COMP110 Professional Skills in Computer Science (2017-18) -- Assignment 2

Your task for this assessment is to write a 2,000 word report on the following subject:

How much encryption is enough?

There have been a number of occasions in recent years on which access to encrypted files or encrypted messages by law enforcement or investigative authorities has become an issue, see, for example:

These three cases relate to a dispute about the extent to which the public should have access to strong encryption in order to protect personal information and personal communication. Some commentators view these cases as battles in the so-called Crypto Wars with earlier cases surrounding the Clipper Chip, GSM encryption, encryption in Netscape Navigator, encryption of e-mails, and now storage encryption and encryption of messaging services.

For this report you should review these three cases and any others consider relevant. You should use the following questions to guide your report:

  1. For what purposes is encryption used in the context of information processing and communication and what encryption techniques are used? What circumvention techniques have been suggested to allow government agencies access to encrypted information? In addition to providing a general overview, give examples where the use of encryption or proposals for the use of circumvention techniques has led to disputes between governments, government agencies, companies and private users.
  2. What are the arguments for and against the use of encryption and the arguments for and against circumvention techniques for encryption? Again, give both a general overview but also state the arguments given for the examples you have introduced for (1).
  3. In light of (1) and (2) derive and justify your own conclusion regarding the use of encryption and the availability of circumvention techniques to government agencies.

Also, take note of the following:

  • You are strongly encouraged to use LaTeX and BibTeX/BibLaTeX, and their use will be reflected in the mark for the report.
  • The report must comply with the instructions for format and submission given below.
  • The report must be well-structured;
  • The report should be analytical, not just descriptive, in the coverage of the tasks given above;
  • You need to justify any claims that you make and opinions that you state either by an argument or by a reference.
  • Citations must be given in author-date style, following the author-date style introduced in the COMP110 lectures, practicals and tutorials;
  • The list of references must be uniformly presented, again using the author-date style introduced in the COMP110 lectures, entries must be sorted alphabetically and entries must contain all the information prescribed for various types of sources in the COMP110 lectures;
  • Citing legal documents poses a particular challenge for author-date styles. To help you, provides further guidance on this matter, explains how Zotero can be used to maintain information on statutes and court cases, and points you to a suitable BibTeX style for this assignment. It is expected that you follow that guidance. You can also use the LaTeX source file for this document, available at, as a template for your report. See also the accompanying Zotero RDF file, BibTeX file, and the BibLaTeX style files and
  • Articles in scientific journals are the most highly valued type of source while websites/blogs are the least valued type of source; all other types of sources fall between these two extremes. To support the content of your report you should seek to use the most highly valued sources that you can find.
  • References to and use of Wikipedia material is not allowed.

The report must be written by yourself using your own words (see the University guidance on academic integrity, which can be found at, for additional information). Quotes are allowed if appropriate, limited in their extent, and clearly indicated as such.


Your report should be about 2,000 words in length. The text should be typeset for A4 paper format, using a 12 point font, double spaced lines, with an inner margin of 1.5cm and an outer margin of at least 3.0cm.

The list of references does not count towards the word limit.


Submit a PDF file of your report (no other format is allowed) via the departmental coursework submission system at (COMP110-2: Report), not VITAL, by the date indicated below.


The deadline for this assignment is

Thursday, 22 February 2018, 10:00

Earlier submission is possible, but any submission after the deadline attracts the standard lateness penalties. Please also remember that a strict interpretation of `lateness' is applied by the Department, that is, a submission on Thursday, 22 February 2018, 10:01 is considered to be a day late (analogously for submissions that are delayed further).


This assessment will directly or indirectly address the following learning outcomes of the module:

  • effectively retrieve information including the use of library and web sources and the evaluation of information retrieved from such sources;
  • effectively use general IT facilities including organising their filestore, taking advantage of access control and security features of operating systems;
  • effectively use relevant software packages and appreciate different types of software;
  • effectively communicate in writing and orally;
  • recognise and employ sound reasoning and argumentation techniques as part of conducting basic research;
  • manage your own learning;
  • to be able to appraise professional, ethical, legal and social issues related to the work of a professional within the IT industry.

This assignment will contribute 25% to the overall mark of COMP110.

Remember that to pass COMP110 you must submit work for all assignments on COMP110 and that the work must constitute a reasonable attempt.

The marking scheme that will be used to assess your work is available at As stated above the University policy on lateness penalties applies to this assignment as does the University policy on plagiarism, collusion, and fabrication of data. There are additional penalties that also apply:

  1. If the electronic submission is not a PDF file, then 5 marks will be subtracted.
  2. If the electronic submission does not follow the typesetting instructions, then 5 marks will be subtracted.
  3. For every 100 words that you exceed the word limit of 2,000 words, 3 marks will be subtracted, that is, if you submit a report of 2,099 words, no penalty will be applied, if you submit a report of 2,100 to 2,199 words, 3 marks will be subtracted, etc.

That being said, no report that achieves a mark of 40 or more before the application of penalties will be reduced below the pass mark once penalties are taken into account, unless the work is submitted more than five working days late.