Computer Security Concepts


COMP 435, Fall 2020
MW 4:00–5:15 P.M.



Prof. Cynthia Sturton

TAs & LAs


course landing page, announcements, Q&A
lecture videos (asynchronous)
assignments, exams, quizzes, grades
recitation, office hours (synchronous)
queuing for office hours

Course Description

Building secure systems is the responsibility of all computer scientists, not just a few security specialists. To that end, this class aims to foster in students a security mindset—a way of examining any system to find vulnerabilities and assess their effect on security. Along the way, students will learn about the types of security policies one might care about, how attackers can and have thwarted security, sometimes in surprising ways, and what steps computer scientists and engineers can take to improve the security of their own systems. The course will cover aspects of security ethics and privacy and will incorporate discussion of related events in the news.

This class is meant for computer science students who wish to develop literacy in foundational computer security topics. The prerequisites are (COMP 401, 410, and 411) or (COMP 210, 211, and 301). Students who have already taken Introduction to Computer Security (COMP535) should not enroll in this class.

Remote Instruction

The current plan is for COMP 435 to be taught remotely. We will use a combination of asynchronous (posted video for lecture material) and synchronous (video meetings for Q&A, small group meetings, and office hours) instruction. I will post more details here in the coming weeks.


Make CampusWire your point of entry for the course. Announcements, weekly schedules, and pointers to current lecture videos, lecture notes, quizzes and assignments will go there. CampusWire is also the best place to ask a question, whether about course content or logistics. Here are some guidelines.
  • If you are wondering about something, ask a question!
  • Answer other students' questions and refine existing answers.
  • Be polite; be kind.
  • Do not post code or ask others to post code.
  • You may post privately to the instructors, but we reserve the right to make all or part of the post public if we feel the question is of general interest to the class. (If we do this, we won't reveal any personal information about the original poster.)
  • We may post questions on CampusWire that get emailed to the instructors if we feel the question is of general interest to the class. (Same as above.)


There is no required textbook. Students who like to have a textbook to follow along can use one of the following. Using both books is not necessary; suggested readings from each book will be posted for every set of lectures.
  • Security in Computing, 5th Edition by Pfleeger, Pfleeger, and Margulies ISBN: 9780134085043 Publisher: Prentice Hall
  • Computer Security and the Internet by Paul C. van Oorschot. ISBN: 1619-7100 Publisher: Springer

Key Dates

FDOC: 8/10/20
Midterm exam: 10/07/2020 (tentative)
LDOC: 11/17/20
Final exam: TBD


Quizzes: 10%
Assignments: 40%
Project: 15%
Midterm exam: 15%
Final exam: 20%