CS 116: Introduction to Security

Tufts University Department of Computer Science, Fall 2021

Course Description

A holistic and broad perspective on cyber security. Attacking and defending networks, cryptography, vulnerabilities, reverse engineering, web security, static and dynamic analysis, malware, forensics. Principles illustrated through hands-on labs and projects, including Capture The Flag (CTF) games.


  1. In-person, undergrads and grads: in person on Tuesdays, 4:30 - 5:45 PM EST in Braker Hall Room 1; Thursdays on Twitch except for September 9th (first day of class in Braker Hall Room 1)
  2. Online Master's in Computer Science: live sessions on Wednesdays, 6:00 - 7:30 PM EST (via Zoom)



Hardware and Software for This Class (on your personal computer)

Absolute Requirements

Strongly Recommended Requirements

List of Security Tools That Will Be Used in Course

If you choose not to use a virtual machine, and is comfortable with installing software onto your own machine(s), the following is a list of security tools that will be used in the course. Reasons to not use a virtual machine include: a VM uses too much disk space, your computer does not support virtual machines (e.g., Chromebooks), you are skilled enough to spin your over virtual machines.

List of Security Tools That Will Be Mentioned, But Not Mandatory


Course Infrastructure


Topic 1, on Thursday, September 9th
  • Course Introduction - By the end of this week, students will learn many of the fundamental Linux commands, an important skill for any good security practitioner, by playing Capture The Flags via OverTheWire. Students will remember the three principles of the CIA triad, critical to any organization’s security infrastructure.
  • Readings and Videos
Topic 2, starting Tuesday, September 14th
Topic 3, starting Tuesday, September 21st
  • Attacking Networks - By the end of this week, students will perform network reconnaissance and port scanning, and build a rudimentary Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) / intrusion detection system (IDS).
  • Readings and Videos
Topic 4, starting Tuesday, October 5th
  • Cryptography - By the end of this week, students will be able to crack passwords on a Linux or Windows system, use one-way hash functions, and briefly describe how Transport Layer Security works.
  • Readings and Videos
Topic 5, starting Tuesday, October 12th
  • Quiz 1
Topic 6, starting Tuesday, October 19th
  • Web Security - By the end of this week, students will able to perform and defend against the following attacks: Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), SQL injection, Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF), session hijacking, cookie tampering, directory traversal, command injection, remote and local file inclusion. Students will also write a fuzzer to find any software vulnerabilities.
  • Readings and Videos
Topic 7, starting Monday, November 1st
  • The Capture The Flags (CTF) Game Played Online - By the end of this week, students will be able to find and take advantage of a number of vulnerabilities on a live web application.
  • Readings and Videos
Topic 8, starting Tuesday, November 9th
  • Static and Dynamic Analysis - By the end of this week, students will be able to perform static analysis and dynamic analysis scans on software, write a technical risk analysis that is communicated to upper management.
  • Readings and Videos
Topic 9, starting Tuesday, November 16th
  • Malware - By the end of this week, students will be able to describe types of malware, see certain malware behaviors, scan and analyze malware, reverse engineer Android apps to determine if they are malicious.
  • Readings and Videos
Topic 10, starts Tuesday, November 30th
  • Forensics and Incident Handling - By the end of this week, students will be able to acquire data from a disk (e.g., USB drive) using dd, analyze image of disk from `dd` using forensics tools, and recover deleted files off a disk.
  • Readings and Videos
Topic 11, starts Tuesday, December 7th
  • The Future: Nihilism or Hope? - By the end of this week, students shall debate and ponder the hard questions in security, and be able to argue multiple viewpoints.
  • Readings and Videos

Thursdays on Twitch Live Schedule

  1. (From spring 2021) Using Kali Linux VM and Command Line
  2. Thursday, September 16th: Packet Analysis Using Wireshark
  3. Thursday, September 23rd: Basic Reconnaissance using Nmap
  4. Thursday, September 30th: Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks and Scapy feat John Hammond
  5. Thursday, October 7th: Password Cracking with John the Ripper
  6. Thursday, October 14th: Vulnerability Scanning, Exploitation, Badness-O-Meter
  7. Thursday, October 21st: SQL Injection and Web Proxies
  8. Thursday, October 28th: OFF AIR
  9. Thursday, November 4th: OFF AIR
  10. Tuesday, November 9th: Really, Really Bad Code and Static Analysis
  11. Thursday, November 11th: Veterans Day, OFF AIR
  12. Thursday, November 18th: Malware, Backdoors, Using VirusTotal
  13. Thursday, December 2nd: Basic Forensics
  14. Thursday, December 9th: Lessons Not Learned in the Last Ten Years

Topics That Will Not Be Covered In This Course

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is there a textbook for this course?

A: No

Q: Are there teaching assistants (TAs) for this course?

A: No

Q: What is the workload of this course?

A: Here is a list of all the labs with expected length and difficulty:

Q: Does this course count towards the M.S. in Cybersecurity and Public Policy?

A: Yes

Q: Does this course count towards the M.S. in Software Systems Development?

A: Yes. In fact, this is one of the four required courses for the M.S.

Q: Why is using a Kali virtual machine not mandatory for this class and thus strongly recommended?

A: The reasons:

  1. Accessibility. For students who are visually impaired, using a virtual machine can be very difficult.
  2. Not all students have a capable laptop. Sometimes due to financial reasons, some students use Chromebooks. The tools required for this course can be installed natively on macOS, Windows, and Linux.
  3. Performance. Sometimes, using a VM can be very slow. A VM also do not use native drivers (e.g., for networking).
  4. Apple M1 Macs cannot run most Intel x86 virtual machines.

Q: Is Piazza used in this course?

Yes, quite a lot

Q: Why is there a course website and a course Canvas? If you say "it is a nuisance for students to use multiple websites and services for one course", what gives?

This course website serves a few critical purposes. Years ago, I made a decision to make all the readings, slide decks, and most of the labs publicly available. The reasons: (1) to show that Tufts is serious and is working on Cyber Security matters, (2) to provide learning material to the public on Cyber Security as the Cyber Security education problem is very dire, (3) for recordkeeping on what is taught and not taught in this Security class --this comes up often when we speak to industry and organizations who want to work with Tufts on Cyber Security-related matters. The Canvas site for this course isn't made publicly available. Even if Canvas site was made publicly available, content is behind a walled garden, and (4) for redundancy if Canvas goes down.

Q: I have not taken a course on Networks (CS 112), Operating Systems (CS 111), or Computer Architecture (CS 40) yet. Is that a problem?

No. Cyber Security is a very broad field and it is impossible for anyone, even professionals, to know everything. What is important for you is to start thinking about Security.

Q: If I am taking this course for professional purpose, can I have a tuition reimbursement letter or certificate?

A: Absolutely! It's a nice tuition reimbursement letter, hand signed!

Course Policies


Accessibility Statement

Tufts is committed to providing equal access and support to all qualified students through the provision of reasonable accommodations so that each student may fully participate in the Tufts experience. If you have a disability that requires accommodations, please contact the StAAR Center (formerly SAS) staarcenter@tufts.edu or 617-627-4539 to make an appointment to determine appropriate accommodations. Please be aware that accommodations cannot be enacted retroactively, making timeliness a critical aspect for their provision. You can learn more about the StAAR Center at https://students.tufts.edu/student-accessibility-services.

Expectations and Structure of This Course

This course will be a fun one for sure. A few notes on the expectations and structure of this course:

1. You are responsible for your own learning.

A very important point: if you want everything gone over in lecture or in notes, then this is not the course for you. More importantly, that's not how things work in real life.

2. You will learn by doing.

Each week, there will be at most three labs to hone your skills and to aim at the crux of the matter for the week. Here's an analogy: you don't learn how to cook simply by just reading cookbooks and watching YouTube videos. You learn by making, using your hands, and making mistakes.

3. You will learn by asking questions.

It is your responsibility to ask questions early and to ask for help...

4. ...and I expect discussions online to be very active and civil.

Share thoughts and respond to other people's questions. I will be online constantly. It is no secret that I respond very quickly unless I need to be away.