Security and Privacy in a Networked World/Course Guide

From Wikiversity

A Brief intro[edit]

The SPNW course is developed and taught by Tallinn University of Technology (TUT) as a full-time e-course, i.e. all activities are carried out online (local students are of course permitted to contact the supervisor if they find it necessary). While most TUT courses use Moodle, this one is a little different by using Wikiversity (see a separate writing on the issue).

The course runs during the spring semester (15 weeks) and gives 6 ECTS credits. The course is supervised by Kaido Kikkas. While currently a visiting lecturer, he is an alumnus (all the way from freshman to Ph.D) and former staff member (eight years after graduation) of the TUT Department of Informatics.

The main point of the course is to provide future government officials a basic but (hopefully) rounded set of knowledge about (mostly technology-related) security and privacy issues. They will not be security professionals, but need to interact with them (as well as those hardcore hacker types), receiving information and providing tasks and input. Understanding and respecting each other (while remaining different) is really important - and especially in governing a state. As a not-so-serious but nevertheless apt treatise, see the Hacker FAQ and the Manager FAQ...)

The learning outcomes strive to be as follows:

  • knows the essence of network security and privacy and their main aspects
  • knows the main technological solutions in IT and their applications
  • is able to recognize most common attacks and choose a response
  • knows the common types of risky behaviour, is able to avoid them and advise others to do likewise
  • is able to compile a basic security policy for a company/institution

Note: some topics will probably heat up a lot of discussion. Having a dissenting opinion (also with the supervisor) is fully acceptable as long as it is supported with arguments (not just "it is so because I think so"). :-)

How do we work[edit]

The core of the course are the weekly texts to be studied. Most texts contain a number of web links which are also recommended to visit. In addition, there are tasks for each topic ("Study & Blog") - these should be completed in writing. Everyone should blog them and let the supervisor track them over a newsfeed (RSS) - in principle, private submission over e-mail is also possible but blogging is a better way (especially in this course - responsible behaviour in open online spaces is one of the main points!). There is also a set of recommended literature.

There is a forum where everyone should strive to make two posts about each of the the weekly subjects (noteː both opening a new topic and meaningful replies into an existing one will count). These may be specific (ethical, legal, technical...) questions, interesting cases, thought-provoking quotes etc. And finally, there is a weekly real-time chat session where we can come together and discuss things for about an hour.

While most activities are individual, there is a teamwork too - writing a wiki-based paper in teams of 4-5 people (see below). The details of forming the teams will be discussed as the course begins.

Necessary tools[edit]

First, everyone needs a blog for the course. Seasoned bloggers can use their existing one, setting up a specific subsection (i.e. a category or a tag). Fresh bloggers can create a new one - free blogging services are numerous, the most popular are perhaps Blogger and . The only requirement is support for RSS syndication - it would be next to impossible for supervisor to follow dozens of blogs just from the Web.

Second, every team needs a wiki (or a subsection). Again, it is OK to use an existing wiki. In case of no previous experience, Wikidot is possibly a good choice. Please list your team members at some visible place on the wiki to allow better overview.

Third, we need to register to the Nabble forum. Please register with your full name (or at least something that can clearly identify you among the others) - the more people there are, the more difficult would be to track people by nicknames or first names (e.g. a large course in autumn term 2013 had eight - yes, 8 - gentlemen named Kristjan, four people with family name Sepp and - you guessed it - two guys named Kristjan Sepp).

NB! If there are many people with no previous experience on blogging and/or wiki editing, we'll spend some time to introduce it and also provide some online materials to read.

A note on the texts and tasks[edit]

The weekly texts are not lectures in the traditional sense - rather, they are a starting point for your thinking and studying of the topic. As the course is still relatively new, the texts may change (or rather be added to) during the course, should some relevant events or news dictate it or when a topic appears to be too easy/difficult for the audience. It should not be a problem as the graduation from the course does not rely on these texts at all (as opposed to the traditional way of doing exams) - they are just a resource to help you complete your tasks. This also applies to the weekly tasks.

Another note on using Wikipedia[edit]

The texts can contain links to Wikipedia. Two things should be considered for this matter:

  • Wikipedia (as all encyclopedias) are secondary sources by definition - the principle of 'no original research' is a cornerstone of Wikipedia.
  • Wikipedia (as all encyclopedias) is not infallible. Wikipedia's discussion mechanism is a good tool to improve quality, but sometimes democracy means 'many idiots shouting in unison'...
  • While the articles are usually also worth reading, the real power of Wikipedia lies in its cross-references and especially the literary sources under each article. In most cases, the correct use of Wikipedia is 1. reading the article for an overview of the issue, 2. using the referred sources for deeper study and referral.

Therefore, when writing a paper, only primary sources should be used for reference - straight pointers to Wikipedia articles are generally considered unacceptable in academic settings.

What do we need[edit]

The hardware and software requirements for this course are very modest. In essence, one needs just a computer, an Internet connection (probably the biggest requirement - a broadband connection is preferred as a lot of work will be done online) and a reasonably modern web browser. If standalone documents are delivered (not likely), open formats like OpenDocument, HTML or plain text are preferred over proprietary ones like MS Office documents. Most writing will be done online using wikis, blogs and forum.

What do we have to do[edit]

The main tasks to complete are the following:

1. Write a wiki-based team paper[edit]

The paper should be about 10 pages in total volume (roughly 2-3 pages per participant) and cover any subject within the general limits of the course. The title should be approved by the supervisor before starting to write (not meant as censorship but rather to prevent too wide or too narrow treatises) - so please inform about your team lineup, the location of the wiki and the title your work before starting. The paper will give up to 30 points to the authors (the supervisor reserves the right to distribute points unevenly if there is evidence of greatly different rates of contribution between team members).

The number of team members depends on the overall number of participants, but is generally 4-5 people - enough to facilitate some teamwork.

Teams should be formed in about three weeks from the start - by February 22. There is a separate topic in the forum where you can discuss possible lineups for teams, suggest topics for the paper and find people with similar interests (we can use some time of the weekly Skype chats for this purpose as well). When you have compiled your team, please post the lineup and the wiki location there too!

Note: although presented as a wiki, the paper should retain most qualities of academic writing - source list, references, writing style etc. Wiki talk pages and other means may be used for informal discussion of the paper.

2. Review another team's work[edit]

Now you'll get a chance to say it all... Write a blogged review of about one page on any other team's paper. Evaluate the content, argumentation as well as formal side (references etc). The review gives up to 5 points. Note: while the wiki is a team paper, the review is done individually (in essence, it's just a special blog post). WARNING: there is only a short timeframe (the last week, see the course calendar below) to do it, so plan this specific task well ahead.

3. Write the short pieces listed in the weekly tasks[edit]

These are typically reviews or opinions about different issues. These should be blogged and will result in up to 45 points (up to 3 for each week). Weekly tasks should be completed by the noon (12.00) of the subsequent Monday.

Sometimes, people have asked to send the weekly writings by e-mail rather than blogging. It is possible (although blogging is preferred, in hopes of creating some extra discussion) - please note the supervisor when you want to use this option.

4. Participate in the weekly discussions[edit]

Everyone should make at least two posts about the weekly themes to the course forum and/or take part of the discussion. You can receive up to 24 points here (two per week - you can post more than two times, but only two will get graded). The deadline is the same with the blog tasks - but perhaps a bit more relaxed (you can pick up some older discussions as well).

5. Show up in the weekly chat - and say something interesting[edit]

While this is the least important component pointwise, it will reflect your participation as well as show your general presence in the course. This will give up to 15 points (one per week). Interesting things may include some relevant recent news from your country or institution (we are an international company, after all), an interesting web page you've found, thoughts about the book you just finished etc. However, the weekly topics (as listed on the main page) will have an important place in the chat sessions too.

The time for the weekly chat will be agreed upon at the kickoff meeting. Please use your full name during the chat. People joining later should contact the supervisor via Skype.

Some math[edit]

As you probably have noticed already, 30 + 5 + 45 + 24 + 15 = 119, while the course maximum is 100. This is a feature, not a bug. :-) The point: you will have some maneuvering room between different tasks.

Course Schedule[edit]

  • February 2 - here we go!
  • February 22 - wiki teams should be formed, the weekly regimen becomes stricter
  • May 9 - deadline for team papers
  • May 16 - deadline for paper reviews
  • May 17 - that's it!

In addition, there are weekly deadlines (see above).


In order to graduate from the course, one should collect at least 51 points. The exact graduation scale is quite a typical one:

  • 91 or more - "5"
  • 81-90 - "4"
  • 71-80 - "3"
  • 61-70 - "2"
  • 51-60 - "1"
  • 50 or less - "0"

Note that there will be no formal examination - you will get a grade based on your points reserve collected during the course.

NB! The only apparent downside of such a totally open course as ours is difficulty to provide feedback on grades (those are considered private information, while we don't even have any closed space here). The current solution is to publish a grade table for the time of each chat at the URL given in the chat.

Introduce yourself[edit]

As we are working fully online and likely not everyone has been studying with others before, students are encouraged to write an introductory article in their blogs in order to provide more information about themselves (due to this course being rather new, it would also help to tune the material for the audience!). An "introduction round table" in the forum will also help to get to know each other better.


Back to the course page