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Three major cyber security projects go to Surrey

The University has won funding for three projects in a recent EPSRC competition – more than any other university – demonstrating its leading position in the field of cyber security.

The projects, which are together worth nearly £3 million, have been awarded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) after a competition for submissions in the field of Trust, Identity, Privacy and Security (TIPS). Surrey was awarded three out of the 12 projects while no other university won more than a single project.

Scheduled to begin in June 2016, the three projects each tackle a different challenge presented by cyber security.

The first project, led by Dr Helen Treharne, Head of the Department of Computer Science,  regards the protection of personal data while using it to provide real-time customer service for passengers throughout a journey. The objective is to develop a privacy evaluation framework underpinned by statistical analysis, data provenance and mobile technology, to manage the trade-off between sharing private personal data and the benefits obtained by doing so. This interdisciplinary project involves four universities: University of Surrey, Loughborough University, University of Southampton and Royal Holloway, University of London, in collaboration with the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) and the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), Pervasive Intelligence Ltd. and the Digital Catapult. It builds on a successful feasibility study that focused on improving the customer journey experience while ensuring personal data privacy for travellers who are mobility- and visually-impaired. The study involved a user study on the requirements of disabled passengers when making journeys and a mobile application which utilised wifi localisation and the DARWIN data feeds to provide personalised information to passengers during their journeys.

Luisa Moisio, Head of R&D at RSSB said: “For the rail industry cyber-security is an increasing priority and RSSB is working with industry and academia on the issues. We are keen to support this project as the proposed work will build a strong foundation in the area of assessment and prevention of threats to railway customers and services arising from the exchange and use of data.

The second project, TAPESTRY (Trust, Authentication and Privacy over a DeCentralised Social Registry) is being led by Dr John Collomosse of the Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP) at Surrey with a number of industry partners. These include Microsoft Research, law firm Charles Russell Speechlys and local enterprise partners Enterprise M3 and the Surrey Chambers of Commerce. The aim of this project is to develop new technologies to enable people, businesses and digital services to make better decisions about who they trust online in today’s increasingly complex digital environment. In the era of distributed ledgers with no central control (such as Blockchain), the work will focus on the development of digital trails of users’ interactions within these databases, encrypted to ensure trust.

The third project, ConTrive (Control and Trust as Moderating Mechanisms in addressing Vulnerability for the Design of Business and Economic Models), will be a collaboration between Surrey and the University of Warwick. Led at Surrey by Professor Roger Maull of the Surrey Centre for the Digital Economy (CODE) within the Surrey Business School (SBS), this project will focus on how vulnerable we feel online. The central argument is that personal privacy is often traded (eg Facebook) but vulnerability depends on the context, for example who we are with, where we are and how much we trust the service provider. With input from project partners HAT Data Exchange, Hollywood Elite Music & Media (UK) and Methods Digital Ltd, the researchers will develop new business models to help businesses mitigate perceptions of cyber security risks, building trust in online services.

Professor Steve Schneider, Director of the Surrey Centre for Cyber Security (SCCS) and Associate Dean (Research and Enterprise) in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, said, “We are delighted that Surrey has been awarded these three quite diverse projects. The scope of these projects – ranging from computer science-based research to the more social aspects – demonstrates the breadth of expertise we have built in the field of cyber security at Surrey.”

The project work aligns closely with the SCCS, which brings together expertise in computer science and electronic engineering with other disciplines including maths, business, sociology and psychology. The SCCS has been named one of 13 Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Research by GCHQ (the UK government communication headquarters).

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