CS 378: System Security - Fall 2016

Faculty Lead: Professor Calvin Lin and Professor Mohit Tiwari.
Research Educator: Ashay Rane.
Teaching Assistant: Chris Sun.
Class meets on Fridays from 10am to 11am in GDC 5.304.

Past Instances

Spring 2015 course webpage.
Fall 2015 course webpage.
Spring 2016 course webpage.

Office Hours

Calvin LinMon Wed 3:30-4:30pmGDC 5.512
Mohit Tiwariby appointmentPOB 6.240
Ashay RaneTue, Thu: 1:30-2:30pmGDC 5.440
Chris SunWed 2-3pm
Fri 12-1pm
GDC 5.440

Course Overview

This course will explore a series of core security principles and concepts from the perspective of both the attacker and the defender, as students are exposed to tools and techniques used in modern attacks and defenses. Students will develop a variety of research skills, as they learn to read research papers critically, to communicate technical ideas clearly, and to conduct experiments thoughtfully.

Pre-requisite: Students are required to have taken CS 314 (or CS 314H) before enrolling in this class.

Course Structure

This course will require you to regularly read research papers, critique research ideas and implementations, work on projects, participate in in-class discussions, learn new material on your own, and work hard towards solving challenging problems.

You will work in groups of two (or at most three). You may also choose to work individually. Each week, we will meet twice -- once for reading and discussing a research paper and the second time for reviewing project progress and obtaining feedback.

Reading Material

Assorted technical papers, roughly one per week (there is no textbook).

Reading Assignments

We will read, review, and discuss a number of papers in this class. Links to papers and the review deadline will be posted on Canvas. Reviews of assigned papers are due at 5pm on the day before class. Of course, you need not wait until 5pm to turn in your reviews.

These responses do not have to be long (though sometimes they may be), but they should be thoughtfully prepared. In particular, the responses can contain many different types of remarks:


To gain first-hand experience in doing research, you will be required to work on an actual research project. While the instructors will suggest project ideas, you are highly encouraged to propose a project that you are most interested in. Please finalize the project idea and send a draft to the instructors explaining the problem and your proposed solution by Thursday, 8th September.

We will also meet once every week outside of the usual class time to discuss project progress and/or any obstacles. You are encouraged to provide constructive feedback to other groups, as they describe their progress and challenges.


With the objective of enhancing technical communication skills, each project group will be required to deliver three short presentations. The first presentation, in the form of an elevator pitch, should explain the problem and the key ideas of the proposed solution. The second presentation, held around the middle of the semester, should describe the current progress. You will be allowed to use the white board for this presentation. The third and final presentation, delivered using slides, should describe the final results. Each group member is expected to deliver at least one of the three presentations.

Grading Policy

Class participation and readings: 40%.
Projects: 35%.
Presentations: 25%.

Late submission policy: 10% reduction in the grade per day.

Attendance will not count towards your grade. The overall course grade will be a letter grade, as per the standard UT grade scale.


Use of Piazza for class discussions is highly encouraged, and if you haven't signed up already, please sign up here. Important updates will be delivered via Piazza. Using Piazza also helps the instructors in answering questions that may be of interest to more than one student, without individually replying to each email. Please note that by default, everything you post on Piazza will be visible to the other students as well. This is desirable in many cases but not all the time. If you want to discuss your solution (or anything that may give a hint of the solution) with the instructors, please ensure that you select “Instructors” in the Post to section.

Student Code of Conduct

UTCS lists the code of conduct here, which lists the department's expectations from you and what you can expect from the department. If you have any questions or concerns, please ask!

Religious Holiday Accommodations

By UT Austin policy, you must notify the instructors of your pending absence at least fourteen days prior to the date of observance of a religious holy day. If you must miss an assignment in order to observe a religious holy day, you will be given an opportunity to have a deadline extension.

Students with Disabilities

The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at (512) 471-6259.