COMPSCI 215 : Data Communications and Security


2023 Semester One (1233) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

An introduction to data communications: the OSI reference model, particularly how the lower layers combine to implement the application layer. An introduction to secure communication and computer systems.

Course Overview

This course consists of two parts; a networking and a security part. The networking part introduces the basics of networking with the TCP/IP protocol stack in networks with switches and routers and familiarises students with the fundamental concepts that underpin it: layered communication, encapsulation and packet forwarding based on address. It also introduces students to network partitioning and topology. The security part introduces various aspects of encryption to secure communication between parties.  It familiarises students with the fundamentals of classic cryptography, and how confidentiality and integrity are realised in shared-key and public-key cryptosystems. 

This course is of interest to those who would like to explore the fields of computer networks and digital security.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: COMPSCI 110 and PHYSICS 140 and 15 points from COMPSCI 105, 107, 130

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Identify and describe the layers and their purpose in a standard communication system. (Capability 1 and 2)
  2. Work with IP version 4 addresses and netmasks in a context of subnetting and IP datagram forwarding. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  3. Analyse and construct TCP/IP networks with switches and routers. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)
  4. Describe and explain the concept of encapsulation in layered communication. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  5. Describe and explain the operation of ARP and DHCP. (Capability 1)
  6. Identify and analyse classic encrypted communication. (Capability 1, 2 and 3)
  7. Critically evaluate shared-key cryptosystems (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6)
  8. Critically evaluate public-key cryptosystems (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6)
  9. Explain how various concepts in digital security come together to form the transport layer security protocol. (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 4)
  10. Critically evaluate the trade-off between performance and security (Capability 1, 2 and 3)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments 30% Individual Coursework
Quizzes 70% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Students must separately pass both the assignment (practical) and the theory component (quizzes) of the course. The course is internally assessed (no final exam).


Tuākana Science is a multi-faceted programme for Māori and Pacific students providing topic specific tutorials, one-on-one sessions, test and exam preparation and more. Explore your options at

The course is supported by the Computer Science Tuākana programme.

Key Topics

  • Components of physical networks, switches, routers, layered communication, protocols, the OSI stack, the TCP/IP stack, MAC addresses, IPv4 addressing, IPv4 netmasks, IP subnetting, CIDR notation, ARP, DHCP, IP forwarding, transport protocols, UDP, TCP, packet loss, sequence numbers and acknowledgements.
  • Classic cryptography. Shared-key cryptosystems and message integrity. Secure exchange of secret keys. Public-key cryptosystems and message integrity. Introduction to HTTP and HTTP security. HTTP latencies and performance. Transport layer security - HTTPS. Additional topics such as Steganography.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

Per week, you can expect 3 hours of understanding lecture content, 3 hours of reading and individual learning on the week's topics, and 4 hours of work on assignments and/or quiz preparation.

The course has weekly assignments spanning key topics covered during the week. Where multiple topics are covered, the weekly assignment may consist of multiple sub-assignments.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is encouraged at scheduled activities including lectures and tutorials.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including tutorials may not be available as recordings.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

There is no prescribed textbook. Online resources for additional reading will be provided with each lecture topic.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.


Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Sharing assignment solutions and source code does not help learning. Consequently, our academic integrity policy does not permit sharing of solutions or source code leading to solutions, nor does it allow sourcing solutions or source code from any third party. Violation of this will result in your assignment submission attracting no marks, and you may face further disciplinary action. Therefore, please do not share assignments, assignment solutions and/or source code leading to assignment solutions, or use material from others in your assignments. You must not publish assignments or solutions in any form online at any time. There are also copyright and IP issues. Please come talk to us if you have any doubts about what is legitimate and what is not.
You can refer to online tutorials and resources. However, please learn from them and implement the solutions yourself based on what you learnt from those sources. Do not blindly copy from online sources. 
Don't leave your computers, devices, and belongings unattended - you must secure these at all times to prevent anyone from having access to your assignments or solutions. If others are found to have used your assignments or solutions, you will also face disciplinary action.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 31/10/2022 09:28 a.m.