University of Surrey opens cyber security research centre

The Surrey Centre for Cyber Security (SCCS) has launched, and will be home to academia research on everything from privacy and data protection, to secure mobile communication and human-centric technology.

University of Surrey opens cyber security research centre
University of Surrey opens cyber security research centre

Professor Steve Schneider, director of SCCS, announced the launch at a press briefing at the university campus in Guildford, Surrey on Tuesday where the centre was promoted as a place for “world-class research in technical and interdisciplinary areas of cyber and information security.”

“The reason for setting up the centre at the moment is to consolidate the activity going on in Surrey as a whole. It makes sense to bring this all together under one umbrella,” said Schneider.

The centre forges links between academic, commercial, public sector and government and is managed by Schneider, who will be supported by deputies Mark Manulis (senior lecturer)  and Dr Shujun Li (senior lecturer). There are seven academics in total under the departments of computing and electrical engineering. One more full-time academic is expected to join the centre in due course.

There are a further 21 associate academics operating across a  broad range of departments, including electrical engineering, computing, maths, psychology, law, sociology, as well as the Surrey Business School.

The research themes are as follows:

Privacy and data protection. This area will look at public conscience for privacy, how to manage  privacy and what it means. More specific topics under this section will include digital forensics, e-Voting, online privacy, information hiding, encryption and authentication.

Secure communication. No doubt using the university's 5G centre, this area of research will look at web/network protocols, access control, wireless/mobile security, and fault tolerance.

Human-centred security. Researchers will explore human factors, usable security, security economics and legal aspects.

The research centre has received funding from EPSRC (the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), the EU, TSB (Technology Strategy Board), Home Office, DSTL, the MOD, industry and the public sector. In total, funding is said to have reached £4 million over the last five years.

As part of the launch, the University of Surrey is working towards a new security laboratory – the Applied Security Lab - and a MSc in Information Security – which may be put forward to receive GCHQ accreditation at a later date. The course, which will contain eight security-focused modules with a heavy emphasis on practise, is due to start in September, with a part-time course available from 2015.

The Applied Security Lab is to be ready from September 2014 and will establish a ‘safe space which is not attached to the university network' for students to try out various attacks, learn about teaching and researching.

Schneider said that the centre will also look to engage with others, focus and targeted projects, participate in larger consortia, and work on PhD/master projects. It will get access to real data, case studies and consultancy.

Universities in Birmingham, Glasgow and Swansea are just some of the academia partners for the centre, while Amazon, Thales, the Home Office and Surrey police are among the list of commercial partners.

Jessica Barker, an independent cyber security consultant with a background in sociology, said that the announcement is ‘very exciting' with ‘good broad themes' of research and she was especially pleased with the number of associate academics coming from different disciplines.

“I think what is really positive is bringing all this together because cyber security is such a holistic process – it's great seeing one place dealing with this in a joined up way,” said Barker, when speaking to SCMagazineUK.com.

“The focus on the human effect is a very positive thing –  as in academia, it's too often neglected,” she added.

Update: Eerke Boiten, director of the Cyber Security Research Centre at the University of Kent, also applauded the move when speaking to SC today.

"From the University of Kent's experience of forming a cyber security centre, I am convinced SCCS has great potential for creating interdisciplinary dialogue which will lead to novel and multi-faceted research. I have worked with several of the SCCS team over many years and I am sure we will be seeing more collaboration between the Kent and Surrey cyber security centres in the future."