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  Dr Ayesha Khalid, Prof M O'Neill, Dr Ciara Rafferty  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The advent of scalable Quantum computers will jeopardize the entire paradigm of traditional cryptography used to date! Consequently, novel Quantum-resistant cryptographic schemes need the immediate attention of the cryptographic community. NIST initiated the Post Quantum Cryptography (PQC) competition in 2016 with an aim to reach (by 2022) a new suite of quantum-safe cryptographic algorithms to replace the Public Key Cryptography standards in use today. Lattice based cryptography (LBC) has emerged as one of the most viable alternatives to classical cryptographic schemes: however, several aspects relating to the practicality of these schemes have not been thoroughly evaluated. Benchmarking critical resources for applications especially lying at the extreme ends of performance requirements, i.e., ultra-low resource and ultra-high-speed applications need careful evaluation.

RISC-V is an open-source Instruction set architecture (ISA) RISC design that is licence-free and practical to use by both academics and industry. Its instruction set is currently supported by several popular software toolchains and currently has over 200+ organizations including Google, Qualcomm, Samsung are part of its foundation. Commercial boards with fully functional RISC-V SoCs have been available for sale since 2016. In this project we will undertake the implementations of Lattice based cryptography kernels on RISC-V and optimize it via Instruction set extension. Other than the performance improvement, the study of side channels analysis attacks and their countermeasures will also be studied.

Project Description:

This project will study the practicability of lattice-based quantum resistant cryptographic schemes undertaken on the RISC-V, an architecture based on RISC principles, which makes it a good fit for low-power applications. The key scientific problems it will address are the following

  • Throughput performance optimizations via custom ISA extension to encapsulate the matrix-based ring operations that are the most computationally intensive part of the lattice-based cryptography schemes. The extensions undertaken give a trade-off between performance vs. latency of the algorithms.
  • Novel approximation techniques on a well-known Quantum resistant scheme to explore various design points in the performance vs. security trade-off for resource-constrained applications to reach a range of optimal design points befitting several applications.
  • A careful investigation to secure the operational modules of quantum resistant cryptography blocks, enhanced with built-in SCA resistant properties (constant time, uniform power dissipation) will be carried out, with the goal of minimum resource overhead in mind.

Project Key Words

Post quantum cryptography, Hardware security, High speed applications, Quantum resistant cryptography, Learning with errors, RISC-V.

Start Date: 01/10/22

Application Closing date: 28/02/22

For further information about eligibility criteria please refer to the DfE

Postgraduate Studentship Terms and Conditions 2021-22 at

Applicants should apply electronically through the Queen’s online application portal at:

Academic Requirements:

A minimum 2.1 honours degree or equivalent in Computer Science or Electrical and Electronic Engineering or relevant degree is required.

Funding Notes:

This three year studentship, for full-time PhD study, is potentially funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE) and commences on 1 October 2022. For UK domiciled students the value of an award includes the cost of approved tuition fees as well as maintenance support (Fees £4,500 pa and Stipend rate £15,609 pa - 2022-23 rates to be confirmed). To be considered eligible for a full DfE studentship award you must have been ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom for the full three year period before the first day of the first academic year of the course.

For candidates who do not meet the above residency requirements, a small number of international studentships may be available from the School. These are expected to be highly competitive, and a selection process will determine the strongest candidates across a range of School projects, who may then be offered funding for their chosen project.

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