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Thesis info for Cyber Security students

Important Deadlines for January 2021 Defence

  • Submission of problem statement and research design document: 3rd August 2020
  • Submission of the thesis to the reviewer: DEC 7th 2020 in Moodle [1] KEY: eAsUMTS
  • OIS declaration: DEC 14th 2020 - deadline for submitting the application for defense of graduation thesis
  • Submission of the final version of the thesis: DEC 21st 2020
  • Defences: JAN 11th 2021

Important Deadlines for May 2021 Defence

  • Submission of the problem statement and research design document: 14 December 2020
  • Submission of the thesis to the reviewer: TBD
  • OIS declaration: TBD
  • Submission of the final version of the thesis: TBD
  • Defences: TBD

Thesis Defence Overview

Writing and defending an MSc thesis is an important part of the Cyber Security curriculum, as it shows that you can go deep into a specific cyber security research area. This page gives a rough overview of the process, but details should be discussed with your supervisor. This overview part is given according to the assumption that you are following a 4-semester study plan and aim to defend in the May period. If you want to defend in January, then you can adjust the planning phases accordingly.

Generally, the process should start during the first year, by finding a topic-area of interest and by identifying a suitable supervisor. At the end of the second semester, it is highly recommended to have an idea about your topic and have discussed this with your supervisor.

In early December, you should submit a problem statement and research design document (please, find the details, below). Sending this document is considered as a registration to the defence that will take place in next term.

The next step in the process would be conducting the research. As the thesis submission deadline is around the third week of April (for students aiming to defend in January, this deadline is early December), please, plan to finish your work early April, so that your supervisor can review your thesis, give you feedback and you have time to address the feedback before your thesis is being sent to the reviewer/opponent. Jointly with your supervisor, you should then make a decision if your work is ready to be submitted for May defence (or if you need more time and prefer to submit for a January defence). The reviewer will review your thesis and give you feedback. Expect that you should receive the review about a week before the final deadline. You can continue to update your work until the final submission date. You can and should, however, incorporate the review feedback into the final copy of your thesis and defence presentation. This will allow you to make modifications, e.g., fix some typos or clarify some sections, which the reviewer pointed out.

At the final submission deadline, you will have to submit your thesis. On the day of defence, you are expected to give a 15-minute presentation of your work, followed by Q&A from the opponent, committee, supervisor & audience. Make sure you prepare your 15-minute presentation well, this should not be left for the evening before the defence.

Below some more detailed information.

Good luck!

Registration and submission of problem statement and research design document

Each student is required to submit a problem statement and research design document having a length up to 10 pages. The document must include your name and also the names of thesis and supervisor (and co-supervisor if exists).

About half a year before the defence, the students are required to indicate their intent to defend by this document. See deadlines above set for each semester. Typically this will be around Early December for May defences and Mid June for January defences. You will need to submit this via the TTU Moodle link given in "important deadlines" section of relevant defence period. You'll have to self-enrol yourself in that link. Feedback on the problem statement and research design document should be received within 3-4 weeks via the email account that you defined in TTU Moodle.

The document should include the following sections and content:

• The topic of the thesis

• The name of the author

• The name of the supervisor

• Motivation: An overview of the addressed problem is given here. It should be explained why the problem is important and deserves a research study.

• Research Problem/Hypothesis/Question: It is imperative to write a proper research problem/hypothesis/question statement(s).

• Scope and Goal: This section defines the goal of the study and describes the main outcomes. It is required to specify the scope, limitations and key assumptions of the study.

• Literature Review: This section includes the analysis of similar studies in the literature and gives a discussion of the research gap. It is important to link this research gap explanation with the research problem.

• Novelty: This section justifies the novelty of your study, explains what the main contribution is and what the differences are when compared to similar studies.

• Research Methods: The research methods that you will apply in your study are given here. The data collection and analysis methods are also covered in this section. It is needed to explain how your research outcome will be validated.

• References: The resources referenced in the document are listed here.

This document is evaluated according to the following criteria:

Whether the author

• has a well-defined problem statement,

• successfully presents the significance of the problem,

• knows the literature and the limits of existing solutions,

• have thought about possible methods,

• have thought about how to validate the proposed solution,

• brings a novelty to the literature.

You can find detailed information about research methods here.

Submission to Reviewer

Each thesis will be assigned a reviewer or sometimes called opponent. The reviewer must have at least a Master's degree and relevant knowledge or experience in the field of the thesis topic, and they must not have a conflict of interest (such as being members in the same research group). Students and supervisor may recommend reviewer candidates, but the final assignment will be done by the thesis defence committee.

A reviewer will provide written feedback (typically about two pages) on the thesis. The review should cover the following points:

  • short description of the thesis
  • strengths and weaknesses of the thesis
  • recommended grade (0-5, where 0 is a failing thesis and 5 is an excellent thesis) based on the clarity of the problem and the solution, complexity of the problem, suitability of the chosen solution, proper execution of the solution, and the proper formatting and language use in the thesis.
  • at least three questions that can be asked during the defence.

Based on the student's performance at the defence the reviewer may change the recommended grade.

The reviewer will receive a copy of the thesis about two-three weeks before the final/hard university deadline for submitting the thesis. The reason for this is that typically reviewers point out the typos and small factual mistakes that can be fixed in short time (about a week). The student will receive the review one week before the final submission deadline and therefore is able to address some of the comments before submitting the final version. The student can also still decide not to submit the thesis this round, but rather work on improving the quality and then submit an improved version in the next defence period.

OIS declaration

Before a student can proceed to the thesis defence, they have to declare the thesis topic in OIS and get approval from their supervisor. Please pay careful attention to the OIS declaration deadline, as without this you will not be permitted to attend the defence. If you will defend your thesis in Tartu University, then you should do your OIS declaration to their systems according to their deadlines.

Submission of Final Copy

Each student will submit the pdf version of the thesis, the relevant thesis metadata and licence information via moodle course page link given in "important deadlines" section of relevant defence period. Please complete the steps 1, 2 and 3 of the thesis submission on this page.

In addition to submission of above materials via Moodle, one paper copy of your thesis will be collected before defence, which you will get back after defence. The details will be announced one or two weeks before the deadline.

If you will defend your thesis in Tartu University, then you should submit final copy according to the procedures and deadlines of Tartu University.

NB! Do not forget that you need to prepare a 15 min presentation for your defence. This should really not be left to the evening before the defence!

The defence procedure

On the day of defence, students will present their theses according to the announced schedule. Generally, the results will be announced at the end of the day.

The defence procedure for each student consists of the following steps:

  • the committee Chairman announces the name of the student, the topic of the thesis, and the names of the supervisor(s) and reviewer.
  • the student presents his or her thesis in 15 minutes.
  • the student answers the reviewer's questions and the reviewer recommends a grade. This recommendation may differ from the preliminary recommendation, based on how successful the defence was.
  • the student answers questions from the committee.
  • the student answers questions from the audience.
  • the supervisor gives his or her opinion of the thesis and recommends a grade.

NB! The recommended grades by the reviewer and the supervisor are not binding to the committee, who makes the final decision.

Formal Requirements and recommendations

Until further notice, please use the formatting guide from the School of Information Technologies (link to the guide is given here). Please note that you will have to change the title page as of 01.01.2017:

  • write "School of Information Technology" instead of "Faculty of Information Technology"
  • write "Department of Software Science" instead of "Department of Computer Engineering".

The thesis code for IVCM is ITC70LT.

The following advices can be considered for a master thesis

  • a title page, an author declaration, an annotation in English and Estonian, a list of contents, and references are required in the thesis
  • 50-80 pages + appendices if needed
  • Times New Roman (or similar), font size 12, 1.5 spacing used for the ordinary text
  • Headings are numbered and no more than 3 levels used
  • Don't forget page numbers

Topic and supervisor

Every student must have a supervisor when writing the thesis. The supervisor's role is to provide guidance on topic selection and research methods, as well as to give feedback on your work. It is not the supervisor's duty to correct spelling mistakes or formatting errors - they may point such things out, but the responsibility remains with you. Before a thesis will be accepted for defence, the supervisor has to agree that it is of sufficient quality.

Almost any professor and lecturer you have met in your curriculum can act as an supervisor of your thesis. Some of them have some open problems suitable for doing research and writing a thesis, but many may not have a topic to offer right away. It is usually more helpful to have an initial idea of a topic of your thesis and ask someone with interests in the related field to advise you. You can have a supervisor not related to the university, but he can act only as a co-supervisor and you need to agree to somebody related to the curricula or the leading institute of the curriculum to be an official co-supervisor. All (co-)supervisor must have at least a Master's degree.

When refining a topic idea, make sure it has a clear connection with cyber security.

Potential supervisors & proposed topics

The topics below are offered by potential (co-)supervisors (in alphabetical order). The list is updated as new offers emerge.

From Hayretdin Bahsi, Tallinn University of Technology,

I am interested in various topics which can be categorized as technical and organizational. If you already have specific topics in your mind, we can discuss them and decide to work together.

Technical Topics

  • Application of machine learning and data mining methods to the following cyber security problems: Malware detection, botnet identification, code security review, intrusion detection in SCADA or IoT systems or cyber threat intelligence
  • Cyber security of IoT systems: Development of a security testbed, threat modelling, honeypots, intrusion detection systems
  • Digital Forensics: IoT forensics, mobile forensics, blockchain forensics

Organizational Topics

  • Cyber insurance
  • Security operation center (SOC) models
  • Case studies for the improvement of SOC processes such as threat monitoring, incident handling, or vulnerability management

From Aivo Kalu, Cybernetica AS

1. Comparison of identity/authentication/signing APIs from security and architecture viewpoint

This might be suitable for student, who is more interested about software developing/architecture aspects, but still related to security as well. In short, there are many competing API-s in the Baltic/Nordic region, which are used in practice, to request the authentication or signatures. For example:

and also, there are the “canonical” or “standard" ones like OIDC and SAML and DSS ( Which one is good? Which one has the best properties from software point of view or security point of view? Which one to use for future integrations? How do we even compare them?

2. Apply Smart-ID authentication and digital signatures (or underlying SplitKey technology) in novel bitcoin/blockchain/SSI/DID use cases.

For example, last year, there was the master thesis

If there’s some additional ideas, about where to apply the Smart-ID authentication services or perhaps to do more deeper integration with the SplitKey technology, we could discuss and see, if some interesting project might come out of this.

3. Compare the attack model of the FIDO with the attack model of Smart-ID.

The current Smart-ID authentication API ( specifies how the anonymous session with the web-site becomes the authenticated session. Compare the security properties of this authentication flow with and

4. Compare the properties of Smart-ID with framework by Bonneau et al.

Take the and the properties described there and analyse, which ones are satisfied by Smart-ID, which ones are not satisfied, which ones are already pointless in the year 2020. Compare with, which does the same kind exercise for FIDO in the section 6.1.

From Jüri Kivimaa, Tallinn University of Technology

  • IT security economics
  • security cost optimization

From Toomas Lepik, Tallinn University of Technology

General areas:

  • Network Forensic (related data analysis)
  • Reverse engineering (including malware analysis)
  • SCADA security
  • Incident Handling.

A bit more specific research ideas

From Birgy Lorenz, Tallinn University of Technology

  • human factors in cybersecurity
  • cyber awareness and training (kindergarten, schools, laypersons)
  • cybersecurity young talents skills and its development and testing
  • women in cybersecurity

From Mika Kerttunen, Tallinn University of Technology

  • Mathematical modeling of critical infrastructure protection: priorities and decision-making
  • From table-top to lap-top: The objectives, methods, and conduct of operational level cyber security exercises
  • International attribution council
  • Public-private partnerships
  • Military cyber defence

From Olaf Maennel, Tallinn University of Technology,

Currently only accepting students who have previously passed CNS.073.

From Andrew Roberts, Tallinn University of Technology

Topics: 1. Evaluation of Methods for Threat and Risk Assessment of Autonomous Self-Driving Vehicles 2. Design and Development of a cyber range for Autonomous self-driving vehicles Contribution:

Topic 1: The outcome of this work will form part of TUT contribution to standards and methods research within the International Alliance for Mobility Testing and Standardisation (IAMTS).

Topic 2: The developed cyber range will be integrated into the EU ECHO-Federated Cyber Range.

From Rain Ottis, Tallinn University of Technology

  • national cyber security
  • serious games in cyber security/cyber security exercises

From Arnis Paršovs, University of Tartu,

  • eID
  • PKI
  • TLS
  • Smart cards

A full list of thesis topics offered by the Applied Cyber Security Group (UT) is available in the thesis topics database.

Students can also get access to various hardware that can be used for research experiments.

From Mauno Pihelgas

  • system monitoring
  • network monitoring
  • IDS/IPS systems
  • insider threat detection

From Jaan Priisalu, Tallinn University of Technology

  • TBD

From Tiia Sõmer, Tallinn University of Technology

Currently no topics on offer.

From Kaie Maennel, Tallinn University of Technology


- cyber awareness and hygiene

- cyber security learning and teaching (e.g., serious games, cyber defense exercises, etc.)

- learning analytics in cyber security training context

- human factors in cyber security

- cybersecurity risk assessment and management

- IT and cybersecurity audits

From Stefan Sütterlin, Tallinn University of Technology & Østfold University College


- cognitive science and performance in cyber defence

- human factors in cyber security

- cyberpsychology

- decision-making

- cognitive biases

From Eneken Tikk, Tallinn University of Technology

  • Technical and organizational implementation of the GDPR
  • Monetization of personal data
  • Economics of cybersecurity (the cost of implementation relative to the anticipated and evidenced gains)
  • Cyber insurance
  • Non-military strategies for national and international cybersecurity
  • Legal aspects of cybersecurity

From Risto Vaarandi, Tallinn University of Technology

Here are potential areas for selecting a thesis topic:

  • event log collection
  • event log analysis
  • event correlation
  • network monitoring
  • intrusion detection
  • any area that is connected to security monitoring
  • various other system security engineering topics (for example, system hardening or firewalling)

When applying for supervision, preference is given to students who have either passed the Cyber Defense Monitoring Solutions course with grade 4 or 5, or have previous engineering experience in the research area (for example, writing a thesis on network intrusion detection requires previous experience with network IDS systems). Before applying, make sure you have selected at least one initial thesis topic suggestion with a background research about its validity.

From Matthew Sorell, Tallinn University of Technology / Adelaide University Australia

Matthew James Sorell <>

1. A risk-based decision approach for handling digital devices at a crime scene.

It is common for electronic devices such as mobile phones to be discovered at a crime scene, but the means for securing the device is becoming increasingly complex. In spite of this, evidence handling procedures are often static and increasingly out of date, leading to the loss of critical evidence in serious crime.

The phone may be remotely wiped; picking it up may activate motion sensors; and in some cases (such as missing persons) the urgency of the evidence needs to be weighed against securing forensic evidence for investigation and prosecution.

In this research, we consider the development of a risk-based approach to advising crime scene investigators to handle digital devices in the least-worst way.

2. Feasible route mapping

When examining timestamped geolocation data, it is often useful to determine feasible routes which could be taken from one location to another.

Google Maps, for example, provides directions and sometimes provides a small number of alternatives. For criminal investigation, a heatmap of feasible routes would support investigators with a means to rapidly evaluate the context of movement in and around a crime.

In this project, we propose to use the Google Maps Platform ( to build, through statistical sampling, a heatmap of feasible routes subject to time and modes-of-transportation constraints.

From the TUT IT office


  • Migrating TUT Campus LAN to IPv6; Edgars Zigurs
  • Implementing a freeware SIEM solution in TUT; Edgars Zigurs
  • Campus WiFi quality and signal strength modeling (3D); Edgars Zigurs


  • electronic door signs, room calendars, etc.; Thomas Lepik
  • VoIP solutions - softphone, integration with existing information systems; Thomas Lepik
  • integrating last generation BMS (Building Management System); Thomas Lepik
  • the student view of OIS (usability, security, re-design); Enn Rebane

From the Tartu University thesis topic registry

You can check the possible cyber security-related topics from the following link:

From Estonian Police

  • Vaatlustarkvarade EnCase ja Autopsy võrdlus (selgituseks, et Autopsy on EnCase analoog, kuid tasuta. Vajalik oleks täpne analüüs, et mida Autopsy võimaldab ja mida mitte võrreldes EnCase ja/või FTKga).
  • Erinevate suhtlustarkvarade (WhatsApp, Viber, FB Messenger, Skype jt) jäljed mobiiltelefonides ja nende analüüsimine (selgituseks, et üldjuhul loovad suhtlustarkvarad mingi andmebaasi vestlustega ka telefoni, kas see on krüpteeritud või mitte? Osad vestlused XRY tuvastab, aga millistel juhtudel? Millised võimalused oleks neid faile nö käsitsi uurida?).
  • Tõendiahela kirjeldamine elektrooniliste tõendite fikseerimisel (chain of custody)/Elektroonilise sisu erikohtlemine asitõendi vaatlusel/Digitaaltõendite vaatluse kord – erinevate riikid analüüs ja võrdlus.
  • P2P võrkudes lastest ebasündsate piltide levitajate tuvastamine/P2P võrkudes illegaalse internetisisu levitajate tuvastamine.
  • Koolituskava väljatöötamine uurijale/menetlejale, kes puutub kokku digitaalsete tõenditega- erinevate riikide praktika võrdlus.
  • Ask Rain Ottis for a POC on these topics.

Useful links

ITX8040 Thesis advice slides

Format requirements of a thesis and MS-Word Template (TalTech)

LATEX template for master thesis (TalTech) (accessible by UNI-ID)

Databases, books, research papers accessible from the TTU network

An Overview of Research Methods

Previously Defended Theses