CSE608 Fall 2005. Advanced Computer Security
Focus: Software Security
The goal of this course project is to give you the opportunity to
explore some area of computer security in detail, to practice
conducting research in computer security, and, with any luck, to
produce a publishable paper on your research.
The first step in conducting research is to identify an open problem
in computer security that you think you may be able to make progress
on. If you have a high-level idea of how you will attempt to solve
that problem, that's even better. While brainstorming about the
problem you're interested in, you should start forming a project team
of 2-3 students with similar interests.
You should submit a project proposal to me before you get too deeply
comitted to one idea. Feel free to come to my office hours and
discuss project ideas with me at any time.
The main artifact you should produce in this project is a 12-16
page conference-style paper describing the problem, your proposed
solution, and any experiments or theorems you have to support your
solution. If you end up with a "negative result", i.e. you try out a
seemingly good idea but it just doesn't work, you should research why
the idea doesn't work and write that up in your paper. For guidance
on style and presentation, feel free to discuss with me or study any
of the papers we'll read in class.
You will also make a 20-minute conference-style presentation in
class about your project. When planning your presentation,
be careful to consider the level of your audience: informed computer
scientists who know a lot about software security but very little
about your particular problem. Try to cover the main ideas from your
project rather than the technical details.
Since this class spans the fields of computer security and
programming languages, your project may be on any topic in either of
those fields. It does not have to be in the area of software
security. You may combine this project with another class project,
assuming the other professor agrees.
- Nov. 1 Project proposals due. Write a one-page summary of
the problem you are trying to solve and the approach you intend to
follow to solve it.
- Nov. 3 Team meeting. Each team should have a 45 minute
meeting with me to discuss your project proposal on this day. Email
me to set up an appointment. I can meet anytime except 3:50-5:10.
- Nov. 29 Progress report. Each team should have a 45 minute
meeting with me to discuss progress and problems in your project.
Email me to set up an appointment. I can meet anytime except
- Dec. 13 Project presentations. Prepare a 20-minute
conference-style presentation on your project for the last day of our
class. Your projects will probably not be complete at the time of the
presentation, but that's ok. Just describe the goals of your project,
what you've accomplished so far, and what you intend to do to finish
the project. You may elect one member of your team to give the
presentation, or "tag-team" it.
- Dec. 20 Project papers due. Submit a 12-16 page
conference-style paper to me on your project. You may submit your
paper by emailing it to me as a
PDF or Postscript file. The submission deadline is 23:59:59, Dec. 20,
although I will accept revised submissions after the deadline.
I encourage you to brainstorm and choose a project that interests you
and, if possible, is relevant to other research you are performing.
Feel free to use one of the following project ideas, or to read them
- Improve an existing security analysis tool. Many of the tools we
have discussed in class are open-source. You can download
CCured, or another
tool of your choice and tinker with its internals. Each tool has
its strengths and weaknesses. For example, for CQual, you might investigate
ways to reduce its false-positive rate. For MOPS, you might look into adding
support for automatically handling function pointers or signal handlers.
CCured and BLAST may benefit most from performance improvements.
- Apply an existing tool to a new security problem. For example,
you might be able to detect integer overflow bugs using
type-qualifiers. Double-free bugs may be detectable using
- Investigate using BLAST-like algorithms to track object state, as
discussed in class.
- Investigate alternative termination conditions for the BLAST algorithm.
- Develop attack techniques to circumvent the protections described
in this paper: Protecting Against
Unexpected System Calls, Linn, et al.
- Compare several cryptographic filesystems based on the security
properties they provide. What properties should they provide?
Do they? If not, implement an efficient encrypted filesystem that
does provide those security properties.