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.
COMP 116 (undergrads and grads): live sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4:30 - 5:45 PM EST (Tuesdays via Zoom, Thursdays on Twitch)
CSO 116 (Online Master's in Computer Science): live sessions on Wednesdays, 6:00 - 7:15 PM EST (via Zoom)
My office hours via Zoom are on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 - 7 PM EST. The office hours are good from Monday, February 1st to Thursday, April 29th on Sococo.
COMP 15 or Data Structures equivalent course. It is recommended, but not required, that you have taken a computer architecture and assembly language course (e.g., COMP 40). Please disregard prerequisites listed in the University's bulletin as they are incorrect!
Hardware and Software for This Class (on your personal computer)
A modern web browser (e.g., Firefox, Google Chrome, Chromium, Safari, Microsoft Edge)
A command line interface to run Unix/Linux commands
A code editor like vim/emacs/Visual Studi Code/Sublime
Strongly Recommended, But Not Required
A computer with at least 40 GB of hard disk space free and 4 GB of RAM
List of Security Tools That Will Be Used in Course
If you choose not to use a virtual machine, and is comfortable with installing software onto your own machine(s), the following is a list of security tools that will be used in the course. Reasons to not use a virtual machine include: a VM uses too much disk space, your computer does not support virtual machines (e.g., Chromebooks), you are skilled enough to spin your over virtual machines.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thursday, February 4th: Using Kali Linux VM and Command Line
Thursday, February 11th: Packet Analysis Using Wireshark
Thursday, February 18th: Basic Reconnaissance using Nmap
Thursday, February 25th: Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks and Scapy feat John Hammond
Thursday, March 4th: Password Cracking with John the Ripper
Thursday, March 11th: Vulnerability Scanning, Exploitation, Badness-O-Meter
Thursday, March 18th: SQL Injection and Web Proxies
Thursday, April 8th: Really, Really Bad Code and Static Analysis
Thursday, April 15th: Malware, Backdoors, Using VirusTotal
Thursday, April 22nd: Basic Forensics
Thursday, April 29th: The Hard Problems in Security
Topics That Will Not Be Covered In This Course
x86, x64, ARM Reverse Engineering
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is there a textbook for this course?
Q: Are there teaching assistants (TAs) for this course?
Q: Is this course entirely online?
Q: Will videos of live sessions be recorded and made available for those studying remotely?
Q: What are the differences between COMP 116 and CSO 116 versions of this course?
A: The differences between the two versions are:
A final project for CSO 116
Different Canvas websites for grading purposes
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 estimated length and difficulty:
Lab 1: Working with the Command Line, Short (1 hour max) to Long (3+ hours) --you can put in as much time as you want on this lab
Lab 2: Packet Sleuth, Medium (1 - 3 hours)
Lab 3: Scanning and Reconnaissance, Very short (30 minutes). NOTE: This lab cannot be made publicly available because an actual target is used.
Lab 4: Python and the Incident Alarm, Long (over 3 hours) to Impossible
Lab 5: The Password Cracking Contest, If you crack all the password hashes (read: good luck with that), you will receive an automatic "A" in the course
Lab 6: The XSS Game, Medium
Lab 7: Gain Access to Website, Very short. NOTE: This lab cannot be made publicly available because an actual target is used.
Lab 8: The Fuzzer, Short to Medium
Lab 9: The CTF Game, One week --in a team. NOTE: This lab cannot be made publicly available because an actual target is used.
Lab 10: Technical Risk Analysis, Short to Medium.
Lab 11: Android Malware Analysis, Short to Medium
Q: Does this course count towards the M.S. in Cybersecurity and Public Policy?
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:
Accessibility. For students who are visually impaired, using a virtual machine can be very difficult.
Not all students have a capable laptop. Sometimes due to financial reasons, some students use
The tools required for this course can be installed natively on macOS, Windows, and Linux.
Performance. Sometimes, using a VM can be very slow. A VM also do not use native drivers (e.g., for
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?
All labs for a given topic, except for the password cracking lab and CTF writeup, are due on a Sunday at 11:59 PDT.
With the exception of password cracking lab and CTF game, you are granted an automatic extension of 24 hours at no cost (i.e., grace period). A lab submitted after the grace period will not be accepted.
No extension tokens.
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 https://students.tufts.edu/student-accessibility-services.
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:
Require students to meet online during specific times. This course is largely asynchronous online despite having live sessions which are recitation-style.
Require students to physical meet at the Tufts Medford Campus.
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.