Introduction to Security

Tufts University Department of Computer Science

Course Description

A holistic and broad perspective on cyber security. Attacking and defending networks, cryptography, vulnerabilities, reverse engineering, web security, static and dynamic analysis, malware, forensics. Principles illustrated through hands-on labs and projects, including Capture The Flag (CTF) games.


  1. COMP 116 (undergrads and grads): live sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4:30 - 5:45 PM EST
  2. OMSCS 116 (Online Master's in Computer Science): live sessions on Wednesdays, 6:00 - 7:15 PM EST



Hardware and Software for This Class (on your personal computer)

Absolute Requirements

Strongly Recommended Requirements


Course Infrastructure


Topic 1, starts Tuesday, September 8th
  • Course Introduction - By the end of this week, students will learn many of the fundamental Linux commands, an important skill for any good security practitioner, by playing Capture The Flags via OverTheWire. Students will remember the three principles of the CIA triad, critical to any organization’s security infrastructure.
  • Readings and Videos
Topic 2, starts Tuesday, September 15th
Topic 3, starts Tuesday, September 22nd
  • Attacking Networks - By the end of this week, students will perform network reconnaissance and port scanning, and build a rudimentary Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) / intrusion detection system (IDS).
  • Readings and Videos
Topic 4, starts Tuesday, October 6th
  • Cryptography - By the end of this week, students will be able to crack passwords on a Linux or Windows system, use one-way hash functions, and briefly describe how Transport Layer Security works.
  • Readings and Videos
Topic 5, starts Tuesday, October 13th
  • Quiz 1. Due Sunday, October 18th at 11:59 PM PDT.
Topic 6, starts Tuesday, October 20th
  • Web Security - By the end of this week, students will able to perform and defend against the following attacks: Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), SQL injection, Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF), session hijacking, cookie tampering, directory traversal, command injection, remote and local file inclusion. Students will also write a fuzzer to find any software vulnerabilities.
  • Readings and Videos
  • Lab 6: The XSS Game. Due Wednesday, October 28th at 11:59 PM PDT.
  • Lab 7: Gain Access to Website. Due Wednesday, October 28th at 11:59 PM PDT.
  • Lab 8: The Fuzzer. Due Wednesday, October 28th at 11:59 PM PDT.
Topic 7, starting Thursday, October 29th at 4:30 PM Eastern Time
  • The Capture The Flags (CTF) Game Played Online in teams - By the end of this week, students will be able to find and take advantage of a number of vulnerabilities on a live web application(s).
  • Readings and Videos
  • Lab 9: The CTF Write Up. Due Monday, November 9th at 11:59 PM PDT.
Topic 8, starts Tuesday, November 10th
  • Static and Dynamic Analysis - By the end of this week, students will be able to perform static analysis and dynamic analysis scans on software, write a technical risk analysis that is communicated to upper management.
  • Readings and Videos
  • Lab 10: Technical Risk Analysis. Due Sunday, November 15th at 11:59 PM PDT.
Topic 9, starts Tuesday, November 17th
  • Malware - By the end of this week, students will be able to describe types of malware, see certain malware behaviors, scan and analyze malware, reverse engineer Android apps to determine if they are malicious.
  • Readings and Videos
  • Lab 11: Android Malware Analysis. Due Sunday, November 22nd at 11:59 PM PDT.
Topic 10, starts Tuesday, December 1st
  • Forensics and Incident Handling - By the end of this week, students will be able to acquire data from a disk (e.g., USB drive) using dd, analyze image of disk from `dd` using forensics tools, and recover deleted files off a disk.
  • Readings and Videos
  • Quiz 2. Due Sunday, December 6th at 11:59 PM PDT.
Topic 11, starts Tuesday, December 8th
  • The Future: Nihilism or Hope? - By the end of this week, students shall debate and ponder the hard questions in security, and be able to argue multiple viewpoints.
  • Readings and Videos


No class on the following dates:

Thursdays on Twitch and on YouTube Live Schedule

  1. Thursday, September 10th: Using Kali Linux VM
  2. Thursday, September 17th: Packet Analysis Using Wireshark
  3. Thursday, September 24th: Basic Reconnaissance using Nmap
  4. Thursday, October 1st: Scapy
  5. Thursday, October 8th: Password Cracking with John the Ripper
  6. Thursday, October 15th: Vulnerability Scanning, Exploitation, Badness-O-Meter
  7. Thursday, October 22nd: Damn Vulnerable Web Application, Cross Site Scripting, and SQL Injection
  8. Thursday, October 29th: TBD
  9. Thursday, Guy Fawkes Night: TBD
  10. Thursday, November 12th: Static Analysis Using Veracode
  11. Thursday, November 19th: Malware and Using VirusTotal
  12. Thursday, December 3rd: Basic Forensics
  13. Thursday, December 12th: The Hard Problems in Security

Topics That Will Not Be Covered In This Course

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is there a textbook for this course?

A: No

Q: Are there teaching assistants (TAs) for this course?

A: No

Q: Is this course entirely online?

A: Yes

Q: Will videos of live sessions be recorded and made available for those studying remotely?

A: Yes

Q: What are the differences between COMP 116 and OMSCS 116 versions of this course?

A: The differences between the two versions are:

  1. A final project for OMSCS 116
  2. Different Canvas websites for grading purposes
  3. Different live meeting times

Everything else is the same: shared content, labs, quizzes, Piazza, and Discord.

Q: What is the workload of this course?

A: Here is a list of all the labs with expected length and difficulty:

Q: Does this course count towards the M.S. in Cybersecurity and Public Policy?

A: Yes

Q: Does this course count towards the M.S. in Software Systems Development?

A: Yes. In fact, this is one of the four required courses for the M.S.

Q: Why is using a Kali virtual machine not mandatory for this class and thus strongly recommended?

A: The reasons:

  1. Accessibility. For students who are visually impaired, using a virtual machine can be very difficult.
  2. Not all students have a capable laptop. Sometimes due to financial reasons, some students use Chromebooks. The tools required for this course can be installed natively on macOS, Windows, and Linux.
  3. Performance. Sometimes, using a VM can be very slow. A VM also do not use native drivers (e.g., for networking).

Q: Is Piazza used in this course?

In summer 2020, I returned to using Piazza again. In spring 2020, I decided not to use Piazza because (1) I felt it was a nuisance for students to use multiple websites and services for one course, and (2) at times, it was underutilized. However, I noticed a drop-off in the discussions, and the Discussions interface on Canvas isn't as nice as Piazza's. Also, students can chime in anonymously on Piazza but not on Canvas. Finally, because most Computer Science courses use Piazza, it has been an expectation for students. Thus, I brought it back.

Q: Why is there a course website and a course Canvas? If you say "it is a nuisance for students to use multiple websites and services for one course", what gives?

This course website serves a few critical purposes. Years ago, I made a decision to make all the readings, slide decks, and most of the labs publicly available. The reasons: (1) to show that Tufts is serious and is working on Cyber Security matters, (2) to provide learning material to the public on Cyber Security as the Cyber Security education problem is very dire, (3) for recordkeeping on what is taught and not taught in this Security class --this comes up often when we speak to industry and organizations who want to work with Tufts on Cyber Security-related matters. The Canvas site for this course isn't made publicly available. Even if Canvas site was made publicly available, content is behind a walled garden, and (4) for redundancy if Canvas goes down.

Q: I have not taken a course on Networks (COMP 112), Operating Systems (COMP 111), or Computer Architecture (COMP 40) yet. Is that a problem?

No. Cyber Security is a very broad field and it is impossible for anyone, even professionals, to know everything. What is important for you is to start thinking about Security.

Q: If I am taking this course for professional purpose, can I have a tuition reimbursement letter or certificate?

A: Absolutely! It's a nice tuition reimbursement letter, hand signed!

Q: Is there an archive of a previous course website available?

A: Sure, here is the public course website for summer 2020 semester.

Q: Will this course use ProctorU?

A: Absolutely not!

Q: Will there be guest speakers?

A: You can bet at least one.

Course Policies


Accessibility Statement

Tufts is committed to providing equal access and support to all qualified students through the provision of reasonable accommodations so that each student may fully participate in the Tufts experience. If you have a disability that requires accommodations, please contact the StAAR Center (formerly SAS) [email protected] or 617-627-4539 to make an appointment to determine appropriate accommodations. Please be aware that accommodations cannot be enacted retroactively, making timeliness a critical aspect for their provision. You can learn more about the StAAR Center at

Expectations and Structure of This Online Course

This course will be a fun one for sure. A few notes on the expectations and structure of this course:

1. What this course will NOT have and what I will NOT do:

2. You are responsible for your own learning.

A very important point: if you want everything gone over in lecture or in notes, then this is not the course for you. More importantly, that's not how things work in real life.

3. You will learn by doing.

Each week, there will be at most three labs to hone your skills and to aim at the crux of the matter for the week. Here's an analogy: you don't learn how to cook simply by just reading cookbooks and watching YouTube videos. You learn by making, using your hands, and making mistakes.

4. You will learn by asking questions.

It is your responsibility to ask questions early and to ask for help...

5. ...and I expect discussions online to be very active and civil.

Share thoughts and respond to other people's questions. I will be online constantly. It is no secret that I respond very quickly unless I need to be away.

There is a very good post published by Northeastern University: "How To Be a Successful Online Learner." Link: