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SAFEcrypto kick-off meeting

Queen’s University leading the way in pioneering, European cyber-security initiative

Queen’s University Belfast will be at the forefront of a major, new European push to combat increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks.

The Queen’s-led SAFEcrypto project will draw together cryptographers and other IT experts from Germany, France, Switzerland, Britain and Ireland to devise urgent security solutions capable of withstanding attack from the next generation of hackers.

The project will focus on an acute threat from emerging technologies including ‘quantum computers’ – capable of processing information many times faster than the silicon-based computers we use today.

The project, which will run for four years at a cost of €3.8million, will concentrate on three main areas:

• Protecting information passed via satellites
• Protecting public-safety communications systems, eg those used by police, fire and ambulance services
• Safeguarding the privacy of data collected by municipal authorities

Project lead Professor Máire O’Neill from the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen’s said:

“CSIT was among the first centres in the UK to be recognised as a centre of academic excellence in cyber-security research in 2012, and it is a natural progression for us to start working on a larger, pan-European stage. Horizon 2020 has given us the opportunity to form a project consortium which is a true partnership between industry and academia. This is yet another example of how Queen’s is making a difference and having a global impact on society.”

Professor O’Neill, who was awarded a UK Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal in 2014 and who is a former British Female Inventor of the Year (2007), added: “Organisations are steadily increasing the level of spending on encryption products to protect their intellectual property and to maintain the privacy of customer details and personal information. It is estimated that 25% of enterprises globally operate an internal public key encryption infrastructure (PKI). We believe these present day PKI systems will become vulnerable to attack by a new form of very powerful quantum computers in the near future.”

SAFEcrypto represents the first major project to be co-ordinated in Northern Ireland using funding from Horizon 2020, the biggest EU research and innovation programme ever developed. The NI Assembly has set a target of winning €145 million from the Horizon programme between now and 2020.

Queen’s University is one of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities, and has recently been placed in the Top Ten in the UK for research intensity in the Research Excellence Framework assessment. In this exercise, 93% of the research conducted by CSIT academics was adjudged to be ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.

For further information, contact the Communications Office on 028 9097 5320 (Mon-Wed) or 028 9097 5310 (Thurs-Fri) or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

Notes To Editors:

(1) Professor Máire O’Neill is available for interview. Bids to the Communications Office on 028 9097 5320 (Mon-Wed) or 028 9097 5310 (Thurs-Fri) or email comms.officer@qub.ac.uk

(2) The SAFEcrypto project will enable CSIT to collaborate with leading researchers in Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany), Università Della Svizzera Italiana (Switzerland), and INRIA (France) as well as partners in industry EMC (Ireland), Thales Research and Technology Ltd (UK) and HWCommunications Ltd (UK)

(3) Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to any private investment that the money will attract. It aims to deliver breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the laboratory to the market