Hardware Security Spring 2016
Comp 790-132 (Syllabus)
TTh 2-3:15

Cynthia Sturton

Office Hours
By appointment

Hardware sits at the base of any software stack and as such forms the foundation upon which the security of the system rests. In this class we will learn about different ways in which hardware can support software, known threats to the security of hardware, and the latest research on mitigating those threats. Some of the topics we will cover in this class include: Hardware Trojans, Side Channel Analysis, IP Piracy, Hardware Roots of Trust, and Tamper Resistance. 
The class is meant for students who are interested in hardware and systems security. The course will be research focused: classes will be centered around discussion of published research in the security community, students will work on an original research project, and students will write a conference-style paper describing their work.

Research Project

You will work in groups of two on an original research project. At the end of the semester, each group will submit a conference-style paper and give a short (10--15 min) presentation in class describing  their work. We will discuss possible project ideas in class, although you are strongly encouraged to develop your own idea. Project proposals will be due at 11:59 pm on Thursday, February 4th. The final paper will be due at 11:59 pm on Thursday, April 28th.

Paper Reviews and Class Discussion

Paper Reviews:
For each class where you are not leading the discussion, you are required to read the paper and write a review. Reviews can be submitted using the Review Form and are due by 5pm the day before the class session. These are not required when you are the paper leader. Reviews should include:

  • 1-2 sentences stating the main point of the paper. I.e., the problem being tackled.
  • 2-3 sentences describing the main approach and its strengths or weaknesses.
  • Your evaluation of the paper. Think about: is the problem well motivated (is this even an interesting thing to be talking about); does the approach seem reasonable; if any assumptions were made, are the assumptions reasonable; are you convinced by the evaluation that the approach is a good one?
  • Any  questions you have about any aspect of the paper. Questions may be broad and high-level (e.g., Why is security even important in this setting?), detailed and paper-specific (e.g., What is Figure 2 meant to convey?), or anything in between. Questions about background material, vocabulary, or context are also welcome. In fact, any questions that popped into your head while reading are welcomed.
  • Thoughts about what you would do next if this were your research.

Although your written response will be short, the reading will not be quick. You will need to read each paper thoroughly and in-depth in order to write an insightful review and actively participate in the class discussion. 

Website Improvement: 
For each class where you are not leading the discussion, you must also provide constructive feedback for improving our record of the paper discussion. Describe at least one substantial improvement that you recommend be made to the paper leader's overview. These suggestions can also be submitted using the Review Form and are due by 5pm the day before the class session. You are encouraged to mention typos, but full credit requires substantial improvement (e.g. additional terminology/definitions, additional explanations or diagrams that may increase clarity, additions of connections to other papers from the semester, elaboration of additional background information or previous work, or multiple, specific improvements in language to increase clarity). 

Leading a Paper Discussion:
Three times during the semester you will be the leader for a paper. Here is the timeline for deadlines before and after "your class" (i.e. the class in which you'll lead the discussion):

One week before your class: 

  • Read through the paper at least once and create the page and links to your overview. 

IF your class is a Tuesday:

  • Before Thursday's class, post an overview of the paper on the Google sites page.
  • During Thursday's class, give a 5-minute presentation about the paper.

ELSE if your class is a Thursday:

  • Before Sunday at 11:59 pm, post an overview of the paper on the Google sites page.
  • During Tuesday's class, give a 5-minute presentation about the paper.

Before your class:

  • Read your classmates' questions, comments, and ideas.

During your class:

  • Lead the class discussion of the paper.

Within one week of your class:

  • Update your posted overview based upon your classmates' feedback.

Key Dates

Project proposal presentations: 2/9/16
Project proposal due: 2/11/16
Project status report presentations: 3/10/16
Final in-class presentations: 4/26/16
Final paper due: 4/28/16


Final project: 38%
Class discussion & written reviews: 35%
Leading paper discussions: 27%


The design and content of this site were borrowed heavily, with permission, from Prof. Colleen Lewis at Harvey Mudd College.