The University of Sheffield
Department of Computer Science

COM6013 Cybersecurity and AI Dissertation Project

Summary For their individual project, students can choose from a wide range of possibilities in many different environments both within and outside the University. The project is completed during the summer, and each student will have a personal academic supervisor to guide them during this period. The individual project is examined by a dissertation based on the project work and an oral examination. This module has been designed for students taking the MSc Cybersecurity and AI programme. The topic will be at the interface of Cybersecurity and AI. This provides a significant element of "glue" bringing together the two areas that make up the programmes.
Session Grad Year 2021/22
Credits 60
  • Assessment of the module is by a dissertation that is produced towards the end of the second semester, complemented by a presentation session where the work done is to be demonstrated and questions answered. If considered appropriate by the examiners an oral examination may be held.
Lecturer(s) Various

This unit aims to:

  • A1 develop the student's research skills in the context of a challenging problem of their own choice. The topic will combine aspects of cybersecurity and AI
  • A2 develop the student's advanced technical knowledge and skills in the areas relevant to the project
  • A3 develop the student's professional skills and contextual knowledge (e.g. social, ethical, and legal considerations
  • A4 develop the student's written and oral presentation skills
  • A5 develop the student's ability to receive criticism and engage in constructive discussions about their work.

By the end of the unit, a candidate will be able to:

LO1 research the background to a challenging research problem in cybersecurity. Specifically: a) survey relevant literature and comment critically on it b) identify/confirm an original and challenging research question (or questions) to be addressed and appreciate the feasibility of doing so within the time available on the project;
LO2 plan, monitor and possibly re-plan work according to progress made;
LO3 identify what needs to be done to answer the research question(s), and to identify and evaluate appropriate approaches and techniques to be used to develop the solution (i.e. identify an appropriate methodology), and then synthesise a solution. It includes developing understanding of the capabilities of available resources (such as tools and techniques) and whether they suffice to underpin a solution as well as the identification of a specific solution path. Note: methodology must take into account ethics and other contextual considerations. The student will be able to justify any decisions and choices made.
LO4 demonstrate competence in using appropriate solution tools;
LO5 evaluate work done in an appropriately rigorous manner and use the results to draw appropriate conclusions or inform further work. This will include, for example, identification of evaluation criteria, testing or analysis of artefacts developed (e.g. software), demonstration of reasonable experimental practices, critical review of assumptions made, appreciation of threats to validity, drawing evidenced conclusions, and identification of future work;
LO6 demonstrate an appreciation of the professional, social, ethical, legal and other contextual considerations that apply to the work they have done. Note the area of Cybersecurity raises interesting contextual issues. The MSc in predominantly 'technical' in nature but we do require an appreciation of wider issues;
LO7 to document work carried out in a form suitable for a technically able but not necessarily specialist audience. For working purposes the reader will generally be a computer scientist but not necessarily expert in cybersecurity or AI. Thus, the student must be able to document suitably all aspects in the lifecycle of the project: background, through requirements, design, implementation, evaluation and conclusions;
LO8 To present effectively work in progress and engage in constructive discussion about that work and its context.

All projects must have a significant cybersecurity focus. Students will be able to pursue a project involving both cybersecurity and AI, but are not obliged to do so.

Content The content of the project is typically selected by the student from a range of topics proposed by the staff or industrial partners of the department. Students are also encouraged to propose their own topic, provided they can find a supervisor willing to supervise it and with the agreement of the Projects Officer.
Teaching Method
  • Students use departmental and/or external facilities and are exposed to the state-of-the-art methods and concepts relevant to the project topic. Students are expected to take responsibility for their own learning [LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6], and to plan and progress their project in a professional and systematic way [LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5]. the progress made is reviewed at regular meetings with their supervisor(s). Project supervisions will encourage the student to consider how their work should be evaluated. Students will be encouraged to develop evaluation criteria at an early stage but also as the work progresses. This may involve setting formal requirements and evaluating against them. However, some post-hoc reflection is also to be encouraged, with students addressing for example, what they learned from the project process [LO5. LO7, LO8]. Project supervisions will be used to engage students in the wider contextual issues [LO6]. Project work will be documented in a dissertation [LO7]. Students will receive feedback from supervisors on their immediate presentations, posters and dissertations, supporting the development of varied communication skills. In addition, regular project dissertations with supervisors will develop oral communication skills [LO7, LO8].
Feedback Assignments marked using published criteria, submission commented and returned by Blackboard within 3 weeks. Students will meet with their supervisors regularly (and, where relevant, external clients) to discuss progress and problems encountered, and to review issues that arise during the project.
Recommended Reading None - background reading material will be specified separately for each project.
IP Exemption This module is exempt from the University's Regulations relating to Intellectual Property which can be found at: