University of Bristol

Software Programming Abstractions for High Assurance Secure System on Chip Devices

Deadline: 16th March 2022

Project Description

Modern Industrial IoT devices will offer an emerging set of security capabilities underpinned by innovations in hardware support for introspection, obfuscation, and attestation. These Secure System on Chip (SoC) Devices must communicate with management services which manage device lifecycle through the use of attestation and provisioning services. Secure Device Firmware accesses local and management services through defined secure service APIs and is composed of a number of packages and libraries. Software programming, maintenance, and assurance throughout the device lifecycle from design inception to retirement requires composition of the modular software, the APIs and their associated integration into software development methods and tools. This needs to be thoughtfully designed to meet the twin objectives of programming effectiveness and improved device assurance across the secure hardware-firmware boundaries.

The proposed PhD will define metrics for programming, debugging and code maintenance effectiveness together with security assurance and explore the definition and merits of different abstraction mechanisms for their optimisation. The work will be based on a commercially available hardware platform which features an integrated extensible security engine. This will allow new capabilities to be quickly prototyped and evaluated for their potential for integration and deployment into the relevant software developer ecosystem and toolchains.

URL for further information:

Funding Information

This is a fully funded 4-year studentship providing:

  • A minimum £18,800 tax-free stipend per year
  • tuition fees at UK student rates
  • equipment and travel allowance to support research related activities.

Open to Home (UK) and EU citizens who have confirmation of UK settlement or pre-settlement status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Applicants must have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship (with some further constraint regarding residence for education).

For EPSRC funding, students must meet the EPSRC residency requirements.

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants must hold/achieve a minimum of a Master’s degree (or international equivalent) in Computer Science, Software Engineering, Computer Engineering or Electronics Engineering. Applicants without a master’s qualification may be considered on an exceptional basis, provided they hold a first-class undergraduate degree. Please note, acceptance will also depend on evidence of readiness to pursue a research degree.

Basic skills and knowledge required:

Essential: Excellent analytical skills and experimental acumen. Strong software development skills especially in languages such as C.

Desirable: A background understanding in one or more of the following:

  • Software for embedded systems
  • Knowledge of hardware security

If English is not your first language, you need to meet this profile level: Profile E

Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Application Process

Prior to any application, please contact Prof Awais Rashid ([email protected]) to discuss your research proposal to see if it aligns with his current research. No indication of an offer can be made until a completed application has been received.

To apply for this studentship, submit a PhD application using our online application system []

Please ensure that in the Funding section you tick “I would like to be considered for a funding award from the Computer Science Department” and specify the title of the scholarship in the “other” box below along with the name of the supervisor. Interested candidates should apply as soon as possible.

Informal enquiries please contact Prof Awais Rashid ([email protected])

General enquiries please contact [email protected]

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