Funded PhD Opportunity

PostCrypt: Data Security for the future

Subject: Computer Science and Informatics


Summary

Cryptography studies techniques to secure communications in the presence of adversaries. More specifically, cryptography may aim to build protocols which prevent disclosure of protected information to non-intended parties, or to guarantee that communication originates from the expected sender.

Modern cryptography is mainly based on mathematics and computing science. Mathematics provides the theoretical background for the algorithms and their security. Computing science provides the technical foundation to correctly, and securely implement such algorithms. Thereby, it is not only important to develop secure cryptographic algorithms, but such algorithms need to be implementable. Cryptography is in continuous evolution, as it must meet the requirements of different applications where confidentiality, integrity, authentication and non-repudiation need to be guaranteed.

Moreover, the development of new technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices or quantum computers, poses a challenge to the security and applicability of the most commonly used cryptographic algorithms. IoT devices introduce design constraints that make standard algorithms inappropriate to use. Therefore, new techniques to provide lightweight solutions while guaranteeing security are required The eventual proliferation of quantum computers will weaken the security of contemporary public key cryptography. It is known that current public key algorithms will be efficiently broken using quantum algorithms. It is therefore imperative to develop new protocols to address this.

Post-quantum proposals use different mathematical tools involving problems that cannot (currently) be attacked neither with classical nor with quantum algorithms. Coding theory, lattices, isogenies or hash functions could provide different solutions that need to be studied and improved to guarantee their security and efficiency. Additionally, other mathematical tools such as group theory may provide good building blocks for post-quantum protocols. The aim of this project is first to understand the state of the art of cryptographic techniques across the two cases described above. Following this, efforts will be undertaken to develop new algorithms or improve the existing ones. These will leverage a deep understanding of current algorithms and the mathematical tools used within them.

The next stage would be to implement these algorithms in a manner which can operate across a range of hardware with varying computational resources. The resource available to this hardware will vary across simple IoT devices, edge computing resources and cloud computing infrastructures. Implementation for an environment with limited resources would require use of class specific optimisations that factor hardware features present many contemporary computer architectures, such as ARM, MIPS and x86. Implementations to be targeted at more capable environments, such a cloud and edge deployments, would leverage scopic resources such a General-Purpose-GPU computing element, Matrix Multiplication hardware and arrays of FPGA hardware.

This project will be aligned to related efforts by a major FTSE 100 technology company. This will provide the potential of greater support and impact for the project. Finally, this project is aligned with a project on Novel Cryptographic Solutions. Within the BT Ireland Innovation Centre. As this project aims to find a workable solution for security in IoT, this PhD project could potentially provide new schemes for testing. Additionally, research already undertaken in this project can be a starting point.


Essential criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Publications record appropriate to career stage
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Applicants will be shortlisted if they have an average of 75% or greater in a first (honours) degree (or a GPA of 8.75/10). For applicants with a first degree average in the range of 70% to 74% (GPA 3.3): If they are undertaking an Masters, then the average of their first degree marks and their Masters marks will be used for shortlisting.

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training studentship grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training studentship grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training studentship grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training studentship grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

As Senior Engineering Manager of Analytics at Seagate Technology I utilise the learning from my PhD ever day

Adrian Johnston - PhD in Informatics

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Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
Late March 2020


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Jordanstown campus

Jordanstown campus
The largest of Ulster's campuses


Contact supervisor

Dr Jorge Martinez Carracedo


Other supervisors

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