Defence Against the Dark Arts


Aimed at students who have an interest in technology but are not experts, the module will include “personal” digital safety, but go beyond this and look at principles, enabling students to apply their knowledge to tomorrow’s digital world as well as today’s. We also include aspects relating to industry/management/society. The aim is to make computer security fun and practical, while also being eye-opening and covering base knowledge that will continue to be relevant to future generations of devices.


The aim of this Module is to provide the student with :Knowledge and practical skills in cybersecurity for students whose core modules do not focus on this. It considers the main threats to cybersecurity and personal, technical and societal countermeasures.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  Describe vulnerabilities in computer systems and possible threats arising from their exploitation.

2.  Evaluate and assess methods for defending computer systems and securing data and information.

3.  Explain the significance, underlying science, limitations and consequences for society of cryptography and information hiding

Indicative Content

1 *

Current state of computer security An overview including legal aspects

2 *

Cyber attacks, vulnerabilities and threats Malware, Network attacks (denial of service, packet sniffing etc), bots, rootkits. How the bad guys can obtain your password.

3 *

Information Leakage, recovery and forensics Recovering deleted or corrupted files. What your browser knows about you. Web browser forensics.

4 *

Securing networks, accounts and devices Defence against malware, honeypots, Secure protocols, intrusion detection, Password security, Mobile device security

5 *

Human aspects of cyber security The Psychology of Hackers, Social Engineering, identity theft, Usability vs security.

6 Header 6

Breaking the code An introduction to cryptography, Encryption and Decryption, public and private keys, the key exchange problem.

7 *

History of Cryptography The Caesar cipher, polyalphabetic ciphers, the Playfair cipher, the role of Enigma and the Bletchley Park cryptographers in WWII

8 *

Computers and Crypto Diffie-Hellman and RSA encryption. Phil Zimmerman and “Pretty Good Protection". Quantum Cryptography – Provably unbreakable information hiding. Mathematical Underpinnings – Large prime numbers and why they matter.

9 *

Steganography A picture's worth a thousand words when you're hiding the wood in the trees.

10 *

The Law, Society and Cryptography Why you can be imprisoned for forgetting your password. The Civil Liberties Arguments for and against strong-crypto. International perspectives on information hiding, information freedom, the right to privacy and the conflicts between these. Are unbreakable cyphers an unqualified “good thing”?

Statement on Teaching, Learning and Assessment

The underlying pedagogic method of the module is to deconstruct and expose what appears to be modern black magic to mere mortals (i.e. hacking) thus rendering it powerless. Each week will explore one topic. A one hour lectorial each week will introduce concepts and include short activities. The related two hour computer-based lab session will employ a practice-led, enquiry based learning approach and encourage students to "get their hands dirty" e.g. with making and breaking cyphers and using a variety of software tools. Guided practical explorations of the week's topic will be provided in the form of a worksheet which also invites the students to extend their knowledge with further investigative learning. Staff and 4th year or graduate students will be on hand to help (typically 1 helper per 20 students). While the main form of assessment is via online test(s), a short investigation, carried out in small groups, will give students the opportunity to investigate a topic of their interest in depth; it is suggested that this will be related to their main course of study. Examples: Computer Misuse Act (Law), computer financial fraud (Finance, Accounting), social engineering (Sociology, Psychology), computer security in an ageing population (Nursing) etc. This will be written up as a poster and presented to fellow students and staff in a poster session and include peer review. The rising importance of cybersecurity is reflected in government policy "keeping the UK safe in cyberspace" (see

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Total 200
Lecture 12
Tutorial/Seminar 0
Supervised Practical Activity 26
Unsupervised Practical Activity 0
Assessment 40
Independent 122

Guidance notes

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2019/10 , and may be subject to change for future years.