Open PhD topics

PhD project: IOTEE: Securing and analysing trusted execution beyond the CPU

Trusted Execution Environments (TEEs) allow users to run their software in a secure enclave while assuring the integrity and confidentiality of data and applications. However, cloud computing these days relies heavily on peripherals such as GPUs, NICs, and FPGAs. Extending the security guarantees of CPU-based TEEs to such accelerators is currently not possible. New technologies are being proposed to address this, notably the PCIe Trusted Device Interface Security Protocol (TDISP). In this project, together with researchers at the University of Southampton, we will thoroughly evaluate the security guarantees of this new PCIe standard and its ability to provide trusted execution against strong adversaries. This project is aligned with the Research Institute for Secure Hardware and Embedded System (RISE), and the successful candidate will have the chance to disseminate their findings at relevant events. They will also have the opportunity to closely work with a Research Fellow at Birmingham and the team of Dr Ahmad Atamli and Prof Vladi Sassone (both University of Southampton) as the main academic project partner.

The project is led by Prof David Oswald and Prof Mark Ryan. Our project partners are also devoting time to the project, and the PhD student will have the opportunity to work with them.

Studentship: The studentship covers a stipend and tuition fees based on home student rates. The stipend provides an annual maintenance allowance of £18,622. The allowance is paid as a (usually) tax-free stipend and its rate is usually incremented on 1 October each following year.

We provide personal laptops and travel funding to attend conferences (subject to prior approval) and one summer school (or equivalent). Students will also be given the chance to participate in teaching activities, including creating and grading exercises as well as conducting laboratory and tutorial sessions, which are compensated separately.

Eligibility: Candidates from most countries are welcome to apply. However, the studentship does not cover the full tuition fees for overseas students. Candidates should have a good background in computer science. Suitable candidates need a strong background in system-level programming (e.g. using Rust, C or C++) and/or embedded systems/hardware. We also expect a first-class UG or PG degree in a relevant subject (e.g. computer science or electrical engineering).

How to apply: There is no deadline for applying. The PhD candidate is expected to start in spring or summer 2024. We will process applications as they arrive until a suitable candidate is found, therefore we advise you to apply as soon as possible. To apply, please send your CV, a transcript with a list of courses and grades, and a description of your research interests to d.f.oswald (at), with the title of the position ("IOTEE: Securing and analysing trusted execution beyond the CPU") in the subject line.