Detailed Course Description

Course Information

ECS 289M, Introduction to Research in Computer and Information Security

This course engages students in national cybersecurity and information systems security problems. Students will learn how to apply research techniques, think clearly about these issues, formulate and analyze potential solutions, and communicate their results. Working in small groups under the mentorship of technical clients from government and industry, each student will formulate, carry out, and present original research on current cybersecurity and information assurance problems of interest to the nation. This course will be run in a synchronized distance fashion, coordinating some activities with our partner schools and our technical clients.


Each student must have the ability, background, and motivation to carry out original research in cybersecurity and information assurance. Students may come from computer science, computer engineering, or any related technical field such as electrical engineering, information systems, math. Students are expected to have a good background in computer science and some knowledge of computer security. Each student is expected to bring significant expertise, interest, and experience in at least one relevant technical area.

Course Work

Working in teams, each student must complete a research project on a focused topic in cybersecurity. The project must aim to accomplish new, significant results; survey papers are not acceptable. Each student must communicate his or her findings in an oral presentation to the class and in a written report in the format of a computer science technical report of about 10–20 pages. Every aspect of the project, including proposals, reviews, reports, and presentations, is intended to match the process that professional computer science researchers follow in carrying out original research.

Project topics may come from lists of problems supplied by government or industrial partners. All proposals must be approved by the instructor.

The main deliverables are a written technical report and an oral presentation describing the team’s new and significant findings. These are to be similar in form and length to those from technical research conferences such as USENIX Security. The teams and technical mentors may agree on other deliverables as well. Each student is expected to participate actively in class.

Group Work

Students are allowed and encouraged but not required to work in groups of up to at most four members. Typically, everyone in a group will receive the same grade.

Expected Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be expected to:

  1. Be familiar with important current cybersecurity challenges;
  2. Think clearly about cybersecurity issues;
  3. Formulate and analyze potential solutions;
  4. Work cooperatively in groups; and
  5. Communicate results effectively in a technical report and oral presentation.


This course rests in part on the following principles.

  1. Collaboration — among industry, government, and different universities — can facilitate learning and the advancement of science and technology.
  2. All course activities and deliverables model those of professional cybersecurity researchers.
  3. Excellent research bridges both theory and practice.
  4. All participants in the course are expected to conduct themselves in their speech, behaviors, and computer interactions with integrity and with respect for others.
  5. A connected research network enables researchers of all experience and expertise levels to find solutions to real-world classified and unclassified cybersecurity problems.


In addition to Canvas, we will be using the Purdue University Research Repository (PURR) to make our work available to other groups, both this year and for future years. So, when you are to submit work to PURR, please prepare it as though you were going to publish it.

Here is some useful information about PURR:

You will need an account on PURR to access these. Please send the instructor your name and email so the co- ordinators can provide you with one.


There are both written assignments and presentations. These, and when they are due, are given in the syllabus, and we will discuss them in class. All of them must be uploaded to Canvas.

In addition, the four main deliverables are to be uploaded to both PURR and Canvas. They are:

  1. Bid (background and interests disclosure)
  2. Proposal
  3. Progress report, presentation slides, and presentation
  4. Final report, presentation slides, presentation, and poster


Along with each assignment, we will make the rubric used to grade that assignment available. Typically, it will be on the assignment itself.

The assignments are expected to be weighted as follows:

First Quarter (Winter 2018) Assignments and Weighting

AssignmentWeight  AssignmentWeight
Projects of interest5%  Literature review10%
Summary of papers5%  Literature review presentation5%
Project bids10%  Progress report20%
Paper presentation5%  Progress report presentation10%
Project proposal15%  Weekly progress reports10%
Project proposal presentation5%  

Second Quarter (Spring 2018) Assignments and Weighting

AssignmentWeight  AssignmentWeight
Final report40%  Final poster20%
Final presentation16%  Weekly progress reports24%

The project will be evaluated on the basis of scientific merit, effective presentation, and appropriateness to the assignment:

Please submit all your work to Canvas and, where indicated, to PURR. I will grade it and return the grades, with my comments, on Canvas.

Deadlines and Penalties for Late Work

Late work affects others. Peer review is an important aspect of the course, and peer review requires coordinating schedules, including among different universities. Some projects may depend on other projects. To complete the project by the end of the term, it is important to complete each milestone on time. Professional researchers often have deadlines to meet.

If you are one day late, there will be no penalty other than the opprobrium of the instructor and your fellow students. If you are more than one day late, I reserve the right to deduct points — the exact penalty has not yet been determined, but will probably be something like 20% from the full score per day late.

Should you encounter an unanticipated or uncontrollable event that may prevent you from meeting a deadline, please let me know immediately, and request an extension.

Expectations for All Work

One of the course outcomes is to communicate effectively with professional audiences of various types. This requires that one take personal pride in their work, and be held accountable for professional quality work. To this end, I expect your submitted work to meet the following requirements.

Matt Bishop
Department of Computer Science
University of California at Davis
Davis, CA 95616-8562 USA
Last modified: February 7, 2018
Winter Quarter 2018
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