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In a previous question (How can I keep my programmer collegue informed about security issues ?) there was a statement:

"...and I realise that security topics are often barely known from both the student and the teacher."

It made me wonder what is getting taught.

So what is the state of Security-related teaching in a run of the mill CS program? Are the basics taught? Are more advanced topics taught? Perhaps elective? None at all?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

From the universities I have looked at, the basics are there (to a greater or lesser degree) but as it isn't a focus, there is very little effort put into updating the course material, for example some course material we have seen has code examples containing well known security vulnerabilities. This just isn't going to get rectified onthe low budgets universities have. And as far as advanced topics, you'll need to be on an Infosec related course.

Initiatives such as the Scotland & Northern Ireland Centre of Excellence in Security & Cybercrime are hoping to make a difference by using volunteers from industry to improve the training in order to lead to graduates who actually understand security.

(disclaimer - I am one of the volunteer supporters of the CoE in Scotland)

Edit - to be fair there are a couple of universities in the UK that have excellent security modules but these are normally part of infosec degrees (eg Royal Holloway, Westminster, Napier)

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I was contemplating whether such a thing would fly in North America (Canada specifically). How well is this going for you? – Steve Dec 7 '10 at 18:54
So far so good - corporates are buying in to it, as the expected cost savings on getting a comp sci grad who already knows secure coding are estimated at GBP 50 - 70k. Offering summer placements also has the advantages of getting to see the best students, and also helping the students get familiar with them - both offer cost savings when looking to hire on graduation. – Rory Alsop Dec 7 '10 at 19:31

At Oxford University, security is an advanced, final year option of the computer science undergrad course.

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Security is also covered very well in the relevant classes from this list at UIC. – user502 Dec 7 '10 at 15:34
Oxford also offers a Masters' in Software and Systems Security, so they might be a bit of an outlier. – Tom Hawtin - tackline Dec 7 '10 at 17:44
@Tom: I know, I have their PgC in software security ;). – user185 Dec 7 '10 at 18:09

We had in the bachelors (undergraduate?) 1 security course which covered the basic concepts of security. But in that time I passed the course with a 7 out of 10 without even really understanding what public key crypto was. So you can imagine the level... Software security and secure programming was never really discussed at all.

Then I did a master called Information Security Technology which is a 2 year master program focused on all aspects of security in depth. Imagine CISSP but with much more depth, theory, math and science. I really enjoyed this masters program.

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