Cyber Law & Ethics

Course Number: 14-684

Department: Information Networking Institute

Location: Pittsburgh

Units: 12

Semester Offered: Spring

In this online course, students learn about US and international laws they must comply with while working as cyber operations professionals. Learn how to stay on the right side of the law Starting with international law, we cover the formation of the United Nations, plus the Hague and Geneva Conventions. We study sources of US law including the three branches of government, the Constitution, and relevant case law in privacy. We address statutory laws that apply generally to computer professionals like the Computer Fraud and Abuse act and other Title 18 crimes, as well as laws specific to military applications like Titles 10 and 50. Woven throughout, we consider ethics and social responsibility, then conclude with specific issues around ethical hacking. This is a text-based online course with online evaluation via quizzes, which you may take at your own pace. There are no projects or final exam, but please expect to invest substantial time into reading both legal and technical texts.

Class format

Lecture and project-based

Home department


Target audience

INI students

Background required


Learning objectives

  • Given a cyber operations scenario, students will be able to explain the authorities applicable to the scenario.
  • Students will be able to provide a high-level explanation of the legal issues governing the authorized conduct of cyber operations and the use of related tools, techniques, technology, and data.
  • Students will be able to evaluate the relationship between ethics and law, describe civil disobedience and its relation to ethical hacking, describe criminal penalties related to unethical hacking, and apply the notion of Grey Areas to describing situations where law has not yet caught up to technological innovation.
  • Students will be able to describe steps for carrying out ethical penetration testing, describe ‘ethical hacking’ principles and conditions, distinguish between ethical and unethical hacking, and distinguish between nuisance hacking, activist hacking, criminal hacking, and acts of war.

Faculty and instructors who have taught this course in the past

Aleecia McDonald