My CDT Experience. Dr Ela Lee

I passed by PhD viva in March 2020 and currently work as a research scientist at Cambridge Quantum in the quantum crypto team. My role is to explore classical alternatives to quantum schemes so that we can investigate quantum advantage, if/when it exists. There are several aspects of my time in the CDT which have already shown their value in my new role. Firstly, unlike a traditional PhD, the CDT gave us no specific topic to study but instead encouraged us to look at anything related to cyber security. I found the lack of concrete direction challenging at times, and was rarely in my comfort zone. However, the experience of diving into new areas, trying to figure out what the current problems are and what useful things I might be able to say has prepared me for the uncertainties of research. As I am no expert in quantum physics, in my current role I continue to stay outside my comfort zone, diving into new areas and figuring out what useful things might be said. In some ways, it feels

My CDT Journey: Dr Amit Deo

  It has been almost two years since I completed my CDT journey and I can safely say that I look back fondly on my years at Royal Holloway. The first time I heard about the CDT was during the final year of my maths degree in 2015 where PhD students from various universities were invited to give short talks advertising their departments. For me, the ISG presentation was a breath of fresh air and I was left convinced that pursuing a PhD in cyber security was a real possibility even without a computer science degree. After reading an introductory book on cryptography, I decided to apply and was thankfully accepted. Like most CDT students, I spent the first year following the various courses offered and attending the industry visits. Although I came to Royal Holloway with the vague idea that I would end up researching cryptography, I was keen to understand what other PhD topics were available to someone with a mathematics background. After many discussions, machine learning emerged as a

New Publication: Remote Working and (In)Security?: Amy Ertan

A recent research report by CDT researchers Amy Ertan and Georgia Crossland has been published with the Research Institute for Sociotechnical Cyber Security (RISCS). The report examines ‘The Impact of Pandemic-Driven Remote Working on Employee Wellbeing, the Psychological Contract and Cyber Security’, with research carried out through a series of interviews with senior cyber security colleagues between January and April 2021. The full report can be found on the RISCS website: New publication: Remote Working and (In)Security | RISCS. Context In the UK and around the world, the impact of COVID-19 represented a total shift away from what was considered ‘normal living’. One aspect of this change was the rapid transition to remote working as people were encouraged to work from home and limit contact with others as far as possible through repeated lockdown conditions. Fellow CDT colleague Georgia Crossland and I were curious to explore how remote working has impacted the experiences - and se

Ransomware attacks and water bottles: behind the scenes at the CDT summer school: Oliver Bock-Brown

 10:07am, 28 June. Alphaland Health Services is hit by a major ransomware attack, taking down key computer systems throughout the country’s health services, and potentially impacting a critical vaccine manufacturer. Teams representing a range of organisations, from the President’s Office down to ISPs and threat intelligence firms, scramble to work out what is going on, and how to respond to this threat. In a rapidly changing environment, the teams frantically communicate with each other in a desperate attempt to identify the perpetrators and stop further attacks from happening. But when indications point to the militaristic neighbouring state of Bravoland, how will they respond? Will the teams feel they have enough reliable information to launch a counterattack? Or will the doubts from some groups be enough to prevent all-out war? That was the situation facing attendees on the first morning of this year’s joint CDT summer school, a three-day event predominantly run by a team of CDT stu

Deception Detection Technology: Elle Pearson

First year student Elle Pearson participated in an online poster competition during the Royal Holloway Annual Doctoral Conference on 10 and 11 June. Elle was placed fourth and received an honourable mention for her poster. You can view the poster and the accompanying short essay below. “I’m fine” is likely the most common lie you hear as people tend to lie the most about how they feel (DePaulo & Kashy, 1998). Lying and deception is too nuanced to claim that it is simply ‘bad’ and shouldn’t be done, it is a complex human trait and behaviour, with children beginning to lie from the age of two (Talwar & Lee, 2008). Of course people lie for nefarious reasons, but people also lie for good-hearted reasons or to protect themselves, either psychologically or from a situational danger (DePaulo, 2004). Some research also points to deception and lying being an evolutionary trait that allows humans to work together cooperatively (McNally & Jackson, 2013). Humans have always tried to id

A Definitely Unusual Start: Giuseppe Raffa

We made it! The COVID-19 crisis has undoubtedly created a rather challenging environment for my cohort, as we did not have the opportunity to start our PhD journey in a traditional way. I must say that initially I was rather perplexed, as I thought that the lack of face-to-face interaction with lecturers and fellow students would have a negative impact on our learning experience. What happened over the last six months proves that I was certainly too pessimistic, and the spirit of co-operation of the 2020 cohort was the real winner. The taught element of the CDT was a pleasant surprise for me. We all knew that our training would be interdisciplinary, but I suspect that very few of us, including me, had imagined that it would be so engaging, despite the circumstances created by the global pandemic. If I were asked to choose the highlights of the first term, I would mention the geopolitics course, where interaction is to my mind the key to success. I have always read about politics and in

The Artificial Intelligence Monster: Nicola Bates

Christopher Booker in 2004 wrote of the seven basic plots to any story, one of these being ‘overcoming the monster’. Within Hollywood, such ‘monsters’ often reflects the zeitgeist balancing commercial requirements with the political and societal preoccupations of the age. The monster evolves over time - from Russia in the Cold War years through to lone actors and terrorists and now to seemingly shadowy figures controlling intelligence. Whilst generally lighter in tone, such monsters also exist within children’s cinema. In recent years this monster has become increasingly defined by their use of highly sophisticated technology, finally becoming the technology in ‘The Mitchells vs. the Machine’*. Lethal technology and subversive machines aren’t new concepts in children’s movies. They can, for example, be found in ‘Short Circuit’ back in 1986. This movie begins with five United States military robots in a training exercise against tanks and focusses upon one of the robots becoming ‘alive’


  This year we participated in the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge. The yearly event, which is normally hosted in the BT tower but was virtual this year, presents competitors with a fictional scenario that requires them to propose policy options to judges playing the role of the Prime Minister’s office. The competition aims to provide participants with a better understanding of the technical, societal and strategic implications of cyber security and conflict. We represented the CDT under the team name of “Minerva Task Force''. Given our multidisciplinary shared knowledge and that we were going to be taking part in a strategic challenge, we thought the name of the Roman goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare worked well. We are also an all female team, and so the name of a Roman goddess seemed fitting.  Stephanie and Sofia had come across the competition in the past, and were keen to take part this year having heard great reviews from past participants. They asked the rest of the

Remote working and Cyber Security: Georgia Crossland and Amy Ertan