Master's Degree Curriculum

Master's Degree Curriculum

The Master of Science Degree in Information Security Engineering Curriculum

PROGRAM GOALS: This MSISE (Engineering) program will prepare students to head teams of technologists who are responsible for information security assessments, architectures, operations, monitoring, auditing, and lead information security programs. Graduates will be qualified to seek positions such as technical director for information security, senior security analyst, senior security administrator, information systems security manager, information systems security officer, information security manager, and chief information security officer. The program focuses primarily on the technical and problem-solving skills associated with security implementation, but adds instruction on project management and effective communications to help graduates prepare to take responsibility for the work of other technologists. Almost all of the courses below except the electives include writing assignments called GIAC Gold or Written Assignment. More information about GIAC Gold can be found at the GIAC site. [For the complete Program Goals, see tab labeled MS in Info Sec Engineering: Program Goals.]

MSISE Core, mandatory courses

Previous Mandatory Course: 1.8 December 14, 2009 to July 18, 2010
Previous Mandatory Course: 1.7 May 1, 2009 - December 14, 2009
Previous Mandatory Course: 1.6 September 15, 2008 - February 25, 2009
Previous Mandatory Course: 1.5 May 22, 2008 - September 14, 2008
Previous Mandatory Course: 1.4 August 10, 2007 - May 21, 2008
Previous Mandatory Course: 1.3 March 1, 2007 - August 9, 2007
Previous Mandatory Course: 1.2 October 4, 2006 - February 28, 2007
Previous Mandatory Course: 1.1 March 20, 2006 - October 3, 2006
Previous Mandatory Course: 1.0 December 2005 - March 19, 2006


Below is a list of the mandatory courses. An "overview" of the courses is provided below this list. For more details about the course, click on the course below, or go to the SANS Security Training course list.

Course Delivery Options. If students wish to take some courses in other than a conference setting, they should click on the tab above called "Course Delivery Options" to see which course delivery options are acceptable for master's students.

Course Credits
SEC 401: SANS Security Essentials, GIAC GSEC Gold 4
MGT 404: Fundamentals of Info Sec Policy, Exam/Substitute, Written Assignment 1
MGT 438: How to Establish a Sec Awareness Program, Exam/Substitute, Written Assignment
(formerly the above 2 courses were called MGT 524 Sec Policy & Awareness-GSPA)
SEC 503: Intrusion Detection in Depth, GIAC GCIA Gold 4
SEC 504: Hacker Techniques, Exploits, and Incident Handling, GIAC GCIH Gold 4
MGT 525: Project Management and Effective Communications for Security Professionals and Managers, GIAC GCPM Gold or Written Assignment 4
- Project Management Institute Certification can be substituted for GCPM
- It is recommended that MGT 525 be completed before the Joint Written Project is started.
MGT 421: SANS Leadership and Management Competencies, Exam/Substitute, Written Assignment 1
FOR 508: Computer Forensic Investigations and Incident Response, GIAC GCFA Gold 4

TWO ELECTIVES (no gold required) from the following options:

For students interested in Forensics, we have established a "Forensics Focus" that allows students to take the following courses for their elective requirement:

Or students who do not wish to pursue the "Forensics Focus" can choose 2 elective courses with at least one being a major SEC 500/600 level, GIAC Certification. Students can choose the other elective from the following:

Total Credit Hours: 32

Each exam score must be at least 80 (or 80 average if applicable).

The final course grade will be based on the latest recert scores just before graduation requirements are met. See the tab above titled Recertification Policy that discusses whether or not recertification is required.

When a GIAC Gold Paper/Written Assignment is required, the student must also pass the GIAC Gold/Written Assignment before the grade can be assigned.

If a GIAC exam is a requirement but is not available, then the college provides a substitute exam/assignment.


For more details about the course, click on the course, or go to the SANS Security Training course list.

SEC 401: SANS Security Essentials

You will learn the language and underlying theory of computer security. At the same time you will learn the essential, current knowledge and skills required for effective performance if you are given the responsibility for securing systems and/or organizations.

SANS Security Essentials Course Topics Sampling

  • Risk Assessment and Auditing
  • Host and Network Based Intrusion Detection
  • Honeypots, Firewalls and Perimeter Protection
  • Security Policy
  • Password Management
  • Security Incident Handling - The Six Steps
  • Information Warfare
  • Web Security
  • Network Fundamentals and IP Concepts and Behavior
  • Cisco Router Filters
  • Four Primary Threats for Perimeter Protection
  • PGP, Steganography
  • Anti-Viral Tools
  • Windows (XP, 2003, Vista, 2008 and Windows 7) Security Administration and Auditing
  • IIS Security
  • Unix Security Fundamentals

MGT 404: Fundamentals of Info Sec Policy

This course is designed for IT professionals recently assigned security duties which include responsibility for creating and maintaining policy and procedures.

The Fundamentals of Information Security Policy course focuses on how to write basic security policies that are issue or system specific. The student will have a hands-on practical assignment writing a policy template not currently offered as one of SANS policy templates.

Business needs change, the environment changes, new risks are always on the horizon, and critical systems are continually exposed to new vulnerabilities. Policy development and assessment is a never ending process. This is a hands-on, exercise intensive course on writing, implementing and assessing security policies. This course is for anyone who is responsible for writing security policies and procedures.

MGT 438: How to Establish a Sec Awareness Program

Security awareness is a never ending process. We must invest in teaching our users what to do and what not to do when using the Internet in order to achieve an acceptable level of risk. MGT438: How to Establish a Security Awareness Program includes certification in SEC351: Computer and Network Security Awareness and a license to teach SEC351 at your organization free for one year, with a reasonable site fee thereafter. This course is based on NIST SP 800-50, "Building an Information Technology Security Awareness and Training Program."

Being able to design, implement, and manage an effective security awareness program is difficult at best. MGT438 walks trainers and security managers through the architecture and design of a successful security awareness program. It helps the student to document and design a clear cut strategy, approach, and implementation plan.

The student will learn how to present the three-hour SANS course Security 351: Computer and Network Security Awareness which teaches people with little or no security experience important concepts and technology that every Internet user should know. Topics include threats, antivirus programs, firewalls, anti-spyware, identity theft, and phishing. SEC351 will raise the students' awareness and offer them the basic skills needed to protect themselves from various threats on the Internet. All MGT438 attendees will study a section of SEC351 and present it to the class. Once certified in SEC351, they will be licensed to teach it.

SEC 503: Intrusion Detection in Depth

Learn practical hands-on intrusion detection and traffic analysis from top practitioners/authors in the field. This is the most advanced program in network intrusion detection that has ever been taught. All of the courses are either new or just updated to reflect the latest attack patterns. This series is jam packed with network traces and analysis tips.

The emphasis of this course is on increasing students' understanding of the workings of TCP/IP, methods of network traffic analysis, and one specific network intrusion detection system (NIDS) - Snort. This is not a comparison or demonstration of multiple NIDSs. Instead, the knowledge provided here allows students to better understand the qualities that go into a sound NIDS and the whys behind them, and thus, to be better equipped to make a wise selection for their site's particular needs. This is a fast-paced course, and students are expected to have a basic working knowledge of TCP/IP (see in order to fully understand the topics that will be discussed. Although others may benefit from this course, it is most appropriate for students who are or who will become intrusion detection analysts. Students generally range from novices with some TCP/IP background all the way to seasoned analysts. The challenging, hands-on exercises are specially designed to be valuable for all experience levels. We strongly recommend that you spend some time getting familiar with TCPdump, WINdump, or another network analyzer output before coming to class.

SEC 504: Hacker Techniques, Exploits, and Incident Handling

If your organization has an Internet connection or one or two disgruntled employees (and whose doesn't!), your computer systems will get attacked. From the five, ten, or even one hundred daily probes against your Internet infrastructure to the malicious insider slowly creeping through your most vital information assets, attackers are targeting your systems with increasing viciousness and stealth.

By helping you understand attackers' tactics and strategies in detail, giving you hands-on experience in finding vulnerabilities and discovering intrusions, and equipping you with a comprehensive incident handling plan, the in-depth information in this course helps you turn the tables on computer attackers. This course addresses the latest cutting-edge insidious attack vectors and the "oldie-but-goodie" attacks that are still so prevalent, and everything in between. Instead of merely teaching a few hack attack tricks, this course includes a time-tested, step-by-step process for responding to computer incidents; a detailed description of how attackers undermine systems so you can prepare, detect, and respond to them; and a hands-on workshop for discovering holes before the bad guys do. Additionally, the course explores the legal issues associated with responding to computer attacks, including employee monitoring, working with law enforcement, and handling evidence.

This challenging course is particularly well suited to individuals who lead or are a part of an incident handling team. Furthermore, general security practitioners, system administrators, and security architects will benefit by understanding how to design, build, and operate their systems to prevent, detect, and respond to attacks.

It is imperative that you get written permission from the proper authority in your organization before using these tools and techniques on your company's system and also that you advise your network and computer operations teams of your testing.

MGT 525: Project Management and Effective Communications for Security Professionals and Managers

We will cover all aspects of project management from initiating and planning projects through managing cost, time, and quality while your project is active to completing, closing, and documenting as your project finishes. This course follows the basic project management structure from the Project Management Institute's Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and also offers specific insight and techniques to help you get the job done. You will leave this course with specific tools that can be utilized immediately in your work environment. A copy of the Guide (Fourth Edition) is provided to all participants. You can reference the PMBOK® Guide and use your course material along with the knowledge you gain in class to solidify your preparation for the updated Project Management Professional (PMP®) Exam and the GIAC Certified Project Manager Exam.

The project management process is broken down into core process groups that can be applied across multiple areas of any project. This course covers cost, time, quality, and risk management, but not only from the point of view of projects that create final products. Keeping in line with prevalent needs from the InfoSec industry, we look at projects that create and maintain services and cover in depth how cost, time, quality, and risk affect IT Security and the services we provide to others both inside and outside of our organizational boundaries. We go into great detail covering human resource management as well as effective communication and conflict resolution. People are the most valuable resource we have on a project, and the communication and conflict resolution techniques presented can be used in all areas of professional work. Above all, projects fail or succeed because of the people involved. You want to make sure the people involved with the development and execution of your project build a strong team and communicate effectively.

PMBOK® and PMP® are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute.

MGT 421: SANS Leadership and Management Competencies

Leadership is a capability that must be learned and developed to better ensure organizational success. The more techniques we learn, the better our leadership capability becomes. It is brought primarily through selfless devotion to the organization and staff, tireless effort in setting the example, and the vision to see and effectively use available resources toward the end goal. Leaders and followers influence each other toward the goal, identified through a two-way street where all parties perform their function to reach the overall objective.

Leadership entails the ability to persuade team members to accomplish their objectives while removing obstacles and resistance, and facilitates the well-being of the team in support of the organizations mission. Grooming effective leaders is critical to all types of organizations, as the most effective teams are cohesive teams that work together toward common goals with camaraderie and can-do spirit!

Our focus is purely leadership-centric, we are not security-centric or technology-centric with this training opportunity. We help an individual develop leadership skills that apply to commercial business, non-profit, not-for-profit, or other organization. This course is designed to develop existing and new supervisors and managers who aspire to go beyond being the boss and build leadership skills to enhance their organizational climate through team-building to enhance the organizational mission through growth in productivity, workplace attitude / satisfaction, and staff and customer relationships.

The manager/supervisor will learn vital, up-to-date knowledge and skills required to shift team paradigms to create a more positive and cooperative atmosphere in the workplace. Essential leadership topics covered in this management track include: Leadership Development, Coaching and Training, Employee Involvement, Conflict Resolution, Change Management, Vision Development, Motivation, Communication Skills, Self-Direction, Brainstorming Techniques, Benefits, and the ten core Leadership competencies. In a nutshell, this course covers critical processes that should be employed to develop the skills and techniques to select, train, equip, and develop a team into a single cohesive unit with defined roles that operate together in harmony toward team-objective accomplishment. There are three goals for this course:

  • Establish a minimum standard for knowledge, skills, and abilities required to develop leadership.
  • Understand and leverage the motivational requirements of employees.
  • Establish a baseline understanding of the skills necessary to migrate from being a manager to being a leader.

FOR 508: Computer Forensic Investigations and Incident Response

This course will give the student a firm understanding of advanced incident response and computer forensics tools and techniques to investigate data breach intrusions, tech-savvy rogue employees, advanced persistent threats, and complex digital forensic cases. Utilizing advances in spear phishing, web application attacks, and persistent malware these new sophisticated attackers advance rapidly through your network. Incident Responders and Digital Forensic investigators must master a variety of operating systems, investigation techniques, incident response tactics, and even legal issues in order to solve challenging intrusion cases. This course will teach you critical forensic analysis techniques and tools in a hands-on setting for both Windows-based and Linux-based investigations.

Learning more than just how to use a forensic tool, by taking this course you will be able to demonstrate how the tool functions at a low level. You will become skilled with new tools, such as the Sleuthkit, Foremost, and the HELIX3 Pro Forensics Live CD. SANS hands-on technical course arms you with a deep understanding of the forensic methodology, tools, and techniques to solve advanced computer forensics cases.

ELECTIVES - (general parameters described in course list above):

For students interested in Forensics, we have established a "Forensics Focus" that allows students to take the following courses for their elective requirement:

FOR 408: Computer Forensic Essentials, Exam/Substitute

Computer Forensic Essentials focuses on the critical knowledge that a computer forensic investigator must know to investigate computer crime incidents successfully. You will learn how computer forensic analysts focus on collecting and analyzing data from computer systems to track user-based activity that could be used internally or in civil/criminal litigation.

This course covers the fundamental steps of the in-depth computer forensic methodology so that each student will have the complete qualifications to work as a computer forensic investigator in the field helping solve and fight crime. In addition to in-depth technical digital forensic, knowledge on Windows Digital Forensics (Windows XP through Windows 7 and Server 2008) you will be exposed to well known computer forensic tools so such as FTK, Registry Analyzers, FTK Imager, Prefetch Analyzers, and much more.

FOR 610: Reverse-Engineering Malware: Malware Analysis Tools and Techniques

This unique course provides a rounded approach to reverse-engineering by covering both behavioral and code analysis aspects of the analysis. As a result, the course makes the topic accessible even to individuals with a limited exposure to programming concepts. The materials do not assume that the students are familiar with malware analysis; however, the complexity of concepts and techniques increases as the course progresses. The course begins by covering fundamental aspects of malware analysis. You will learn how to set up an inexpensive and flexible laboratory for understanding inner-workings of malicious software, and will understand how it can be used to explore characteristics of real-world specimens. You will then learn to examine the program's behavioral patterns and code. You will experiment with reverse-engineering compiled Windows executables and browser-based malware.

The course continues by discussing essential x86 assembly language concepts. You will learn to examine malicious code to understand the program's key components and execution flow. You will also learn to identify common malware characteristics by looking at Windows API use patterns, and will examine excerpts from bots, rootkits, key loggers, and downloaders. You will understand how to work with PE headers and handle DLL interactions. You will also learn tools and techniques for bypassing anti-analysis capabilities of armored malware, experimenting with packed executables and obfuscated browser scripts.

Hands-on workshop exercises are a critical aspect of this course, and allow you to apply reverse-engineering techniques by examining malware in a controlled environment. When performing the exercises, you will study the supplied specimen's behavioral patterns, and examine key portions of its code. You will examine malware on a Windows virtual machine that you will infect during the course, and will use the supplied Linux virtual machine that includes tools for examining and interacting with Windows and browser malware.

Students who do not wish to pursue the "Forensics Focus" can choose 2 elective courses with at least one being a major SEC 500/600 level, GIAC Certification (see the full SANS courses list here.
Students can choose the other elective from the following:

AUD 507 Auditing Networks, Perimeters, and Systems, (possible elective)

One of the most significant obstacles facing many auditors today is how exactly to go about auditing the security of an enterprise. What systems really matter? How should the firewall and routers be configured? What settings should be checked on the various systems under scrutiny? Is there a set of processes that can be put into place to allow an auditor to focus on the business processes rather than the security settings? All of these questions and more will be answered by the material covered in this course.

This course is organized specifically to provide a risk driven method for tackling the enormous task of designing an enterprise security validation program. After covering a variety of high-level audit issues and general audit best practice, the students will have the opportunity to dive deep into the technical how-to for determining the key controls that can be used to provide a level of assurance to an organization. Tips on how to repeatedly verify these controls and techniques for automatic compliance validation will be given from real-world examples.

One of the struggles that IT auditors face today is assisting management to understand the relationship between the technical controls and the risks to the business that these affect. In this course these threats and vulnerabilities are explained based on validated information from real-world situations. The instructor will take the time to explain how this can be used to raise the awareness of management and others within the organization to build an understanding of why these controls specifically and auditing in general is important. From these threats and vulnerabilities, we will explain how to build the ongoing compliance monitoring systems and how to automatically validate defenses through instrumentation and automation of audit checklists.

You'll be able to use what you learn immediately. Five of the six days in the course will either produce or provide you directly with a general checklist that can be customized for your audit practice. Each of these days includes hands-on exercises with a variety of tools discussed during the lecture sections so that you will leave knowing how to verify each and every control described in the class and know what to expect as audit evidence. Each of the five hands-on days gives you the chance to perform a thorough technical audit of the technology being considered by applying the checklists provided in class to sample audit problems in a virtualized environment. Each student is invited to bring a Windows XP Professional or higher laptop for use during class. Macintosh computers running OS X may also be used with VMWare Fusion.

A great audit is more than marks on a checklist; it is the understanding of what the underlying controls are, what the best practices are, and why. Sign up for this course and experience the mix of theory, hands-on, and practical knowledge.