695.611.81 - Embedded Computer Systems-Vulnerabilities, Intrusions, and Protection Mechanisms

Spring 2024


While most of the world is preoccupied with high-profile network-based computer intrusions, this online course examines the potential for computer crime and the protection mechanisms employed in conjunction with the embedded computers that can be found within non-networked products (e.g., vending machines, automotive onboard computers, etc.). This course provides a basic understanding of embedded computer systems: differences with respect to network-based computers, programmability, exploitation methods, and current intrusion protection techniques, along with material relating to computer hacking and vulnerability assessment. The course materials consist of a set of eight study modules and five casestudy experiments (to be completed at a rate of one per week) and are augmented by online discussion forums moderated by the instructor. This course also includes online discussion forums that support greater depth of understanding of the materials presented within the study modules.

Expanded Course Description

  1. Acquire a working knowledge of embedded computer hardware and software architecture.
  2. Use Hex Editors and Basic Debuggers to navigate, reverse engineer, and modify machine readable code.
  3. Discuss the various embedded computer protection techniques regarding their application, operation, and effectiveness.


Profile photo of George Kalb.

George Kalb


Course Structure

The course materials are divided into 14 modules which can be accessed by clicking Course Modules on the left menu.  A module will have several sections including the module-at-a-glance, readings, video lectures and related content, discussions, and quizzes.  Students should regularly check the Calendar and Announcements for assignment due dates.  Modules begin on Tuesdays and complete on Mondays.

Course Topics

See Course Outline link.

Course Goals

Extend the student’s System Security Engineering and Cybersecurity knowledge to the unique non-network centric domain of Embedded Computer Systems.

Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)


No textbook required.  All course materials supplied through the course website.

Other Materials & Online Resources

Headset (or speakers if provided with computer, is also adequate). Microsoft Word and PowerPoint.

Required Software

Winhex (Hex editor) available from http://www.winhex.com - Defer installation until required by the first assignment’s usage as there is typically a time limit associated with the free trial download.

Student Coursework Requirements

It is expected that each module will take approximately 10-12 hours per week to complete. Here is an approximate breakdown: 1) viewing the assigned streaming video lectures and supplemental instructional videos (approximately 2 - 3 hours per week), 2) taking the weekly vocabulary quiz) (approximately 0.5 hour per week), 3) competing hands-on assignments (approximately 2-3 hour during the week assigned), and 4) writing assignments (e.g., Discussion board participation) (approximately 2–3 hours per week).

This course will consist of five basic student requirements (totaling 500 possible points):

  1. Weekly recorded lectures (not graded but mandatory content presentation)
  2. Assignments (36% of final grade: 15 points each x 12 assignments)

There are twelve (12) assignments associated with specific modules within the course.  Five (5) assignments require application of course materials in response to a specific problem statement.  Students are to author and submit a written response.  There are no associated quizzes in conjunction with these five assignments.  Seven (7) assignments are comprised of an instruction document, associated materials, and a quiz.  Students are to execute the series of instruction steps and enter findings in the allocated spaces within the instructions document.  After submitting the completed instructions document, students are to take the associated assignment quiz.

Late submittals of assignments will not be accepted via the assignment drop box within their corresponding module.  Students may email the completed instructions document to the instructor.  Special arrangements must be made with the Instructor for taking the associated assignment quiz after the due date has expired.

  1. Discussion Forums (26% of final grade: 10 points each x 13 Forums)

Weekly discussion forums require you to think about real-world applications for the lecture concepts you will be learning.  You are required to respond to the discussion prompt (worth 8 pts) as well as respond to at least two (2) other students’ post (worth 2 points).  A rubric for how discussion assignments will be evaluated by the instructor is posted in module 1.

Students must post their discussion response one day prior to the end of the weekly assignment so as to allow time for other students to review and respond.  Points will be subtracted for late discussion form postings.

  1. Vocabulary Quizzes (12% of final grade: variable points each totaling 60 points)

There are thirteen (13) vocabulary quizzes in the course; in modules 1 through 13.  Quizzes cover materials from the respective modules as found within the associated lecture materials.  Quizzes are timed and are online through Canvas.  Once you log into a quiz you will have one hour to complete it. These are open book quizzes.  You are permitted to have the module materials in front of you as you complete the quizzes.  The goal is to provide a mechanism for you to have a hard look at the many terms used in the course to begin committing them to memory.

  1. Final Exam (26% of final grade: 130 points)

The final exam is in released in module 14.  No collaboration is permitted.  The exam is a combination of multiple choice test (75 points) and a separate written problem analysis similar to the Discussion written responses (55 points).

Extra credit assignments will not be offered within this course.

Grading Policy

The Whiting School uses a +/- grading system (see “Grading System”, Graduate Programs catalog, p. 10):

100-98 = A+
 97-94 = A
 93-90 = A−
 89-87 = B+
 86-83 = B
 82-80 = B−
 79-77 = C+
 76-73 = C
 72-70 = C−
 69-67 = D+
 66-63 = D
   <63 = F

Academic Policies

Deadlines for Adding, Dropping and Withdrawing from Courses

Students may add a course up to one week after the start of the term for that particular course. Students may drop courses according to the drop deadlines outlined in the EP academic calendar (https://ep.jhu.edu/student-services/academic-calendar/). Between the 6th week of the class and prior to the final withdrawal deadline, a student may withdraw from a course with a W on their academic record. A record of the course will remain on the academic record with a W appearing in the grade column to indicate that the student registered and withdrew from the course.

Academic Misconduct Policy

All students are required to read, know, and comply with the Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (KSAS) / Whiting School of Engineering (WSE) Procedures for Handling Allegations of Misconduct by Full-Time and Part-Time Graduate Students.

This policy prohibits academic misconduct, including but not limited to the following: cheating or facilitating cheating; plagiarism; reuse of assignments; unauthorized collaboration; alteration of graded assignments; and unfair competition. Course materials (old assignments, texts, or examinations, etc.) should not be shared unless authorized by the course instructor. Any questions related to this policy should be directed to EP’s academic integrity officer at ep-academic-integrity@jhu.edu.

Students with Disabilities - Accommodations and Accessibility

Johns Hopkins University values diversity and inclusion. We are committed to providing welcoming, equitable, and accessible educational experiences for all students. Students with disabilities (including those with psychological conditions, medical conditions and temporary disabilities) can request accommodations for this course by providing an Accommodation Letter issued by Student Disability Services (SDS). Please request accommodations for this course as early as possible to provide time for effective communication and arrangements.

For further information or to start the process of requesting accommodations, please contact Student Disability Services at Engineering for Professionals, ep-disability-svcs@jhu.edu.

Student Conduct Code

The fundamental purpose of the JHU regulation of student conduct is to promote and to protect the health, safety, welfare, property, and rights of all members of the University community as well as to promote the orderly operation of the University and to safeguard its property and facilities. As members of the University community, students accept certain responsibilities which support the educational mission and create an environment in which all students are afforded the same opportunity to succeed academically. 

For a full description of the code please visit the following website: https://studentaffairs.jhu.edu/policies-guidelines/student-code/

Classroom Climate

JHU is committed to creating a classroom environment that values the diversity of experiences and perspectives that all students bring. Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Fostering an inclusive climate is important. Research and experience show that students who interact with peers who are different from themselves learn new things and experience tangible educational outcomes. At no time in this learning process should someone be singled out or treated unequally on the basis of any seen or unseen part of their identity. 
If you have concerns in this course about harassment, discrimination, or any unequal treatment, or if you seek accommodations or resources, please reach out to the course instructor directly. Reporting will never impact your course grade. You may also share concerns with your program chair, the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, or the Office of Institutional Equity. In handling reports, people will protect your privacy as much as possible, but faculty and staff are required to officially report information for some cases (e.g. sexual harassment).

Course Auditing

When a student enrolls in an EP course with “audit” status, the student must reach an understanding with the instructor as to what is required to earn the “audit.” If the student does not meet those expectations, the instructor must notify the EP Registration Team [EP-Registration@exchange.johnshopkins.edu] in order for the student to be retroactively dropped or withdrawn from the course (depending on when the "audit" was requested and in accordance with EP registration deadlines). All lecture content will remain accessible to auditing students, but access to all other course material is left to the discretion of the instructor.