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Enhancing Performance of Encrypted QUIC Network Traffic

   School of Engineering

  ,  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

User experience and user privacy are important drivers in the design of the latest Internet applications. The aim of this research is to enable seamless use of new privacy-enhancing methods, when used across broadband radio access networks.

Research in Internet Engineering at the University of Aberdeen is contributing to an effort to develop and deploy the IETF QUIC transport protocol for encrypted web access [1,2]. QUIC supports HTTP/3 with a service similar to TCP. Packets are encrypted, preventing an ISP from seeing or changing any data. This has significant privacy benefits.

The first research goal is to understand the impact on user experience when using a modern satellite service. These types of network rely on sophisticated methods to optimise their use of radio spectrum. In the past, 5G cellular and satellite networks benefitted from network devices that intercept packets to accelerate the performance [2,3]. However, these devices are unable to work with new encrypted methods, such as QUIC. This requires research into new methods to mitigate the adverse effects of the radio resource management, and the impact of loss, capacity change, etc (e.g. [4]). The new solutions will be evaluated using a testbed that integrates cellular modems [3] and a satellite service [4], and will be published in leading journals and conferences.

The second research goal is to understand how new methods can be introduced into the proxy solutions that can protect the user identity. The testbed will be extended to add privacy protection using methods currently being developed in the IETF MASQUE working Group. Apple’s WWD Conference announced iCloud+ in June, 2021. In this approach, the Safari web browser sends requests using QUIC and employing multiple levels of encryption. This uses two internet proxies: An ingress proxy hides the user identity and resolves the remote server address using Encrypted DNS, such as Oblivious DoH, a new DNS standard; An egress proxy only knows the website being used, not the originating IP address. Researching such methods is expected to provide opportunities to influence the standards development and underpins the deployment of the new techniques.

The third research goal concerns how a web client interacts with the new performance enhancing features at an ingress proxy. One approach could extend the new IETF Transport Services API (TAPS) to introduce policy to control how connections are constructed across the Internet [5]. Researchers at Aberdeen University contributed research from previous EU Projects to this API, as well as significant contributions from key Internet companies. This aspect of the work will be developed as the research project progresses.

The successful applicant will join a team with considerable experience in developing transport protocol solutions, gained from a wide variety of projects collaborating with prominent Internet companies. The researcher will form a part of a team associated with the European Satellite Network of Experts [6], with expected opportunities to collaborate with other researchers at key research centres.

Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit. The successful candidate should have, or expect to obtain, a UK Honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Electronics or Computer Science. Applicants will have a background that includes topics such as TCP/IP, network measurement, transport protocols and be proficient in programming in C or Python.  


Formal applications can be completed online: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/pgap/login.php

• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering

• State name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor

• State ‘Self-funded’ as Intended Source of Funding

• State the exact project title on the application form

When applying please ensure all required documents are attached:

• All degree certificates and transcripts (Undergraduate AND Postgraduate MSc-officially translated into English where necessary)

• Detailed CV, Personal Statement/Motivation Letter and Intended source of funding

Informal inquiries can be made to Prof G Fairhurst () with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ()

Funding Notes

This PhD project has no funding attached and is therefore available to students (UK/International) who are able to seek their own funding or sponsorship. Supervisors will not be able to respond to requests to source funding. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting View Website


[1] M. Kühlewind, B. Trammell, T. Bühler, G. Fairhurst, V. Gurbani, “Challenges in Network Management of Encrypted Traffic”, https://arxiv.org/abs/1810.09272, 2018.
[2] G. Fairhurst, C. Perkins, "Considerations around Transport Header Confidentiality, Network Operations, and the
Evolution of Internet Transport Protocols", RFC 9065, https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc9065, 2021.
[3] A. Custura, I. Learmonth, G. Fairhurst, Measuring mobile performance in the Tor network with OnionPerf, Mobile
Measurement Workshop, Proceedings of the 3rd Network Traffic Measurement and Analysis Conference, 2019.
[4] A. Custura, T. Jones, G. Fairhurst, “Impact of Acknowledgements Using IETF QUIC on Satellite Performance”,
10th Advanced Satellite Multimedia Systems Conference and the 16th Signal Processing for Space Communications Workshop (ASMS/SPSC), IEEE, 2020.
[5] B. Trammell, M. Welzl, T. Enghardt, G. Fairhurst, M. Kühlewind, C. Perkins, P. Tiesel, C. Wood, T. Pauly, K. Rose,
“An Abstract Application Layer Interface to Transport Services”, draft-ietf-taps-interface, IETF Work in Progress, 2021.
[6] SatNex IV Network of Experts, European Space Agency, (ESA) https://artes.esa.int/projects/satnex-iv

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