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Social and Societal Foundations of Cryptography: The Case of Large-Scale Protests


Information Security Group

Dr Rikke Jensen , Prof Martin Albrecht Applications accepted all year round Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Egham United Kingdom Cyber Security Human Computer Interaction Information Security Computer Science Mathematics

About the Project

The Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security for the Everyday at Royal Holloway seeks to recruit PhD students who will explore the social and societal foundations of cryptography.

Cryptography is a field that actively interrogates its foundations. These foundations are, unsurprisingly and sensibly, understood to be of the complexity-theoretic and mathematical variety. However, cryptographic security notions -- and everything that depends on them -- do not exist in a vacuum, they have reasons to be. While the immediate objects of cryptography are not social relations, it presumes and models them. This fact is readily acknowledged in the introductions of cryptographic papers which illustrate the utility of the work by reference to some social situation where several parties have conflicting ends but a need or desire to interact. Yet, this part of the definitional work has not received the same rigour from the cryptographic community as complexity-theoretic and mathematical questions.

This project aims to take first steps towards remedying this situation by grounding cryptographic security notions in findings emerging from ethnographic fieldwork in adversarial situations. In particular, it considers protesters in large-scale protests and aims to understand their security needs, practices and the technologies they rely upon. The project then also analyses these technologies, i.e. attempts to break their security, and proposes new solutions based on the findings from fieldwork. By bringing cryptographic security notions to *the field*, the project provokes a series of security questions about, for example, confidentiality and anonymity in online and offline networks, trust relations and how to establish them, onboarding and authentication practices.

We seek applicants with either a background in mathematics and/or computer science or related disciplines or a background in ethnography or experience using related qualitative social science methods.

The ISG is one of the largest departments dedicated to information security in the world with 21 core academic staff in the department, as well as research and support staff. We work with many research partners in other departments and have circa 90 PhD students working on a wide range of security research. We have a strong, vibrant, embedded and successful multi-disciplinary research profile spanning from cryptography to systems security and social aspects of security. This vibrant environment incorporates visiting researchers, [weekly research seminars](https://seminars.isg.rhul.ac.uk/), weekly reading groups, PhD seminars and mini conferences, the WISDOM group (Women in the Security Domain Or Mathematics) and we are proud of our collegial atmosphere and approach. The ISG puts a strong emphasis on a meaningful integration of social and technological perspectives on information security.

Prospective applicants are welcome to discuss with Dr Rikke Jensen () and Prof Martin Albrecht ().

## Further Reading ##

https://martinralbrecht.wordpress.com/2020/07/10/what-does-secure-mean-in-information-security/

https://martinralbrecht.wordpress.com/2020/08/24/mesh-messaging-in-large-scale-protests-breaking-bridgefy/


Funding Notes

The studentship includes
* Tuition fees:
* Maintenance: £21,285 for each academic year.

The Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security for the Everyday can offer up to ten studentships per year, three of which can be awarded to international students (which includes EU and EEA.)
Please ensure you are familiar with the eligibility criteria set by UKRI and their terms and conditions.
In order to apply please visit the CDT website and follow the application instructions.
www.royalholloway.ac.uk/cdt

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