia native and UGA graduate living in Des Moines, IA. She works as a cybersecurity analyst at Principal Financial Group and serves as Executive Director of Reboot Iowa, Inc, a non-profit she founded to teach adults about coding and technology. Antoinette formerly served as the chair for TAI’s Diversity and Inclusion committee for two years and is a former dancer on the Stormchasers Dance Team for the Iowa Barnerstormers Arena Football Team. She’s currently focused on developing her skills in cybersecurity by being an active member of SecDSM and an organizer for the BSides Iowa Security Conference. In her spare time, she enjoys working on CTF challenges and writing some of her own. She also works part time at Up Down Arcade Bar helping to repair and troubleshoot arcade games.


Kinesthetic (also sometimes referred to as tactile) learning style usually means that someone learns best by physically doing something to fully learn and memorize a topic. As a kinesthetic learner, it is a must for me to see and fully engage with a topic before I grasp it fully. I’ve found that Capture The Flag (CTF) competitions are the best way for me to fully understand security concepts because I can read about it and understand the concepts and then apply it and watch it in action, creating a full multi-sensory learning experience that helps me to retain those concepts in my memory for later use. This talk explores my approach to learn more about RSA and AES through the recreation of CTF challenges. We’ll look at my (very long and extremely frustrating) process of recreating an AES ECB challenge and an RSA short key-length challenge, the lessons I learned from both, the lessons I’m still trying to understand, and why I believe it doesn’t matter whether you’re a novice or an expert, CTFs are the best way to learn something new —especially if you have a kinesthetic learning style.