Introduction to Computer Security Fall 2020

This course teaches the security mindset and introduces the principles and practices of computer security as applied to software, host systems, and networks. It covers the foundations of building, using, and managing secure systems. Topics include standard cryptographic functions and protocols, threats and defenses for real-world systems, incident response, and computer forensics. See the schedule for details.

Professors Adam Bates
Ling Ren
Prof. Bates' Office hours: Tue./Thu. 10:00am–11:00am
Prof. Ren's Office hours: Wed./Fri. 01:00pm–2:00pm
Prerequisites Credit in CS 241 or ECE 391
Lectures Tue./Thu.: 11:00am – 12:15pm, 314 Altgeld Hall Online Zoom Classroom
Discussion Sections Wed. 11:00am–11:50am, 1103 Siebel Center for Comp Sci Online Zoom Classroom
Wed. 12:00pm–12:50pm, 1103 Siebel Center for Comp Sci Online Zoom Classroom
Wed. 02:00pm–02:50pm, 1103 Siebel Center for Comp Sci Online Zoom Classroom
Wed. 04:00pm–04:50pm, 1103 Siebel Center for Comp Sci Online Zoom Classroom
Wed. 05:00pm–05:50pm, 1103 Siebel Center for Comp Sci Online Zoom Classroom
Thu. 01:00pm–01:50pm, 1103 Siebel Center for Comp Sci Online Zoom Classroom
TAs Zane Ma
Paul Murley
Joshua Reynolds

Office hours: MWF 5:00pm-7:00pm*
*We will often expand these office hours leading up to MP deadlines. Watch Piazza for details.

Communications We will make use of the following communication methods during this course:

  • Lectures, Discussions, Office Hours: Zoom
  • Lecture and Discussion Recordings: TBD
  • Lecture Slides: This website
  • Class Discussion: Piazza
  • Exams, Quizzes, and Grades: Compass2g
  • MP Assignments: This website
  • MP Submission: You will submit assignments through your own Git repo in a course-semester GitHub organization, created by course staff.
  • Copies of assignments, slides, and other materials will also be available on a course-semester GitHub organization _public repo.
For administrative issues, email to contact the course staff.

Reference Books No textbook is required, but if you would like additional references, we recommend:

Resources Security and Privacy Research at Illinois
Security Course Roadmap


We'll calculate your course grade based on these components:
Programming Projects 45% Four programming projects (11.25% each), completed in teams of two
Quizzes 10% Weekly assignments to check that you followed the week's lectures
Midterm Exam 20% One exam covering material in the first half of class
Final Exam 25% One exam covering all material from the course

Will the course be curved? "Curves" will only be applied to grades as a correction to errors in assignments that were later identified by the instructional team. Errors may be technical in nature (e.g., we ask a multiple choice question that does not have a correct answer), or we discover a question that is unclear or unfair (e.g., through review of student performance on the question).

Challenging Assignment Grades: Many of your assignments will be graded by hand or by automated scripts that we have written; since we are all human, it is very possible that we might make an occasional error. Whenever we release a graded assignment, please review our work carefully. If you suspect than an error was made in grading your assignment, you have one week from the assignment release date to notify the appropriate member of the instructional team and request a review.

Adapting to the COVID-19 Pandemic

As a 300 seat class, the instructional team has determined that it is not possible for us to safely incorporate an on-campus component to our course this semester. We have made a variety of adjustments to ensure that you will have an outstanding and educational experience in CS 461 / ECE 422:
  1. All lectures and discussions will take place in synchronous (real-time) Zoom meetings. If our class time doesn't work for you, video recordings will be made available shortly after each meeting.
  2. To ensure that everyone can follow along with the course in an online format, we have rebalanced lecture content in the class so that more time is dedicated to the subject matter that's proven most challenging in the past.
  3. To ensure that everyone did follow along with each lecture, we will be introducing end-of-week online quizzes to make sure you're keeping up. :-)
  4. We have changed the distribution of work for TA's so that each student works with the same TA for the entire semester, allowing the TA to act as an advocate and guide to the subject matter.
  5. We have introduced additional review time in discussion sections.

Statement on Mental Health

Diminished mental health, including significant stress, mood changes, excessive worry, substance/alcohol abuse, or problems with eating and/or sleeping can interfere with optimal academic performance, social development, and emotional wellbeing. The University of Illinois offers a variety of confidential services including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, psychiatric services, and specialized screenings at no additional cost. If you or someone you know experiences any of the above mental health concerns, it is strongly encouraged to contact or visit any of the University’s resources provided below. Getting help is a smart and courageous thing to do -- for yourself and for those who care about you.

Counseling Center: 217-333-3704, 610 East John Street Champaign, IL 61820

McKinley Health Center:217-333-2700, 1109 South Lincoln Avenue, Urbana, Illinois 61801

Ethics, Law, and University Policies Warning

This course will include topics related computer security and privacy. As part of this investigation we may cover technologies whose abuse could infringe on the rights of others. As computer scientists, we rely on the ethical use of these technologies. Unethical use includes circumvention of an existing security or privacy mechanisms for any purpose, or the dissemination, promotion, or exploitation of vulnerabilities of these services. 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 and possibly more severe academic and legal sanctions.

Acting lawfully and ethically is your responsibility. Carefully read the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a federal statute that broadly criminalizes computer intrusion. This is one of several laws that govern “hacking.” Understand what the law prohibits — you don’t want to end up like this guy. If in doubt, we can refer you to an attorney.

Please review the Campus Administrative Manual (especially Policy on Appropriate Use of Computers and Network Systems at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) for guidelines concerning proper use of information technology at Illinois, as well as the Student Code (especially 1-302 Rules of Conduct, 1‑402 Academic Integrity Infractions). As members of the university, you are required to abide by these policies.

Academic Integrity

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Student Code should also be considered as a part of this syllabus. Students should pay particular attention to Article 1, Part 4: Academic Integrity. Read the Code at the following URL:

Academic dishonesty may result in a failing grade. Every student is expected to review and abide by the Academic Integrity Policy: Ignorance is not an excuse for any academic dishonesty. It is your responsibility to read this policy to avoid any misunderstanding. Do not hesitate to ask the instructor(s) if you are ever in doubt about what constitutes plagiarism, cheating, or any other breach of academic integrity.

Sale or Distribution of Lecture Notes or Course Materials

As documented by 1-302 Rules of Conduct of the student code, "No student shall sell, deliver or distribute copyrighted lecture notes or other course materials without the express permission of the copyright holder. An example of an infraction would include posting on a website or selling instructor copyrighted slides, lecture notes or other expressions fixed in a medium."

Disability-Related Accomodations

To obtain disability-related academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids, students with disabilities must contact the course instructor and the Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) as soon as possible. To contact DRES, you may visit 1207 S. Oak St., Champaign, call 333-4603, e-mail or go to If you are concerned you have a disability-related condition that is impacting your academic progress, there are academic screening appointments available that can help diagnosis a previously undiagnosed disability. You may access these by visiting the DRES website and selecting “Request an Academic Screening” at the bottom of the page.

Sexual Misconduct Reporting Obligation

The University of Illinois is committed to combating sexual misconduct. Faculty and staff members are required to report any instances of sexual misconduct to the University’s Title IX Office. In turn, an individual with the Title IX Office will provide information about rights and options, including accommodations, support services, the campus disciplinary process, and law enforcement options.

A list of the designated University employees who, as counselors, confidential advisors, and medical professionals, do not have this reporting responsibility and can maintain confidentiality, can be found here:

Other information about resources and reporting is available here:

Religious Observances

Illinois law requires the University to reasonably accommodate its students' religious beliefs, observances, and practices in regard to admissions, class attendance, and the scheduling of examinations and work requirements. You should examine this syllabus at the beginning of the semester for potential conflicts between course deadlines and any of your religious observances. If a conflict exists, you should notify your instructor of the conflict and follow the procedure at to request appropriate accommodations. This should be done in the first two weeks of classes.

Emergency Response Recommendations

Emergency response recommendations can be found at the following website: I encourage you to review this website and the campus building floor plans website within the first 10 days of class.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Any student who has suppressed their directory information pursuant to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) should self-identify to the instructor to ensure protection of the privacy of their attendance in this course. See for more information on FERPA.