CMPSC 443:  Introduction to Computer Security (tentative)

Instructor Information



Sencun Zhu 






IST 338F

Office Hours

T, 1:00-3:00 pm


Sha Liu,

Class Meeting Times/Location  

T, TH,  4:35 - 5:50PM / 109 Walker Bldg.

Course Webpage




CMPSC 473, CMPEN 362, or permission of the instructor

Course materials:   


Mark Stamp: Information Security Principles and Practice, 2nd edition. (e-textbook available through PSU library)


-- William Stallings, Cryptography and Network Security, 4/E, Prentice Hall, ISBN-10:0131873164
-- Slides and papers (TBA)



CMPSC 443 focuses on computer security. Students will learn fundamentals of computer security, formal models of security, aspects of information systems security such as access control, hacks/attacks, systems and programs security, intrusion detection, cryptography, networks and distributed systems security, worms, and viruses, and other Internet secure applications. Students will develop the skills necessary to formulate and address the security needs of enterprise and personal environments. 

A detailed list of a lecture by lecture contents, assignments, and due dates (subject to change as semester evolves) will be available on Canvas.


Course Objective

Upon completion of the course, the students will be able to:

  • Develop an understanding of information systems security practiced in computer operating systems, distributed systems, networks and representative applications. 
  • Gain familiarity with prevalent network and distributed system attacks, defenses against them, and forensics to investigate the aftermath. 
  • Develop a basic understanding of cryptography, how it has evolved, and some key encryption techniques used today. 
  • Develop an understanding of security policies (such as authentication, integrity and confidentiality) as well as protocols to implement such policies in the form of message exchanges. 

Grading (subject to change)

The course will be graded on exams, a course project, and class participation in the following proportions:

  • 24% Mid-term exam (closed book)
  • 25% Final exam  (closed book)
  • 20% Five hands-on labs
  • 7% One  term project
  • 20% Five homework assignments (4% each)
  • 4%   Class Participation
  • Grading Policy: A: 92 and 92 above,  A-: 88-92,   B+: 84-88,   B: 80-84,  B-: 75-80, C+: 70-75, C: 65-70  D: 60-65  F: below 60

Exams and Assignments

  • Homework: Homework should be submitted in hard copy only except otherwise specified by the instructor.
  • Exams: There will be NO make-up examinations unless an official excuse (document) is submitted and pre-approved by the instructor. The exams are NOT accumulative.
  • Project and Labs: The project and each lab include a report. The submission of each report has a due day (see the course calendar). The reports are due to ANGEL dropbox.
  • Late Policy: Starting right after the required submission date of any homework or project or lab report, 10% of the grade will be deducted per day up to four days. NO points will be given to submissions more than four days late. A documented chronic condition which could affect this policy must be immediately brought to the attention of the instructor. 
  • Attendance Policy: Attendance of students to all classes is required unless the cases mentioned blow. 4% of the total grade will be based on attendance and the level of participation. 

Class attendance is one of the most important ways students learn and understand course materials. It is a critical element of student success. Class attendance recognizes on exceptional occasions, students may miss a class meeting to participate in a regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activity (such as Martin Luther Kingís Day of Service, field trips, debate trips, choir trips, and athletic contests), or due to unavoidable or other legitimate circumstances such as illness, injury, military service, family emergency, religious observance or post-graduate, career-related interviews when there is no opportunity for students to re-schedule these opportunities (such as employment and graduate school final interviews.)

In all cases, students should inform the instructor in advance, where possible, and discuss the implications of any absence. Missing class, even for a legitimate purpose, may mean there is work that cannot be made up, hurting the studentís grade in the class. Likewise, students should be prepared to provide documentation for participation in University-approved activities, as well as for career-related interviews, when requested by the instructor. Students who will miss a class in accordance with Senate Policy 42-27, should present a class absence form ( ).

         Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) Statement: Students who experience personal issues that interfere with their academic performance, social development or satisfaction at Penn State are encouraged to seek confidential assistance from Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Center ( They can be reached at (814) 863-0395. Some of the more common concerns they can help with include anxiety, depression, difficulties in relationships (friends, roommates, or family); sexual identity; lack of motivation or difficulty relaxing, concentrating or studying; eating disorders; sexual assault and sexual abuse recovery; and uncertainties about personal values and beliefs. Crisis intervention is available from Centre County CAN HELP ( at 1-800-643-5432, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Ethics Statement

This course includes topics involving personal and public privacy and security. We will cover technologies whose abuse may infringe on the rights of others. Especially, the hands-on labs may contain practical techniques for launching security attacks, although we will practice them in our isolated lab. Note that our purpose is to know the attacks and defend against them. Any abuse of such technology is at your own risk and responsibility. As an instructor, I rely on the ethical use of these technologies. Unethical use may include circumvention of existing security or privacy measurements for any purpose, or the dissemination, promotion, or exploitation of vulnerabilities of these services. Exceptions to these guidelines may occur in the process of reporting vulnerabilities through public and authoritative channels. Any activity outside the letter or spirit of these guidelines will be reported to the proper authorities and may result in dismissal from the class.

When in doubt, please contact the instructor for advice. Do not undertake any action which could be perceived as technology misuse anywhere and/or under any circumstances unless you have received explicit permission from Professor Sencun Zhu.