Center for Cyberspace Research (CCR)

Center for Cyberspace Research (CCR)
Program Details

Cyber Graduate Education
Current as of: 08/19/2015

Degree Type: MS

GCO-15M, 16M & 17M



The Graduate Cyber Operations (GCO) program is a six-quarter, 18-month, resident program at AFIT leading to a Master of Science degree with a major in Cyber Operations. Students normally enter the program in September and graduate 18 months later in March.

Information Operations (IO) is the integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own. Cyber Operations (CO) encompasses most of the technological aspects of IO. To support CO, professionals must be cognizant of the tools, techniques, and practices required to defend, attack and exploit these resources. At the technical level, CO encompasses multiple scientific disciplines that ensure the security of critical infrastructures such as:

Computer and network defense, attack, and exploitation

  • Cryptography
  • Computer forensics
  • Systems security engineering and operations
  • Application software security
  • Threat and vulnerability assessments and analyses

and managerial aspects such as:

Strategic and tactical planning for information security

  • Managerial and engineering ethics
  • Legalities
  • Managerial roles and responsibilities
  • Risk management
  • Information assurance systems and product acquisition


The GCO program produces graduates who effectively use the tools and techniques of both computer science as well as traditional engineering disciplines to analyze complex problems and design effective solutions for these problems. This program provides a substantial technical foundation in cyber operations including 1) operating systems, 2) computer network protection and exploitation, 3) application security, 4) reversing and exploitation, 5) data security, and 6) network design and analysis. The program culminates with an individual thesis that typically supports Department of Defense needs. In the thesis, the student applies their individual technical expertise and demonstrates their design and analysis skills. Finally, the program satisfies the requirements of the Cyber Operations academic degree code assigned to Air Force officers on entry into the program.

Prerequisite Knowledge

The ideal student background has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science or Computer Engineering. Students with non-computer science and engineering backgrounds may be admitted into the program, but will likely need to attend preparatory courses in addition to the Cyber Operations program requirements. At a minimum, students must possess the following background knowledge prior to fully engaging in the program:

Proficiency in software programming and code development

All students in the cyber operations program are required to have academic background in the areas of:

  • Data structures
  • Computer Architecture
  • Operating Systems
  • Computer Networking
  • Discrete Math

Program Elements

The GCO program curriculum consists of the following components: 1) core courses, 2) a mathematics or math science requirement, 3) cyber operations breadth, 4) an individual thesis, and 5) additional Air Force requirements (if applicable).

  • CSCE 525 - Introduction to Information Warfare (4 hrs)
  • CSCE 526 - Secure Software Design and Development (4 hrs)
  • CSCE 528 - Cyber Defense and Exploitation I (4 hrs)
  • CSCE 690 - Mobile and Wireless Device Security (4 hrs)
  • CSCE 629 - Cyber Attack (4 hrs)
  • CSCE 725 - Reverse Code Engineering (4 hrs)

Mathematics Requirements (4 quarter hours)

Students are required to take at least one graduate-level course in mathematics or math science. A probability and statistics course is highly recommended to fulfill this requirement. Acceptable courses include:

  • CSCE 544 - Data Security
  • CSCE 554 - Fundamentals of Performance Analysis and Experimental Design
  • CSCE 644 - Cryptanalysis
  • STAT 583 - Probability and Statistics for Computer Science
  • STAT 525 - Applied Statistics for Managers

Cyber Operations Breadth (8 quarter hours)

Students shall select at least 8 quarter hours of courses from the following list to provide adequate breadth:

Core Courses (24 quarter hours)

The objective of the core courses is to provide graduate-level education in cyber operations through a series of computer and information security-related courses. These courses cover a wide range of CO topics including computer networking, secure software development and software reverse engineering, all incorporating principles and best practices for protecting and attacking vital information resources. This objective is accomplished through satisfactory completion of the following courses:

  • CSCE 527 - Cyber Forensics (4 hrs)
  • CSCE 544 - Data Security (4 hrs)
  • CSCE 587 - Microprocessor Design and Synthesis (4 hrs)
  • CSCE 625 - Formal Analysis of Security Systems (4 hrs)
  • CSCE 644 - Cryptanalysis (4 hrs)
  • CSCE 654 - Computer Communication Networks (4hrs)
  • CSCE 687 - Advanced Microprocessor Design Lab (4 hrs)
  • CSCE 689 - Distributed Software Systems (4 hrs)
  • IMGT 684 - Strategic Information Management (3 hrs)
  • IMGT 687 - Managerial Aspects of Information Warfare (4 hrs)

NOTE: Students can apply a course to satisfy only one requirement. For example, a student cannot take CSCE 644 and apply it towards both the math and breadth requirements.

Thesis (12 quarter hours)

The capstone of the AFIT GCO program is the thesis. The thesis is an in-depth study of a Cyber Operations research topic of interest to the student, their thesis advisor, and the Air Force and/or the Department of Defense. The thesis is at least twelve (12) quarter credit hours of CSCE 799. Typical allocation of these twelve hours can be over three (4 summer, 4 fall, 4 winter) or four terms (2 spring, 2 summer, 4 fall, 4 winter) depending on student& rsquo s course load and scheduling availability.

[1] Joint Publication 3-13, November 2012.

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