05-899 / 08-534 / 08-734 Usable Privacy and Security

Spring 2008: Wean 4615A, Mondays and Wednesdays 1:30-2:50 pm
Class web site: http://cups.cs.cmu.edu/courses/ups-sp08/
Class mailing list: http://cups.cs.cmu.edu/mailman/listinfo/ups

Students in this course may also be interested in joining the CUPS mailing list.

Professor: Lorrie Cranor

Course Description

There is growing recognition that technology alone will not provide all of the solutions to security and privacy problems. Human factors play an important role in these areas, and it is important for security and privacy experts to have an understanding of how people will interact with the systems they develop. This course is designed to introduce students to a variety of usability and user interface problems related to privacy and security and to give them experience in designing studies aimed at helping to evaluate usability issues in security and privacy systems. The course is suitable both for students interested in privacy and security who would like to learn more about usability, as well as for students interested in usability who would like to learn more about security and privacy. Much of the course will be taught in a graduate seminar style in which all students will be expected to do a weekly reading assignment and each week different students will prepare a presentation for the class. Students will also work on a group project throughout the semester.

Required Texts

Readings will be assigned from the following text (available in the CMU bookstore and from all the usual online stores). Additional readings will be assigned from papers available online or handed out in class.

Course Schedule

Note, this is subject to change. The class web site will have the most up-to-date version of this calendar.

Week 1 (January 14, 16): Course overview / Introduction to usable privacy and security

Week 2 (January 23): Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction

Week 3 (January 28, 30): Introduction to privacy / UI design and evaluation

Week 4 (February 4, 6): Introduction to HCI methods and security

Week 5 (February 11, 13): User studies / Project group formation

Week 6 (February 18, 20: Privacy

Week 7 (February 25, 27): Privacy

Week 8 (March 3, 5): Web browser privacy and security

Spring Break

Week 9 (March 17, 19): Trust and semantic attacks

Week 10 (March 24, 26): Authentication and access control overview / text passwords

Week 11 (March 31, April 2): Project progress report presentations

Week 12 (April 7, 9): CHI 2008

Those of you not attending CHI should use the time to meet with your groups and work on your projects

Week 13 (April 14, 16): Biometrics / Graphical passwords

Week 14 (April 21, 23): Access control and configuration / Tools for security administration

Week 15 (April 28, 30): PKIs and secure communications

This class will have no final exam, however, the final exam period May 6, 8:30-11:30 am will be used for final project presentations. Final project papers will be due May 9 at 4pm.

Course Requirements and Grading

You are responsible for being familiar with the university standard for academic honesty and plagiarism. Please see the CMU Student Handbook for information. In order to deter and detect plagiarism, online tools and other resources are used in this class. Students caught cheating or plagiarizing will receive no credit for the assignment on which the cheating occurred. Additional actions -- including assigning the student a failing grade in the class or referring the case for disciplinary action -- may be taken at the discretion of the instructors.

Your final grade in this course will be based on:


Homework assignments for this class will include reading summaries as well as written assignments. All homework is due in printed form in class at 1:30 pm each Monday (unless otherwise specified). Homework submitted after 1:45 pm will be considered late. Homework will be graded as check-plus (100%), check (80%), check-minus (60%) or 0. Late homework will receive one grade lower than it would have otherwise received if it is submitted no later than at the beginning of the next class meeting (after that it will not be accepted). Your two lowest homework grades will be dropped from your homework average.

Students are expected to do reading assignments prior to class so that they can participate fully in class discussions. Students must submit a short summary (3-8 sentences) and a "highlight" for each chapter or article in the reading assignment. The highlight may be something you found particularly interesting or noteworthy, a question you would like to discuss in class, a point you disagree with, etc.

Students in 08-734 and 05-899 are expected to include a summary and highlight for one optional reading of their choice each week. All other students are encouraged to review some of the optional readings that they find interesting, but they need not submit summaries or highlights of the optional readings.


Each student will be assigned a class lecture to prepare and present. The lecture should be based on the topics covered in that week's reading assignment, but it should go beyond the materials in the required reading. Do not present a lecture that simply summarizes the assigned reading. For example, you might read and present some of the related work mentioned in the reading or that you find on your own (the HCISec Bibliography is a good starting point for finding papers), you might present some of the relevant optional reading materials (feel free to use relevant materials from other weeks), you might demonstrate software mentioned in the reading, you might critique a design discussed in the reading, or you might design a class exercise for your classmates. If the material you present describes a user study, include a detailed description and critique of the study design. As part of your lecture you should prepare several discussion questions and lead a class discussion. You should also introduce your fellow students to terminology and concepts they might not be familiar with that are necessary to understand the material you are presenting. You should email to the instructor a set of PowerPoint slides including lecture notes and discussion questions. These slides will be posted on the class web site. In addition, the instructor may include all or part of your presentation slides and notes in an instructor's guide for future usable privacy and security courses.

Students in 08-734 and 05-899 will be assigned all or most of a class period for their lecture. Students in 08-534 will be assigned a time slot of no more than 30 minutes.


Students will work on semester projects in small groups that include students with a variety of areas of expertise. Each project group will propose a project. It is expected that most projects will involve the design of a user study to evaluate the design of an existing or proposed privacy- or security-related system or gain insight into users' attitudes or mental models related to some aspect of security or privacy. Groups with ideas for other types of projects should discuss them with the instructor before submitting their project proposals. As part of the project students will:

Students signed up for 5-899 and 08-734 are expected to play a leadership role in a project group and write a project paper suitable for publication. Unless your group has only 08-534 students in it, that means your final paper should be written in a style suitable for publication at a conference or workshop. The conference papers in the optional readings provide some good examples of what a conference paper looks like and the style in which they are written. In addition to describing what you did in your study, your paper should include a related work section and properly-formatted references. Papers should follow the SOUPS 2008 technical papers formatting instructions, but you may include appendixes that exceed the 12 page limit and do not follow the SOUPS formatting guidelines (indeed, your required appendixes should exceed this limit). If you have identified an alternative relevant conference and would prefer to use that conference's submission format for your paper, please discuss it with the instructor.