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MSc in Cyber Security

New for 2016: Department of Computer Science Postgraduate GCHQ MSc Cyber Security Bursary. Follow this link for more information.

Overview and contacts

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For general information:

Virginie Harrison
Postgraduate Admissions Administrator

Tel: +44 (0)1904 325404
Fax: +44 (0)1904 325599
E-mail: postgraduate@cs.york.ac.uk

For informal discussion:

Dr Howard Chivers
Course Leader

Tel: +44 (0)1904 325404
E-mail: howard.chivers@york.ac.uk

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MSc in Cyber Security receives stamp of high quality through GCHQ certification

Course overview

  • This course is available full-time over one year, or part-time over three years.
  • It is made up of 8 assessed modules taught in week-long blocks and an individual project module.
  • This course is suitable for those with a Computer Science related degree and is for those students who already possess a strong computer science, software engineering or information technology background.

Security of our systems is one of the most challenging topics of our time. There is an international consensus that the level of security skills will have to be increased in order to respond to the number and sophistication of threats we face.

Our new MSc in Cyber Security is a forward-looking course that gives you the skills and knowledge you need in the core areas of cyber security. It emphasises the important technical material that will help you make effective cyber security decisions, and addresses issues such as:

  • Identity
  • Trust and reputation
  • Cryptography
  • Network security
  • Malware and intrusion detection
  • Risk management
  • Development of high assurance systems

If you are looking to follow a career in industry or government, this course will provide you with a broad education in cyber security, that allows you to make technically informed principled decisions. This course will also prepare you if you are seeking a research career in cyber security - a research skills module is a mandatory part of the course.

It has been designed for students who already possess a strong computer science, software engineering or information technology background who want to broaden their knowledge about the specific challenges in cyber security and of possible solutions to those challenges.

You can also choose to apply for an internship, which will begin once your course has finished. Find out more about the scheme.

Watch our video on Cyber Security

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stvSZGTXEQE Cannot see the video? Watch on Youku logo

Course structure

The MSc in Cyber Security is offered as a one-year full-time course, or can be taken part-time over three years.

The first half of the course is taken up by taught modules. Each module comprises a mix of lectures, problem classes and practical classes, plus a personal study time. In the second half of the course, students undertake an individual research project under the supervision of a member of staff.

Course aims

  • To educate students in the theories, principles, practices and technologies of cyber security.
  • To provide the knowledge and understanding of the principles underpinning effective approaches to cyberdefence.

Learning outcomes

When you graduate from the MSc in Cyber Security, you will have developed a detailed understanding of the fundamental aspects of cyber security. The course emphasises the important technical material that must be understood in order to make effective cyber security decision making.

You will understand extant threats to current and emerging system types, and understand and be familiar with a range of technologies that can be brought to bear to reduce risks.

This course will equip you for a career in industry or government, particularly in strategic cyber security decision making, or if you are seeking a research career in this area.

Attendance

Full-time taught postgraduate courses run for 12 months from the start of the academic year in October.  Students on these courses are expected to be in attendance at York for the full 12 months, except for when the Department is closed. Please contact the Postgraduate Admissions Administrator for more details.

Modules

Course components  -  2016/2017

Click on Module TitleModule TitleTermShort Description
Identity, Trust, Reputation and their Applications Autumn Addresses issues such as how to reliably identify agents and their communications, and whether we can depend on such agents to provide services or keep promises.
Cryptography Theory and Applications Autumn Examines the design, analysis and implementation of cryptographic primitives and services. This module also addresses issues of key management infrastructures.
Networks and Communications Security: Threats, Attacks and Countermeasures Autumn Gives a broad understanding and knowledge of network security, addressing threats over a range of sophistication levels.
Malware and Other Malfeasance Autumn Provides an understanding and knowledge of how malware, such as viruses and worms, actually work, and how to detect them. This module also investigates the principles and practices of intrusion detection.
Cyber Security Research Skills Spring Covers aspects of being a successful researcher in cyber security. The module includes participating in a mock cyber security conference, giving appropriate critical feedback, communicating cyber security issues to a variety of audiences and writing cyber security research proposals.
Widers Aspects of Cyber Security Spring Covers technical topics of wider cyber security according to current industrial issues in the discipline.
Rigour in Secure System Development & Assessment Spring Addresses the context for secure systems including security management and legal issues, together with rigorous approaches to assurance in such systems. 
Forensic Analysis of Cyber Incidents Spring Provides an introduction to computer forensic analysis, to understand the disciplines and processes required to obtain and preserve evidence, and the practical skills necessary to conduct and report a basic forensic examination. This takes place in the context of security incident response, and includes both the examination of computers which may have been the origin or victim of unwanted user action, and also the preliminary investigation and classification of malware.
Independent Study Module - Cyber Security Individual Project Summer Term & Vacation The dissertation project undertaken by students over the summer is carried out individually, supervised by a member of academic staff. Though many projects may follow naturally from the taught material, projects may also investigate suitably challenging topics outside that material. The outputs from this module are a project dissertation together with a conference paper length summary of the work.

Personal Tutor

You will have a personal tutor and will be part of a tutorial group, usually comprising of five or fewer students. Your personal tutor provides academic and pastoral advice throughout your course. When you undertake your individual project, you will be allocated a supervisor within your area of interest, so your supervisor may then change.

Assessment

All taught modules on the MSc in Cyber Security are examined by open assessments. The assessment paper is published at the end of the week of teaching, and you will be required to submit your answers typically four weeks later. This type of assessment allows you to engage with the research literature and gives us the chance to assess your practical skills.

Once you have successfully completed the taught modules, you will undertake an extensive individual project. Here you will work on an indentified cyber security topic, and document the results in a report. Additionally, you will be required to precis the project report in a conference style paper.

Assessments will take place at various times during the year. Practical exercises, reports and other forms of open assessment will be due either during the course module or just after its completion.

Timescales, Modules and Project Descriptions may be subject to change.

Internship scheme

You can also choose to apply for one of our internships, which begin after you have completed your individual project. Find out more about the scheme.

Project

Overview

The dissertation project undertaken by students over the summer is carried out individually, supervised by a member of academic staff. It may involve working with an external organisation. Students are also encouraged to work with academic staff to create projects of interest to them.

All projects are vetted to ensure suitability for the MSc. Provided academic criteria are met, there is considerable flexibility in the choice of cyber security topics for the project. Though many projects may follow naturally from the taught material, projects may also investigate suitably challenging topics outside that material.

The outputs from this module are a project dissertation together with a conference paper length summary of the work.

Projects are worth 5/9 of the total mark for the MSc.

How to apply

Watch our video on Cyber Security

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stvSZGTXEQE

Cannot see the video? Watch on Youku logo

Suitability and Entry Requirements

Typically, you will have achieved at least an upper second class honours degree (or international equivalent) in a computing-related discipline. The course has been designed for students who already possess a strong computer science, software engineering or information technology background.

We are willing to consider applications from those who do not fit this profile.  We will, for example, consider applicants who do not have an appropriate qualification but have appropriate industrial experience.

How to Apply

For more information about completing your application, please take a look at the University’s webpages which tell you how to apply.

In particular, please take note of the supporting documents we need to see in order to be able to make a decision about your application.  You are also required to nominate a referee who should be from your current employer or place of study.

You can apply through our online application system (SELECT).

While there is no official closing date for applications, early application is advised.

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Studentships

We have a Taught Masters Scholarship that applicants holding an offer for one of our taught MSc courses can apply for. Find out more about the award

Did you know that we offer our MSc students a continuation scholarship? Should you decide to stay and study for a PhD after you graduate, you could be eligible to have your fees paid. Check out the details of the award.

International Students

Cyber security is a global issue, and this is reflected in the significant interest in our MSc from students in the UK and from around the world. York welcomes international participation in all of its courses.

If English is not your first language, or your first degree was not taught in English, then you will need to have attained a suitable language qualification no more than two years before the start of the course. 

The University's Postgraduate Study webpages will tell you more about the English language requirements for graduate students.

Information for students

Being prepared for your MSc in Cyber Security at York

This MSc teaches a wide range of Cyber Security skills. In order to maximise the security content, we assume that you already have a background in computing and networks, and have some practical skills that will allow you to carry out a project in Cyber Security.

Computing

You will need to write simple programs in any current programming language (eg Java, Python, C/C++, C#) and understand how files are organised and structured in a modern operating system.

Actual programming is required only for the cryptography module. This is an exercise in understanding rather than programming: if you implement a cipher and an attack, then you will know the detail of the cipher and the attack. The programs involved are small (eg 200 lines of code) and only require basic language features and a knowledge of bitwise operations. You are not required to engage in formal software engineering activity, nor will you need to use advanced language libraries (eg user interfaces or cryptography).

If your programming skills are rusty, then the easiest way to prepare is to work through a Python tutorial. A good online interactive book which teaches core ideas and terminology, as well as Python, is How to Think Like a Computer Scientist.

For those with existing language skills, The Python Tutorial is a valuable reference.

Networks

In order to understand how network attacks work and how they can be detected and defended, you need to understand basic network protocols such as HTTP, TCP/IP, ARP and DNS.

You do not need to know more than is usually covered in an undergraduate computer course. To help you decide if you need to do some reading in advance, we provide a detailed reading guide in PDF format which includes some questions that you should be able to answer. (If you can answer the questions without doing the recommended reading, then you already know enough!)

MSc Cyber Security Network Pre-reading (PDF  , 190kb)

Projects

Practical work is an important way of consolidating your knowledge and the Cyber Security project is a major part of the course. Usually, the project involves the implementation and testing of a Cyber Security idea or problem and this requires some practical computing skills. The skills required for past projects have ranged from system-level programming (novel intrusion detection) to the configuration and testing of a network simulator using simulators as part of a honeynet.

Projects may include basic programming, the creation of specialised websites, various forms of scripting and the configuration of systems or networks to test your ideas. You do not need all these skills but a combination of programming or scripting with some ability to configure systems would provide you with a wide choice of possible projects.

Residency requirements - 2016/17

Due to the intensive nature of the course, students are required to be in York during the following periods:

  • 26 September 2016 - 2 December 2016 (Autumn term)
  • 9 January 2017 - 17 March 2017 (Spring term)
  • 18 April 2017 - 25 September 2017 (Summer term and vacation)

However, it should be noted that the MSc is full time. Even outside these periods, you will need to continue working, whether or not you are in full attendance.

The taught modules will take place in the Autumn and Spring terms. During your break between these two terms, you should expect to be working on open assessments and preparing for your exams in January.

Work on your individual project will start at the beginning of April, and you will receive regular one-to-one supervisions throughout the Summer Term. You will continue to work on your individual project over the Summer term and the vacation, when there will be continuing supervision and research-group meetings where your project can be discussed. You will finish the course when you hand in your dissertation and paper for your project in September.

Internship scheme

You can also choose to apply for one of our internships, which begin after you have completed your individual project. Find out more about the scheme.

Careers

Careers

Here at York, we're really proud of the fact that more than 97% of our postgraduate students go on to employment or further study within six months of graduating from York. We work closely with industry to ensure that what we teach is up to date, and our courses are valued by both employers and academia.

So where do our students go once they leave York?

Pie chart showing the industry destinations of Computer Science postgraduates

Internship scheme

Improve your employment prospects by applying for one of our internships, which begin after you have completed your individual project. Find out more about the scheme.