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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.

Principal Learning Outcomes

  • critically analyse how electronic circuits would respond to a variety of inputs.
  • explain the transmission of information by radio and thus evaluate the cyber security implications of selected wireless systems.
  • critically analyse the significant characteristics of selected non-IP technologies / protocols and thus evaluate the cyber security implications of their use in control systems.
  • cooperate with electronic engineering specialists to enhance the security posture of a cyber-physical system.

Other useful information

This module is delivered in an intensive one-week block of directed tuition (nominally 40 hours). 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.

Formal assessment for this module typically comprises:

  • a lab-based assessment, taking place during taught sessions (20%)
  • a report, to be submitted after the taught module period (80%)

There are no pre-requisites for this module. Students who are choosing this module as part of a course other than MSc Cyber Security and Management are welcome to seek preparatory advice.

The MSc Cyber Security and Management course team regularly reviews the content provided here for currency and accuracy. Please do get in touch with any queries.Contact: