PhD Graduation

In 2018, we celebrated the successful completion of four PhD students, supervised by Prof Konstantinos Markantonakis and the Smart Card and IoT Security Centre (SCC). They are:

  • Dr Carlton Shepherd, “Techniques for Establishing Trust in Modern Constrained Sensing Platforms with Trusted Execution Environments”
  • Dr Iakovos Gurulian, “On Enhancing the Security of Time Constrained Mobile Contactless Transactions”
  • Dr Robert Lee, “Schemes and Applications for Binding Hardware and Software in Computing Devices”
  • Rashedul Hassan, “Cheat Detection and Security in Video Games”

Well done to them!

At the same time, the SCC is expanding its research efforts in its established research threads, including payment systems, automotive, blockchain and smart contracts, and secure application execution. We are looking for hard working and ambitious PhD candidates to join our research team.

Patent and commercialization

Prof Konstantinos Markantonakis, Dr Raja Naeem Akram and Mr James Tapsell, worked successfully into the creation of a patent as a “Technique to record an event and its impact on the data during the lifetime of a data – specific to individual entities represented in the data.” The implementation helps in serving General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rights: Right to Access, Right to Forget, and Right to Rectification (with evidence).

RHUL has invested in further business analysis around the commercialisation opportunities of the technique developed at SCC. Furthermore, it has invested in building a commercial grade implementation of an MVP, in order to provide the stepping stone for commercialising the aforementioned patent.


Professor Konstantinos Markantonakis, Dr Raja Akram and Dr Jorge Blasco Alis from ISG, are leading three projects having secured awards under the Innovate UK Cyber security academic start-up accelerate programme (CyberASAP). This programme provides funding to increase the amount of academic research being commercialised by UK universities through a bespoke programme of support.

Starting this April, with support from industry experts, national Knowledge Transfer Networks (KTNs) and the Research and Enterprise Department at our College, the teams will take part in a 4-month value proposition building activity.  This will include a boot camp, programme review and followed by pitching to an independent, expert judging panel.  If successful, the teams will progress to phase 2 of the programme, gaining support to identify the best commercial route to build a minimal viable product.

Three teams will be taking forward the following projects:

Professor Konstantinos Markantonakis will lead ‘Transparent Compliance’, a project that will develop technology that holistically generates real time analysis of the security and privacy compliance of an organisation.

Dr Raja Akram will lead ‘AISecure’, a project that will develop technologies consisting of novel tools able to evaluate the security and privacy resilience of an AI algorithm against a comprehensive set of threat vectors.  It will also provide digital forensics tools for AI algorithms to ascertain and investigate cyber-attacks and decision making bias.

Dr Jorge Blasco Alis will lead ‘BLEmap: Security for Bluetooth Low Energy Enabled Applications’. BLEmap will help companies to develop secure Internet of Things (I0T) devices that communicate using Bluetooth Low Energy.

For more information on this, and similar funding schemes to support research commercialisation, please contact Fay Kassibawi, Technology Transfer Manager in the Research and Enterprise Department by email, or on 01784 276086.

ISG SCC Workshop 2018

On the 1st of November 2018, the ISG SCC Workshop 2018 showcased the excellent work carried out by its summer internship recipient students of the 2017-2018 academic year. The SCC provided the necessary funding and had the privilege of collaborating with eleven amazing undergraduate (UG) Computer Science students investigating a range of topics including data provenance, machine/deep learning, visualisation, blockchain, smart contracts, e-voting, syscall and database monitoring.

The ISG SCC undergraduate internship programme is designed to provide a first-hand experience of research and development at the highest level, by enabling undergraduate students to work with experienced researchers on real world problems related to cybersecurity and privacy.

The ISG SCC staff provides support and direction in selecting a real world research question, co-developing it, finding the core issues that need to be tackled and propose realistic solutions. The programme has a significant active research and programming (development) component, along with extensible emphasis towards exploring commercialisation opportunities.

During the workshop, each intern delivered a soundbite talk summarising their work, the skills they gained and the challenges they had to overcome during the 10 week programme.


  • All projects achieved their identified objectives.
  • One proposal is already in the commercialisation stage (by RHUL).
  • Four papers accepted (published) in international conferences; another paper is under submission and a journal paper under development.

Responsible Disclosure: XiongMai uc-httpd 1.0.0 – Buffer Overflow

As part of his MSc Project, Andrew Watson discovered a previously unknown buffer overflow vulnerability in ‘XiongMai uc-httpd 1.0.0’ – a web server used in multiple IoT devices including routers, CCTV cameras and DVR’s. Following best practice and with the full support of RHUL ISG, he attempted responsible disclosure to assist XiongMai in fixing the vulnerability, but unfortunately the company did not respond to any of the multiple attempts to discuss the vulnerability with them. After 111days of no responses, he released the 0day exploit publicly, further details available here.

The vulnerability (CVE ID: CVE-2018-10088) has since been given a CVSS score of 10.0 – the highest any vulnerability can score.

Andrew’s Proof of Concept exploit (PoC) was accepted to the Offensive Security Exploit Database as EDB-ID: 44864 and is also included in Kali Linux via the SearchSploit tool.

Soon after the PoC exploit was publicly released, it was reported that the Satori Botnet integrated the PoC exploit into their botnet code. Quoting Security Affairs: “The code recently included in the Satori botnet exploits a buffer overflow vulnerability, tracked as CVE-2018-10088, in XionMai uc-httpd 1.0.0. The exploit could be used by remote attackers to execute arbitrary code by sending a malformed package via ports 80 or 8000.”

The vulnerability was also reported by Bleeping Computer: “The sudden surge in port 8000 activity turned the heads of multiple security experts specialized in botnet tracking, as it came out of nowhere and at an incredible scale”.

SCC Affiliated Visiting Researcher Award: European Emerging Forensic Scientist 2018

Doctor Heckmann Thibaut, who was a SCC’s academic visitor from 2017 to 2018, was rewarded with the “European Emerging Forensic Scientist Award 2018-2021” at the European Acadamy of Forensic Science (EAFS) conference, which took place in Lyon from August 27 to 31, 2018, and which brings together all the European forensic laboratories.

This prize rewards a process of collaboration between the RHUL, the Ecole Normale Superieure of Paris (ENS), and the Forensic Science Laboratory of the French National Gendarmerie (IRCGN). In that sense, when considering the latest generation of encrypted mobile devices (BlackBerry’s PGP,Apple’s iPhone), data extraction by forensic experts is an increasingly complex task. Forensic analyses even become a real challenge following an air crash or a terrorist attack. The collaboration between the SCC, the ENS and the IRCGN has helped to develop physical recovery of data on encrypted systems for the purpose of forensic analysis.

The EAFS committee noted that “the recovery of data and exploitation of electronic devices is a fast growing investigation field in forensic IT. Only a limited number of scientists are available in this discipline and all possible incentive needs to be going their ways. Data extraction from embedded and encrypted mobile phone devices is a highly complex task. Those data extractions are most important and fundamental in terrorist cases. In our opinion reading encrypted data is one of the most essential fields of Forensic Sciences in future”.

The techniques developed during SCC/ENS/IRCGN collaboration , put end-to-end and coupled with physical devices (X-ray 3D tomography, laser, SEM, fuming acids), have made it possible to have  successful  forensic  transplants  of  encrypted  systems  in  degraded  conditions and applied, for the first time, on a PGP-encrypted BlackBerry mobile phone (used by terrorist networks and drug traffickers).

Finally, beyond the field of research, the work of the SCC, the ENS and IRCGN had a significant impact on the work of international forensic experts, particularly in the recovery of damaged and encrypted phones.

PhD Studentship in IoT Threat Modelling

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship on threat modelling of IoT devices starting in October 2018, supervised by Daniele Sgandurra.  The focus of the PhD studentship is on threat modelling of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and the successful candidate will join the Smart Card and IoT Security Center of the Information Security Group. Please note that only British applicants can apply for this position.

More information can be found at this link.

SCC Joins FutureTPM Project

Academics from the Smart Card Center at the Information Security Group  (ISG) at Royal Holloway, University of London, are part of an international consortium focusing on developing the next generation TPM (Trusted Platform Module) – which is embedded into computing systems to make its host computer platform trustworthy and secure.

TPMs are currently incorporated into over a billion computers worldwide but the team working on the new H2020 Project ‘FutureTPM‘ will be focusing on developing next generation security solutions to mitigate against quantum computers. These computers are anticipated to be able to  break some of the cryptographic algorithms currently used in existing TPMs.

Royal Holloway’s project activities will be led by Dr Daniele Sgandurra, who has received a grant of €375,065 from the European Commission to carry out the work alongside Professor Konstantinos Markantonakis, Professor Chris Mitchell, and Dr Elizabeth Quaglia, also from the ISG.

Dr Sgandurra said: “We are thrilled to be part of this project that will combine the expertise of high calibre industrial and academic partners from across Europe to develop quantum-resistant algorithms suitable for inclusion in future TPMs. We hope this project will positively affect people’s everyday lives, in terms of building their trust in securely using online services, such as online banking and Cloud storage.”

The FutureTPM project partners are:

  • Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom
  • Huawei Technologies Düsseldorf GmbH, Germany
  • IBM Research GmbH, Switzerland
  • INESC-ID – Instituto de Engenhariade Sistemas e Computadores, Investigacao e Desenvolvimento em Lisboa, Portugal
  • Infineon Technologies AG, Germany
  • Infineon Technologies Austria AG, Austria
  • Suite5 Data Intelligence Solutions Limited, Ireland
  • TECHNIKON Forschungs- und Planungsgesellschaft mbH, Austria
  • UBITECH Limited, Cyprus
  • University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
  • Université du Luxembourg, Luxembourg
  • University of Piraeus Research Center, Greece
  • University of Surrey, United Kingdom
  • VIVA Payment Services SA, Greece