6.857: Computer and Network Security (Spring 2016)



Welcome to 6.857!

Welcome to Network and Computer Security! Our first lecture will be on Wednesday, February 3rd, at 11AM in room 35-225 (not 4-270!).


Tim Edgar to lead class on Wed 3/2

Tim Edgar (personal bio) will lead the class on Wednesday (3/2), on the topic of "Going Dark".

As is typical of humanities class, students are expected to do some reading before the class, and consider some relevant question related to the readings. Please do so for this class; here are the issue, readings, and questions:

In the wake of the Snowden revelations and other security threats, more companies and individuals are encrypting their communications. FBI Director James Comey and UK Prime Minister David Cameron have argued that the government needs special access to decrypt them. The FBI raised this issue - which it calls "going dark" - in the 1990's. The problem has been that law enforcement cannot have special access to encrypted data without making it more vulnerable to the very attacks that encryption is designed to guard against.


  1. Read this speech by the FBI director. Does he make a persuasive case that law enforcement faces a problem? What solution is suggested by the speech? FBI Director James B. Comey, "Remarks at the Brookings Institution," Oct. 16, 2014, available at fbi.gov (Links to an external site.)
  2. An impressive roster of computer scientists has objected to any proposal to address the use of encryption by terrorists or criminals with exceptional access by government. Read this MIT report: Harold Abelson et al., "Keys Under Doormats: Mandating Insecurity By Requiring Government Access to all Data and Communications," MIT, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory Technical Report, July 6, 2015, available at dspace (Links to an external site.)
  3. A diverse group of security and policy experts from academia, civil society, and the U.S. intelligence community wrote a report questioning the narrow focus of the "going dark" debate. Read their report: Matt Olsen et al., "Don't Panic: Making Progress on the 'Going Dark' Debate," Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University (Feb. 1, 2016), available at cyber.law.harvard.edu (Links to an external site.)