Students in the seminar will work either alone, or in small groups, on a research project relevant to computer security. Students are strongly encouraged to find project topics that relate to their ongoing thesis research (or that will help them find a thesis topic if they are currently searching for one).

Projects are expected to be research projects. (If you have an idea for a project that is not a research project, discuss it with me early to see if it is appropriate.) Research projects should start by posing a question no one is able to answer today, explain why it is worthwhile to answer that question, and produce theoretical and/or experimental results that help answer that question. Projects should include a summary and analysis of related work, but that should not be the primary focus of your work.

Your project may be on any topic that you can convince the seminar coordinator is relevant to computer security and will be interesting and worthwhile. The scope of your project should be small enough so that you can complete it this semester, but large enough so a successful project will have external impact. Projects can (and hopefully will) include larger issues that will be addressed after the seminar ends to make your results ready for submission to a conference or workshop. The best projects should lead to conference papers. All project proposals should describe work that could lead to a externally publishable paper if successful.



Your mini-proposal should describe the question you intend to answer, and why it is interesting. Your mini-proposal should also explain how the project relates to the research you are already doing (or planning to do). Mini-proposals should be submitted by email (as plaintext or a PDF attachment) by Friday, 25 September.

Elevator Speeches

Imagine you are in an elevator with a very busy, rich and important person. You have ninety seconds (elevators in buildings with rich and important people in them tend to be faster than the one in our building) to convince her your project is so exciting she should read your proposal and consider funding it generously. In ninety seconds you should be able to explain the problem you hope to solve, why it is interesting (to someone not an expert in your area), and what you are doing to solve it. A successful elevator speech elicits a question from the listener after the elevator doors open; an unsuccessful one drives the listener away as quickly as possible.

At any class on or after 29 September, we may pseudorandomly select students to give elevator speeches about your project. Being able to give a good elevator speech may be even more important to your future career in research or industry than being able to do good research and write well, so it is worth practicing this whenever you get the chance.

Project Proposal

The project proposal should include: We expect most project proposals will be about 5 pages long, but there is no strict length requirement or expectation.


All students will be required to make a conference-style presentation about their project. More details on the presentations will be available later in the semester.

Project Reports

Final project reports are due by Friday, 11 December (4:59pm). You should turn in a paper printout of your report at my office and email me a URL for your project report (which should be either .html or .pdf). I will read the paper you turn in, but make the web reports available from the course site.

The final report should motivate, describe and evaluate your work. You may organize your final report into sections as you see fit. It should include (but is not limited to):

Final reports should conform to the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy formatting requirements and should be as concise, clear and well-organized as possible. It would be highly worthwhile to exchange reports with classmates and review each others reports before submitting them. Your report may be posted on the course website (unless you have a reason to object to this).