2023-2024 / INFO0045-3

Introduction to computer security


30h Th, 6h Pr, 10h Labo., 30h Proj.

Number of credits

 Master of Science (MSc) in Computer Science and Engineering5 crédits 
 Master of Science (MSc) in Computer Science and Engineering (double degree programme with HEC)5 crédits 
 Master of Science (MSc) in Computer Science5 crédits 
 Master of Science (MSc) in Computer Science (joint-degree programme with HEC)5 crédits 
 Master of Science (MSc) in Computer Science (Registrations are closed)5 crédits 


Benoît Donnet

Language(s) of instruction

English language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the first semester, review in January


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

The course alternates theoretical lessons with practical ones. Three main themes  tackled during the semester are: cryptography, networking, and system security. The course is organized as follows:

Adminstrative Details


Part 1: Cryptography

  • Chapter 1: Mathematics for Cryptography
  • Chapter 2: Concepts
  • Chapter 3: Symmetric Cryptography
  • Chapter 4: Asymmetric Cryptography
  • Chapter 5: Authentication
  • Chapter 6: Key Distribution
Part 2: Networking

  • Chapter 1: Networking Background
  • Chapter 2: Firewalls
  • Chapter 3: Proxies
  • Chapter 4: Intrusion Detection Systems
  • Chapter 5: Network Attacks
  • Chapter 6: Spam
  • Chapter 7: Virology
Part 3: System Security

  • Chapter 1: Passwords
  • Chapter 2: Exploits
  • Chapter 3: Web Security
  • Chapter 4: Biometry
  • Chapter 5: Access Control

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

The objective of this course is to provide a first vision of the computer security and raise students awareness of computers security.

At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • defend needs of protection and security
  • identify advantages and drawbacks, in term of security, of a computer system
  • expose fundamental principles in the set-to against computer criminality
  • develop a computer-based solution to a security issue
In addition, each student will develop several practical skills related to computer security.  Finally, students will have the opportunity to improve their English skills.

This course contributes to the learning outcomes I.1, I.2, II.2, III.1, IV.3, IV.4, VI.1, VII.1, VII.2, VII.3, VII.6 of the MSc in computer science and engineering.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

Each student is supposed to be able to program with a classic programming language (C - equivalent to course INF0902).

In addition, the student must have a basic knowledge of networking (equivalent to course INFO0010) and computation structures (equivalent to course INFO0012).

To make easier laboratory sessions and assignments, each student should be familiar with a Unix environment (Linux, Mac OS X, Free BSD, OpenBSD).

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

In addition to theoretical courses, several practical sessions are organized in order to illustrate the theoretical lessons.
First, two exercices sessions (cryptography, firewall rules) are proposed (in class).  Second, five labs (cryptography, firewall, network security, exploit, web attacks) are organised.  Those labs are based on VMs (available on the course website) and are supposed to be deployed on students' laptops.   Attending the labs is mandatory
Finally, two assignments (securying network + security news) are proposed over the semester.  Doing the assignmnents is mandatory.
The course is entirely given in English.

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

Face-to-face course

Additional information:

The course is given during the 1st semester. Theoretical lessons are based on slides. The audience is supposed to actively participate to lessons and to take additional notes. If possible, one or several seminars will be organized, seminars in which professional in computer security will give a talk.

Recommended or required readings

Slides are available in electronic version (i.e., PDF) on the course web page. Exercises are also available on the web page. Students are supposed to have, before each lesson, the slides and exercises.  Lab and assignment subjects and VMs are made availabe on the course web page.

None book is mandatory. However, for students willing to go further, those books might be a good starting point (additional references are also provided in the slides):

  • N. Ferguson, B. Schneier, T. Kohno.  Cryptography Engineering: Design Principles and Practical Applications.  Ed. Wiley.  2010
  • B. Schneier.  Applied Cryptography: Protocols, Algorithms, and Source Code in C.  Ed. Wiley. 2015
  • M. T. Goodrich, R. Tamassia. Introduction to Computer Security. Ed. Pearson. 2010.
  • Wm. A. Conklin, G. G. White, C. Cothren, D. Williams, R. L. Davis. Principles of Computer Secrutiy. Security+ and Beyond. Ed. Mc Graw Hill Higher Eduction. 2004.
  • W. Stallings. Computer Security: Principles and Practice. Ed. Prentice Hall. 2011.
  • W. Stallings. Cryptography and Network Security: Principles and Practice. Ed. Pearson. 2010.
  • G. Avoine, P. Junod, P. Oechslin. "Computer System Security".  EPFL Press.  2007.
  • D. Vergnaud.  "Exercices et Problèmes de Cryptographie".  Editions Dunod. 2012.
  • W. Du.  "SEED: A Suite of Instructional Laboratories for Computer SEcurity EDucation". In Proc. ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education.  March 2007.

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

oral exam

Written work / report

Continuous assessment

Additional information:

Students are graded in two ways: continuous evaluation (55% of the final grade) and oral exam (45% of the final grade).

Continuous Evaluation

During the semester, students will be evaluated several times

  • Lab Reports.  A short report is expected at the end of each lab (a simple text file to fill in).  Those reports must be done individidually.  5 labs are scheduled, each of them accounting for 5% of the final grade
  • Assignment 1. this is about securying a network through NATs and firewalls configuration in iptables.  This assignment must be done by teams of two and counts for 15% of the final grade.
  • Assignment 2. each team (same as for Assignment 1) is required to give a 5 minute short presentation (+ 5min Q/A -- all in English) on recent information security related news published online (or in classic newspapers) after September, 18th, 2017.  The score will be given based on (1) the relevance of the news to the course; and (2) the cogency of the presentation. This assignment counts for 5% of the final grade.
Those continuous evaluations (assignments and lab reports) are all mandatory in order to access the oral exam.  In case of missing one (or more) of them, the student will not be allowed to present the exam and will get an absence grade.

Oral Exam

It is about the theoretical part of the course. Any student randomly selects one question and prepares its answer on the board. It counts for 55% of the final grade.


In case of failure in June, a student must:

  • improve Assignment 1 if the grade is below 10/20.  This must be done individually.  Assigment 1 will count for 15% of the final grade.  Note that if the assignment grade during the semester was above 10/20, the grade is automatically reported in the resit.  No support (Q/A, explanations) will be provided during the summer.
  • assignment 2 does count in the resit (there is no report neither improvement possible)
  • lab reports are taken into account if they turn to student advantage (i.e., lab report grades > oral exam grade).
  • the oral exam must be redone. It accounts either for 85% (no lab reports) or 60% (lab reports grades are integrated in the final grade)

Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course

The course is given during the first semester.


Coordinator/Lecturer: Benoit Donnet -- Office 1.87b (B28)

TA: Justin Iurman -- Office 1.75 (B28)

Association of one or more MOOCs