CS 4274: Secure Computing Capstone (Spring 2022)

This Year's Theme: Cryptographic Privacy-Enhancing Technologies

Course Description

The objective of this course is to explore emerging cryptographic protocols that can be deployed to improve system security and user privacy in the era of big data. The students will focus on (i) investigating recent attacks on the personal encrypted data (e.g., emails, medical records) that can extract significant sensitive information from the users; (ii) designing provably secure cryptographic tools to counter some of these attacks thus, improve the user privacy when the users process their own data stored on the untrusted server; (iii) implementing the proposed designs and evaluating their performance on real-world environments (e.g., databases, cloud computing and storage infrastructures). The students will develop some crypto tools such as Searchable Encryption (SE), Oblivious Data Access, and Secure Multi-Party Computation (MPC), which offer useful data processing functionalities such as query, search, and computation, while preserving the data confidentiality and user privacy all the time.


The course syllabus is available here.

When and Where

Time: M W F @ 12:20 - 1:10 PM (EST)

Location: NCB 110A

Teaching Staff

Instructor: Dr. Thang Hoang (@thanghoang)

  • Office Hours: Tue @ 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM (EST)
  • Location: KWII 2216 / Zoom (link announced on Canvas)

Project Milestones

This course will be project-based, where the students will form groups of (at most) three members to investigate on selected problems in privacy-enhancing technologies.

There will be three project milestones, each at the beginning of March, April and May (towards the end of the course).

For each milestone, each group is expected to deliver the following:
  1. Oral presentation
  2. Project report documenting the progress
  3. Implementation demo

Milestone 1: Each group is expected to deliver
  1. A clear problem statement
  2. Background and related work
  3. A high-level approach to solve the problem
  4. A demo of any programs being developed by the group to get familiar with the problem space
Due: March 01, 2022 - 11:59 PM (EST)

Milestone 2: Each group is expected to address all feedback given by the instructor for Milestone 1, plus
  1. A more comprehensive research methodology
  2. A complete plan for experimentation and evaluation
  3. A preliminary result and demo
  4. A statement of contribution section that clearly describe the contribution of each group member
  5. All new contributions and updates to the project (w.r.t writing, methodology, results) since Milestone 1
Due: April 03, 2022 - 11:59 PM (EST)

Milestone 3: Each group will address feedback from Milestone 2, plus
  1. Final methodology
  2. A complete experimental and evaluation results
  3. A fully Working prototype and demo
Due: May 03, 2022 - 11:59 PM (EST)

Grading Policy

Oral Presentations 30%
Project Reports 50%
Demos 20%
Total 100%

Grading Scale

A(93+)   A-(90-92)   B+(87-89)   B(83-86)   B-(80-82)   C+(77-79)   C(73-76)   C-(70-72)   D+(67-69)   D(63-66)   D-(60-62)   F(50-)

Grading will not be curved! All fractions will be round up.

Late Submission

Late submission can only be accepted if the student can present a police report or a doctor’s note indicating emergency situation.

Code of Conduct

This course strictly follows the VT code of conduct.

Meeting Schedule

The schedule may be subject to change as the course proceeds.
Week Date Topic Notes
1 Jan 19 (W) Intro & Overviewslide
Jan 21 (F) Team up and select your topic
2 Jan 24 (M) Overview of encrypted search and attacks reading list
Jan 26 (W) No class (read papers in the reading list)
Jan 28 (F) No class (read papers in the reading list)
3 Jan 31 (M) Problem statement
Feb 02 (W) No class (work on your problem statement)
Feb 04 (F) Q&A on problem statement
4 Feb 07 (M) Q&A on problem statement (cont.)
Feb 09 (W) Presentation guideline Presentation guideline
Slide examples
Feb 11 (F) Report guideline Report guideline
LaTeX template
5 Feb 14 (M) In-person meeting
Feb 16 (W) No class (continue on your project)
Feb 18 (F) In-person meeting
6 Feb 21 (M) In-person meeting
Feb 23 (W) In-person meeting
Feb 25 (F) In-person meeting
7 Feb 28 (M) Review report & presentation
Mar 02 (W) Milestone 1 presentation
Mar 04 (F) Milestone 1 presentation Report submission due!
8 Mar 07 (M) No class (Spring break)
Mar 09 (W) No class (Spring break)
Mar 11 (F) No class (Spring break)
9 Mar 14 (M) In-class meeting
Mar 16 (W) Meet with *attack* groups
Mar 18 (F) Meet with *defense* groups
10 Mar 21 (M) Meet with *attack* groups
Mar 23 (W) Meet with *defense* groups
Mar 25 (F) Meet with *attack* groups
11 Mar 28 (M) Meet with *defense* groups
Mar 30 (W) Meet with *attack* groups
Apr 01 (F) Meet with *defense* groups
12 Apr 04 (M) Milestone 2 presentation
Apr 06 (W) Milestone 2 presentation
Apr 08 (F) No class (work on you report) Report submission due!
13 Apr 11 (M) Meet with *attack* groups
Apr 13 (W) Meet with *defense* groups
Apr 15 (F) Meet with *attack* groups
14 Apr 18 (M) Meet with *defense* groups
Apr 20 (W) Meet with *attack* groups
Apr 22 (F) Meet with *defense* groups
15 Apr 25 (M) No class (prof. traveling)
Apr 27 (W) No class (prof. traveling)
Apr 29 (F) Meet with *attack* groups
16 May 02 (M) Meet with *defense* groups
May 04 (W) Milestone 3 presentation
May 06 (F) Milestone 3 presentation
May 07 (S) Milestone 3 presentation
(Sat 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM @ NCB 110A)
Report submission due!

Reference Materials

All materials required for this course will be research papers published in respected cybersecurity and crypto venues in recent years such as IEEE S&P, ACM CCS, USENIX Security, ISOC NDSS, PETS, CRYPTO, EUROCRYPT, ASIACRYPT, TCC.

Covid-19 Statement

Since Aug. 10, Virginia Tech has required the proper use of masks by all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, when indoors in designated public areas. That requirement remains in effect for the beginning of the 2022 Spring semester, as part of an ongoing effort to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, the growing challenge of the delta and omicron variants, and to align with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In its ongoing effort to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, the growing challenge of the delta and omicron variants, and a corresponding rise in cases in communities across the country, and to align with the recently updated guidance from CDC, Virginia Tech will continue to require the proper use of masks by all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, when indoors in designated public areas for the Spring 2022 semester.

Both instructors and students, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear face coverings in all classrooms and laboratories.

Masks may be reusable or homemade cloth masks, dust masks, or surgical masks and should fit close to the face to provide thorough filtration of breathed air. Face shields that are open around the sides do not satisfy this requirement and are currently not accepted as a viable alternative by the university (see https://ready.vt.edu/faq.html).

If a student feels that they cannot wear a mask for health concerns and must use an alternative form of face covering such as a face shield, they should contact Services for Students with Disabilities to request an accommodation. No exceptions for masks will be provided unless there is an official accommodation notice provided by SSD to the instructor.

These requirements will not be waived! The instructor has the authority to terminate the class session early if the health and safety requirements are not maintained. Students who fail to follow the requirements will be reported to the Office of Student Conduct.

If the student is exhibiting even the slightest sign of illness, they must not attend an in-person class. Notify the lecture by email and follow the instructions posted at https://vt.edu/ready/health.html#tips.

If a student will miss significant class activities because of the need to self-isolate, then the Dean of Students Office should be contacted for an official absence verification. Prolonged absences may be difficult to make-up. Students should consult with their advisor about possible options if too much course work is missed to feasibly make-up. As pandemic conditions continue to evolve through the semester, these requirements may need to change. The guidance posted by the university at VT Ready should represent the most up-to-date requirements of the university and should be checked periodically for changes.