The Department of Computer Science's MS degree in Information Security and Assurance prepares graduates to fill the current and future need for information security and assurance professionals. Graduates work in a wide variety of capacities, protecting the information systems of different types of organizations and supporting the nation's information infrastructure. The Master of Science in Information Security and Assurance provides students with the general and technical knowledge and skills to understand the relationship between information security and advancing information systems technology. The program gives graduates a theoretical understanding of the science and methodologies for ensuring the secrecy and integrity of data, as well as the availability and legitimate use of data and information systems.

Students focus on the technical and management aspects of information security and examine ways to provide secure information processing systems by investigating operating systems security, distributed secure system architectures, database security, software applications security, security policies, secure e-commerce, network and distributed systems security, cryptography, and security protocols. Graduates of the program are actively recruited by federal, state, and local governments, as well as the private sector. Typical employers include Internet-based companies, software companies, banks and insurance companies, and in general any organization that depends heavily on the use of IT. All classes are scheduled in the late afternoon and early evening to accommodate employed students.

Admissions

Eligibility and Application Requirements

Applicants must hold a four-year (120-credit minimum) baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution and have earned a GPA of 3.00 or better in the last 60 credits. Other requirements are as follows:

  • Submit the appropriate application with two letters of recommendation from people directly knowledgeable of the applicant's professional and academic competence, a one-page goals statement, and a work resume.
  • International students must submit their English Proficiency scores.

Policies

Foundation Requirements

To succeed in graduate courses, students entering the MS program must have coursework or equivalent knowledge in the following five foundation areas: (1) introductory programming in any programming language; (2) knowledge of an object-oriented programming language such as Java, C++, or C#; (3) data structures and algorithms; (4) machine organization such as those given in computer system architecture or assembly language courses; (5) and topics in discrete mathematics, including sets, propositional and predicate logic,  relations, functions, trees, graphs, and inductive proofs.

The level of knowledge required in these areas is equivalent to that taught in undergraduate courses and may be demonstrated in one of several ways:

  1. Applicable undergraduate coursework: Such courses must appear on transcripts from the student’s undergraduate university, or another accredited university. Applicable courses from George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) are given here:
    1. Foundation: OO programming
      • GMU CS: CS 211 Object-Oriented Programming 
      • GMU IT: IT 106 Introduction to IT Problem Solving Using Computer Programming & IT 206 Object Oriented Techniques for IT Problem Solving
      • NVCC: CSC 201
    2. Foundation: Data structures
      • GMU CS: CS 310 Data Structures 
      • GMU IT: IT 306 Data Structures and Algorithms in Java
      • NVCC: None
    3. Foundation: Machine organization
      • GMU CS: CS 367 Computer Systems and Programming or CS 465 Computer Systems Architecture
      • GMU IT: IT 342 Operating Systems Fundamentals
      • NVCC: None
    4. Foundation: Discrete math
  • Preparatory coursework taken at GMU: The CS department offers the following bridge foundation courses: (1-2) SWE 510 Object-Oriented Programming in Java, (3) INFS 519 Program Design and Data Structures, (4) INFS 515 Computer Organization Course and Operating Systems, and (5) INFS 501 Discrete and Logical Structures for Information Systems. These courses may be taken by students in non-degree or provisional status.
  • Passing appropriate testout exams: Students can self-prepare and attempt testout exams for SWE 510 Object-Oriented Programming in Java, INFS 519 Program Design and Data Structures, INFS 515 Computer Organization Course and Operating Systems, and INFS 501 Discrete and Logical Structures for Information Systems. The exams are given before classes begin in January and August, and can only be taken once. Registration is not required; students need only be present at the date, time, and location specified and bring some form of photographic identification. Detailed information is available on the department web site. Students who fail any one of the exams must take the equivalent course before enrolling in the core curriculum courses.
  • Eligible domestic students who lack one or more foundations may be admitted provisionally and required to take the appropriate preparatory course or pass the testout exam. Other students may be advised to learn the foundation material and re-apply.

Advising

The department holds orientation meetings each January and August to advise newly admitted and continuing students. Members of the faculty are present to answer questions and offer advice concerning programs of study. Detailed information is available on the department web site.

The department also provides an advising function to students, as outlined in the student advising form available from the department. Each student is assigned a faculty advisor with whom to confer on matters related to degree requirements. A plan of study form for the MS degree should be completed and submitted by the student soon after admission to the program. This serves as a planning guide for the student.

Banner Code: VS-MS-ISA

Degree Requirements

Total credits: 30

Completion of the degree program requires a minimum of 30 approved graduate credits (10 courses). Students must choose a concentration. 

Required Core Courses

These courses provide the necessary background and fundamentals of information systems security and assurance. To continue in the program, students are required to obtain a B- or higher grade in the core courses. Students receiving lower than a B- must retake the course or face termination.

ISA 562Information Security Theory and Practice3
ISA 656Network Security3
One of the following:3
Principles and Practices of Communication Networks
Computer Communications and Networking 1
Total Credits9

Concentration in Applied Cyber Security (ACBS)

Students must take any five courses from the list below. At least three of the five courses must be designated ISA or CS.

Select five courses from the following:15
Biometrics and Identity Management
Security Policy
Security Audit and Compliance Testing
Secure Software Design and Programming
Security Protocol Analysis
Research in Digital Forensics
Operations of Intrusion Detection for Forensics
Malware Reverse Engineering
Advanced Topics in Computer Forensics
Applied Cryptography
Advanced Applied Cryptography
Total Credits15

Concentration in Network and System Security (NSS)

ISA 564Security Laboratory3
Select four courses from the following:12
Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science
Computer Systems and Fundamentals of Systems Programming
Operating Systems 1
Topics in Resilient and Secure Computer Systems
Operating Systems Security
Intrusion Detection
Secure Software Design and Programming
Security Protocol Analysis
Security Experimentation
Applied Cryptography
Advanced Applied Cryptography
Total Credits15

Additional Courses

All students select two remaining courses from any combination of the following: 16
Courses from the pre-approved electives list (follows)
Thesis (must take 6 credits)
Total Credits6

Pre-Approved Electives by Program

Information Systems (INFS) 

INFS 623Web Search Engines and Recommender Systems3
INFS 740Database Programming for the World Wide Web3
INFS 760Advanced Database Management3
INFS 772Intelligent Agents and the Semantic Web3
INFS 774Enterprise Architecture3

Software Engineering (SWE)

SWE 619Object-Oriented Software Specification and Construction3
SWE 620Software Requirements Analysis and Specification3
SWE 621Software Design and Architecture3
SWE 622Distributed Software Engineering3
SWE 632User Interface Design and Development3
SWE 637Software Testing3
SWE 642Software Engineering for the World Wide Web3
SWE 645Component-Based Software Development3
SWE 721Reusable Software Architectures3

Computer Forensics (CFRS)

CFRS 761Malware Reverse Engineering3
CFRS 780Advanced Topics in Computer Forensics3

Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE)

ECE 646Applied Cryptography3
ECE 746Advanced Applied Cryptography3

Applied Computer Science, BS/Information Security and Assurance, Accelerated MS

Overview

Highly-qualified students in the Applied Computer Science, BS program have the option of enrolling in an accelerated Information Security and Assurance, MS program.

For more detailed information, see AP.6.7 Bachelor's/Accelerated Master's Degrees. For policies governing all graduate degrees, see AP.6 Graduate Policies.

Admission Requirements

Students in the Applied Computer Science, BS program can apply for this option if they have earned 90 undergraduate credits with an overall GPA of at least 3.30.  Students must have successfully completed:

CS 310Data Structures3
CS 330Formal Methods and Models3
CS 367Computer Systems and Programming4
Total Credits10

Accelerated Option Requirements

Students have the opportunity to earn 3-6 credits in graduate coursework that count towards both the BS and MS degrees.

Students may register for 3-6 credits of the following CS 500-level courses in place of the corresponding CS 400-level courses required for the BS degree. Specifically, students must take

CS 583Analysis of Algorithms3
Select one of the following:3
Language Processors
Database Systems
Computer Graphics
Computer Communications and Networking
Operating Systems
Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
Theory and Applications of Data Mining
Total Credits6

Note:

Students complete all MS in Information Security and Assurance core courses and apply the two courses from the above list toward the degree requirements. Students also have the option to take up to 6 additional credits of graduate coursework, which serves as reserve graduate credit to be counted towards the MS degree only.

Degree Conferral

Students must apply the semester before they expect to complete the BS requirements to have the BS degree conferred. In addition, at the beginning of the student's final undergraduate semester, students must complete a Bachelor's/Accelerated Master's Transition form that is submitted to the Office of the University Registrar and the VSE Graduate Admissions Office. At the completion of MS requirements, a master's degree is conferred.

Computer Science, BS/Information Security and Assurance, Accelerated MS

Overview

Highly-qualified students in the Computer Science, BS have the option of obtaining an accelerated Information Security and Assurance, MS.

For more detailed information, see AP.6.7 Bachelor's/Accelerated Master's Degrees. For policies governing all graduate degrees, see AP.6 Graduate Policies.

Admission Requirements

Students in the Computer Science, BS program may apply for this option if they have earned 90 undergraduate credits with an overall GPA of at least 3.30. Students must have successfully completed CS 310 Data StructuresCS 330 Formal Methods and Models and CS 367 Computer Systems and Programming.

Accelerated Option Requirements

Students have the opportunity to earn 3-6 credits in graduate coursework that count towards both the BS and MS degrees. Students may register for 3-6 credits of the following CS 500-level courses in place of the corresponding CS 400-level courses required for the BS degree.

CS 540Language Processors3
CS 550Database Systems3
CS 551Computer Graphics3
CS 555Computer Communications and Networking3
CS 571Operating Systems3
CS 580Introduction to Artificial Intelligence3
CS 583Analysis of Algorithms3
CS 584Theory and Applications of Data Mining3

Note:

Students complete all MS in Information Security and Assurance core courses and apply the two courses from the above list toward the requirements. Students also have the option to take up to 6 additional credits of graduate coursework, which serves as reserve graduate credit to be counted towards the MS degree only.

Degree Conferral

Students must apply the semester before they expect to complete the BS requirements to have the BS degree conferred. In addition, at the beginning of the student's final undergraduate semester, students must complete a Bachelor's/Accelerated Master's Transition form that is submitted to the Office of the University Registrar and the VSE Graduate Admissions Office. At the completion of MS requirements, a master's degree is conferred.

Information Technology, BS/Information Security and Assurance, Accelerated MS

Overview

Highly-qualified students in the Information Technology, BS have the option of obtaining an accelerated Information Security and Assurance, MS.

For more detailed information, see AP.6.7 Bachelor's/Accelerated Master's Degrees. For policies governing all graduate degrees, see AP.6 Graduate Policies.

Admission Requirements

Students in the Information Technology, BS program may apply to this option if they have earned 90 undergraduate credits with an overall GPA of at least 3.30. Criteria for admission are identical to criteria for admission to the Information Security and Assurance, MS program.

Accelerated Option Requirements

Students must complete all credits that satisfy requirements for the BS and MS programs, with 6 credits overlapping with the two following courses:

INFS 612Principles and Practices of Communication Networks (satisfies IT 441 requirement in the BS program)3
ISA 562Information Security Theory and Practice (satisfies IT 462 requirement in the BS program)3

Note:

Students must complete MATH 125 Discrete Mathematics I (Mason Core) as their discrete math requirement and IT 306 Data Structures and Algorithms in Java as part of their concentration requirements in the BS program.

Degree Conferral

Students must apply the semester before they expect to complete the BS requirements to have the BS degree conferred. In addition, at the beginning of the student’s final undergraduate semester, students must complete a Bachelor’s/Accelerated Master’s Transition form that is submitted to the Office of the University Registrar and the VSE Graduate Admissions Office. At the completion of MS requirements, a master’s degree is conferred.