CS 858 (Fall 2010) - Hot Topics in Computer and Communications Security

Location and time: MC 2036, TTh 2:30-3:50pm
Instructor: Urs Hengartner
Office hour: Wednesdays 3:30-4:30pm (except for 2nd Wednesday each month, which conflicts with School Council meeting) or by appointment
Reading list
Paper reviews
Presentation reviews


Nov 22, 2010 - Project write-ups are due on Dec 19.

Course Description

Our increasingly networked world and the upcoming of new technologies, such as RFID, trusted computing, or electronic voting, raise many security challenges. The goal of this course is to make students aware of these challenges and to introduce them to current research in computer and communications security. Students will also learn basic principles in security and cryptography. The course assumes a basic knowledge of computers, networks, and distributed systems, but does not assume any prior knowledge of security or cryptography.


The instructor will give several introductory lectures devoted to basic principles of security and cryptography. In the following lectures, two students will each present a research paper and lead a short discussion on the paper. The presentation should be conference-style and take about 25 minutes, which will leave about 15 minutes for discussion. See the reading list for a list of the discussed topics. Each presenter should submit his/her slides before the lecture to the instructor. The plan is to have each student give two presentations.

All students should read one of the two assigned papers prior to a lecture and submit a short review for it. The reviews are due before class on the day of the presentation of a paper. The (anonymized) reviews will be accessible by the other students. The presenter of a paper does not have to submit a review for his/her paper. (He/she should still submit a review for the other student's presentation, see below.)

Giving oral presentations is an important skill that grad students should train during graduate school. Feedback is essential for this training. Therefore, after every lecture, all students should submit a review for both presentations. The reviews are due at 5pm the day after a presentation. A presenter will have access to her/his (anonymized) reviews.


Students will work in groups of two on a project in which they will undertake novel privacy or security research. Possible ideas for projects will be mentioned in class. Students will have to submit a proposal, present their work in class at the end of the term, and write a workshop-quality report. The report should be formatted using one of the ACM templates (option 1 for LateX users). The report should not have more than 10 pages, excluding the bibliography. A PDF of the report should be emailed to the instructor by Dec 19.


Paper presentations 25%
Paper reviews 15%
Class participation (including presentation feedback) 10%
Project 50%
Past Editions

Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity: In order to maintain a culture of academic integrity, members of the University of Waterloo community are expected to promote honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility. All members of the UW community are expected to hold to the highest standard of academic integrity in their studies, teaching, and research. The Office of Academic Integrity's website contains detailed information on UW policy for students and faculty. This site explains why academic integrity is important and how students can avoid academic misconduct. It also identifies resources available on campus for students and faculty to help achieve academic in integrity out and of the classroom.

Grievance: A student who believes that a decision affecting some aspect of his/her university life has been unfair or unreasonable may have grounds for initiating a grievance. Read Policy 70 - Student Petitions and Grievances, Section 4.

Discipline: A student is expected to know what constitutes academic integrity, to avoid committing academic offenses, and to take responsibility for his/her actions. A student who is unsure whether an action constitutes an offense, or who needs help in learning how to avoid offenses (e.g., plagiarism, cheating) or about “rules” for group work/collaboration should seek guidance from the course professor, academic advisor, or the Undergraduate Associate Dean. When misconduct has been found to have occurred, disciplinary penalties will be imposed under Policy 71 – Student Discipline. For information on categories of offenses and types of penalties, students should refer to Policy 71 - Student Discipline.

Avoiding Academic Offenses: Most students are unaware of the line between acceptable and unacceptable academic behaviour, especially when discussing assignments with classmates and using the work of other students. For information on commonly misunderstood academic offenses and how to avoid them, students should refer to the Faculty of Mathematics Cheating and Student Academic Discipline Policy.

Appeals: A student may appeal the finding and/or penalty in a decision made under Policy 70 - Student Petitions and Grievances (other than regarding a petition) or Policy 71 - Student Discipline if a ground for an appeal can be established. Read Policy 72 - Student Appeals.