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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Informatics : Informatics

Undergraduate Course: Blockchains and Distributed Ledgers (INFR11144)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Informatics CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryBlockchain technology and distributed ledgers have been hailed as a turning point in scaling information technology services at a global level. Although the digital currency Bitcoin is the best-known Blockchain application today, the technology is set to play a much broader role in cyber security innovation. This course is an introduction to the design and analysis of blockchain systems and distributed ledgers and is meant to be taught in parallel to the Introduction to Modern Cryptography course of the same level (INFR11131) every other year (with the latter course as a prerequisite or co-requisite).
Course description The concept of blockchain will be covered in detail together with the supporting cryptographic technology. Questions that will be covered is why it works and what problems can it solve.


1. Introduction to blockchain. What is a distributed ledger. Transactions. Digital Signatures.
2. The consensus layer. Basic Properties. Proof of Work.
3. Robust Transaction Ledgers. Properties and Objectives. Permissioned, permissionless ledgers.
4. Privacy Issues. Anonymity, Pseudonymity, Unlinkability. Zero-Knowledge Proofs.
5. Scalability Issues. Byzantine agreement protocols.
6. Blockchain as a platform. Smart Contracts.
7. Secure multiparty computation techniques and their application to blockchain protocols.
8. Alternative techniques to proof of work for blockchain protocols, proof of stake/space.
9. Game theoretic analysis of blockchain protocols.
10. Name and object registries. Reputation systems. Policy issues related to blockchain.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites It is RECOMMENDED that students have passed Computer Security (INFR10058) AND Algorithms and Data Structures (INFR09006) OR Algorithms and Data Structures (INFR10052)
Co-requisites It is RECOMMENDED that students also take Introduction to Modern Cryptography (INFR11131)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesThis course is open to full year Visiting Students only, as the course is delivered in Semester 1 and examined at the end of Semester 2.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 20, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 76 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 70 %, Coursework 30 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1. Exam. (70%)
2. Assessed coursework (30%)

30% of the assessment will be on an assigned coursework aimed at the course learning objectives.

The coursework that will be graded corresponds to a total of 30 hours of work. A single assignment will be given that will require approximately 30 hours of work. Other exercises will be provided but not counted towards the final grade.

Visiting Students:
This course is open to full year Visiting Students only, as the course is delivered in Semester 1 and examined at the end of Semester 2.
Feedback Not entered
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand what is a blockchain and a distributed ledger
  2. Develop or extend the ability to think critically about cybersecurity
  3. Understand the challenges of scaling information technology services across organizational barriers and at a global level.
  4. Analyse the security of basic cryptographic primitives like hash functions and digital signatures
Reading List
Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies by Arvind Narayanan, Joseph Bonneau, Edward Felten, Andrew Miller, Steven Goldfeder.

The Bitcoin Backbone Protocol: Analysis and Applications, Juan Garay and Aggelos Kiayias and Nikos Leonardos.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Familiarity with cryptography, cyber security, decentralized systems, databases, open source software.

Characteristic 1, Level 5.
Characteristic 2, Level 10.
Characteristic 3, Level 5.
Characteristic 4, Level 5.
Characteristic 5, Level 5.
Special Arrangements Basic understanding of probability.
Discrete mathematics.
KeywordsBitcoin,Distributed Systems,Cryptography,BDL
Course organiserProf Aggelos Kiayias
Tel: (031 6)50 5129
Course secretaryMiss Clara Fraser
Tel: (0131 6)51 4164
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