Queen’s gets £25m sterling to counter malicious cyber attacks

21 Nov 2008

Queen’s University Belfast is to become the UK’s leading centre for the developing technology to counter malicious cyber attacks, after receiving a £25m sterling funding boost from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Almost £7m sterling from the EPSRC will help fund a new Innovation and Knowledge Centre – the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) – which will be based at Queen’s Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) in the Northern Ireland Science Park, Belfast.

CSIT will create the security infrastructure needed to safeguard the trustworthiness of information stored electronically, both at home and in the workplace.

The centre will bring together research specialists in complementary fields such as data encryption, network security systems, wireless enabled security systems and intelligent surveillance technology.

Funding has been provided by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (£6.95m sterling), the Technology Strategy Board (£2.5m sterling), industry partners (£7m sterling) and Queen’s (£8.8m sterling).

“ECIT’s mission has always been to undertake more ambitious and real-world research than is usual in a university environment,” said Queen’s vice-chancellor, Professor Peter Gregson.

“Within five years, CSIT will be a self-financing, globally recognised UK research centre, coupling pioneering research with economic development.”

According to Professor John McCanny, director of ECIT, the internet is evolving into an essential utility like electricity, gas and water.

“Currently, around one trillion devices have the ability to access the internet and connectivity has never been easier. With global connectivity though comes global vulnerability in terms of privacy, security and trustworthiness of information.

“The new centre at ECIT will develop secure solutions to a number of particularly modern problems, including the protection of mobile phone networks, guaranteeing privacy over unsecure networks for connected healthcare and the creation of secure ‘corridors’ for the seamless and rapid transit of people, thus getting around the need for conventional security at airports,” McCanny added.

Queen’s is also working on powerful computer processors capable of detecting and filtering viruses and worms to protect mass information databases like financial records from malicious attack, and to facilitate high-definition streaming video services.

Professor McCanny added: “Although only four years old, ECIT has already achieved many world-class scientific breakthroughs and helped create many new spin-out companies. The new centre will realise the full potential of emerging technologies, ensuring Queen’s and the UK is the first to develop such cutting-edge research.”

UK Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, said that more public money than ever before is being spent on world-leading research into the strategic challenges facing the UK – such as the world’s ageing population and security.

“The investment in these two new innovation and knowledge centres will foster an entrepreneurial environment where ground-breaking research can mix at an early stage with business and potential customers, to provide a clear commercial strategy for accelerating its impact on the economy.”

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years