Introduction to Computer and Network Security
(CMPSCI 460)
Fall 2019, UMass Amherst


Instructor: Amir Houmansadr
Institution: College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) @ University of Massachusetts Amherst
Course number: CMPSCI460
Class hours: TuTh 10:00am-11:15pm
Class location: Lederle Grad Res Tower, Room 123
Instructor office hours: Tuesdays 1:30pm-2:30pm @ room 206 CS building
Instructor E-mail: amir (at) (Note: Please have your email Subject started with [460] in all class communications.)
TA: Arian Niaki ( 
TA office hours: Thursdays 2pm-3pm @ room 207 CS building  
Book: We use Introduction to Computer Security (Matt Bishop) loosely for some readings. Other readings will be assigned during the lectures.
Materials: Lecture notes, assignments, and schedule will be posted on Moodle. Announcements and discussions will be on Piazza.


This course provides an introduction to the principles and practice of system and network security with a focus on both fundamentals and practical information. The three key topics of this course are cryptography, system and network security, and protecting information technology resources. Subtopics include ciphers, key exchange, security services (integrity, availability, confidentiality, etc.), system, network, and web based security attacks, vulnerabilities, exploits, countermeasures and responses. Students will complete several lab assignments experimenting with security countermeasures.

For each class students are expected to thoroughly study the assigned readings (if any). Grading is done based on these items:
  1. In-class quizzes: An undisclosed number of short quizzes will be taken at the end of some of the lectures without prior notice! Make sure to attend lectures and pay attention! If you are not able to attend a lecture, you should email the instructor at latest 10 minutes after the class has started. You can not miss more than three classes during the semester.
  2. Homework assignments: There will be four homework assignments, which will include coding assignments as well.
  3. Exams: There will be two exams.
  4. Presentations (optional): This is optional and has extra credit towards final grade. The number of presentation slots is limited. The volunteer students will work with the instructor to choose topics. Presentations will happen at the end of the semester.
In-class quizzes 10%
Homeworks 35%
Midterm Exam 28%
Final Exam 27%
Presentation 5% (optional)


CMPSCI 377 and familiarity with Unix! CMPSCI460 is for CICS undergraduate students, and CMPSCI597N is for CICS graduate students.


Here are some of the ethical rules that must be practiced by the students. If you are uncertain about an action being ethical please contact the instructor. You can also read UMass's Academic Honesty Policy.
  • Paper reviews must be prepared independently. Students may collaborate on the project if agreed by the instructor.
  • Presentation slides may be borrowed from others (e.g., authors of the papers), given proper acknowledgement.
  • As a general rule, students are not permitted to submit the same work for credit in multiple courses (e.g., a project submitted for another course, or an already published paper). Extensions to previous projects may be accepted after discussing with the instructor.
  • Plagiarism is a serious crime! If you use someone else's result in your report make sure to give proper reference. Exact wording should be reported inside quotation marks.