Project 1: Security Incident Tracking (COMP 5407F - Sept.2007)
Due: Monday Oct.15 in class (at the start of class). No extensions. Read these instructions carefully.

Prepare a selective report, summarizing your 4-week watch (Wed. Sept.12, 12:01am through Tues. Oct.9, 11:59pm) of software security incidents reported in the real world. Here software security incidents include any software-related issues affecting user security or perception thereof, including system availability. Begin by determining which web sites, mailing lists, or other resources to use as your primary information sources (see below). For each of the 4 weeks, select one high-profile security incident which, during that week, occurred, was first publicly announced, received major publicity, or appeared on a relevant security incident list. Clearly identify the incident; explain why you chose it (aim for high profile, more serious, or otherwise distinctive incidents as justified by your report); explain the problem in detail (within the space limit - see below), including what was exploited, the mechanism by which the attack succeeded, and (if possible) how the problem can be fixed or worked around.

Format and length: Maximum total length 20 pages (at most 4 pages per incident). The report must be written in a single-column conference research paper format (that is, with abstract, introduction, etc.), with each incident started in a new numbered section, and each of which references the specific sources used (as customary in research papers). Include also a preliminary general section (maximum 2 pages) comparing information sources and recommending which are most helpful. Finish with a concluding remarks section (maximum 2 pages) which summarizes any trends, concerns, your own reflections, etc.

Information sources: Continuously updated lists of high-profile security incidents and vulnerabilities are widely available, and change over time. Past sources have included government-funded cites such as CERT ( and; sites from anti-virus vendors such as Symantec and McAfee; sites from major software vendors such as Microsoft (e.g. at, and the Internet Storm Center ( These are examples only; you may find different or newer sources are superior.

Use your own explanations: Most of this information will be available from online reports. Don't plagiarize. After locating and gaining an understanding of the appropriate information, explain things in your own words with sufficient detail to demonstrate your understanding. Clarify technical jargon, operating system details, etc., sufficiently to allow understanding by a computer science undergraduate. Make explanations as self-contained as possible within the stated limits; include additional background as necessary.

This is an individual project. Read the "Policy re: Unethical Behaviour" on the course web page. Ideas obtained from other students or sources must be cited as such.

Last updated: 3 September 2007 (10:00pm)