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Cyber-Physical Systems

This is a course module for MSc Cyber Security Engineering, and available as an elective module on MSc Cyber Security and Management. 

This module is one of the eight modules required for the GCHQ Master's certification.


Much attention relating to cyber security is focused on the digital aspects of cyber systems; all data tends to be represented as pure, abstract, ones and zeros. In reality, all these abstract ones and zeros need a physical representation in order to have an effect. That physical representation might be as electromagnetic radiation, travelling through space as a radio wave, it might be as electric charge in an electronic device or it could take a range of other forms.

Control systems gather information from a range of physical sensors such as flow rate sensors, temperature gauges, accelerometers; after processing, they generate outputs which in turn produce physical effects via actuators such as switches, motors, displays. Much attention relating to communication in the cyber domain is focussed around the Internet. A range of other communication protocols and technologies are widely deployed in industrial control, vehicle and other systems.

Understanding the significant characteristics of the physical manifestations of digital information, understanding the interconnectedness of the cyber domain with the physical domain via sensors and actuators, and understanding non-Internet technologies and protocols reduces the risk of inadvertently leaving a cyber system in a vulnerable position.
The overall aim of this module is to enable the cyber security specialist to have a meaningful conversation with practising engineers concerning the security of cyber-physical systems.


  • Analyse the cyber security characteristics of selected cyber-physical technologies
  • Analyse the significant cyber security characteristics of selected cyber-physical protocols..
  • Critically evaluate the cyber security constraints in selected cyber-physical domains..
  • Analyse the security implications of EM spectrum usage in cyber physical systems.


- voltage, current, power,
- resistance, capacitance, inductance,
- direct current,
- alternating current, amplitude, frequency, phase
Electronic devices:
- linear (resistor, capacitor, inductor)
Radio communications:
- signals, gain,
- electromagnetic radiation, frequency, wavelength, antenna
- encoding, modulation, amplification, transmission, reception, amplification, demodulation, decoding,
- Such as GSM, WiFi, Bluetooth, CANBUS, Profibus, Instabus,
- SCADA, Smart Grid, buildings, vehicles
- cyber security consequences


The precise composition of the coursework may vary from year to year. It may include two sub-components: an in-module assessment (IMA - 20% weighted) and a post-module assessment (PMA - 80% weighted), or it may comprise solely the PMA (100% weighted). Where there are two sub-components, the weighting of each sub-component towards the overall module grade will be published near the beginning of the module. Word count and similar constraints on scale will be communicated wth the assignment specification when it is issued.


This module is delivered in an intensive one-week block of directed tuition (nominally 40 hours, including 12 hours of lectures, 10 hours of tutorials and 18 hours of practical classess).

Other useful information

Students will be based in the WMG Cyber Security Centre, with most taught sessions taking place in our specialist cyber security and forensics laboratory / classrooms.

This is a course module for MSc Cyber Security Engineering, and available as an elective module on MSc Cyber Security and Management. 

Please note: the details of this module are correct for the current year of study and may be subject to change for future years.