My Course at Tufts Next Semester: Security, Privacy, and Politics in the Computer Age

by Ming Chow

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I am pleased to announce that starting next month, the start of the Spring semester at Tufts University, I will be teaching a course entitled Security, Privacy, and Politics in the Computer Age. The course will be offered by the Experimental College at Tufts University. The following is a brief description of my course:

Computer viruses, worms, Trojan Horses, spyware, exploits, poorly designed software, inadequate technology laws, and terrorism: these issues have a profound affect on our daily computing operations and habits. New technological innovations such as file-sharing software and location-based tracking tools also have major political and social implications. Unfortunately, basic knowledge and understanding of the security, political, and social issues concerning the use of technologies is lax, and is a major reason why people are continually affected by computer security breaches and technology misuse. Granted, the problems are only getting worse. Issues including electronic voting, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, location-based tracking technologies, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) will be discussed. This course will also delve into reverse engineering of software, understanding exploits (e.g. buffer overflow, Denial of Service, rootkits, spoofing) and intrusion detection, and how to protect yourself from malicious computer activities. Then, the issues will be put into a global context to answer the question: we have dug ourselves into a deep hole; how do we dig out of it?

This course is open to all, regardless of area of study. No software development or computer programming knowledge is required. Basic knowledge on computer technology and concepts is sufficient. The only requirement is that you are curious on the security, privacy, political, and legal issues in computer technology, and why they are important in society.

I do understand that only Tufts students and neighboring community members can enroll in the class (EDIT, 1/5/2005: ON A SPACE AVAILABLE BASIS). However, I endear to make this course accessible to the general public. Therefore, all lecture notes, news, examples, and assignments will be published to the course's website as soon as they become available. I also envision having a message board for the course, and possibly videos or audio recordings for some lectures --all available to the general public's use.

I am honored to have the opportunity to teach this course not only because of my passion for this complex matter, but to contribute back to my alma mater and to the Computer Science community. In addition, there is a lack of ownership of the subject matter that I will be presenting, a major reason why there is a lack of basic understanding of the security, legal, political issues in using technology.

For more information, please visit the course's (tentative) website at