With the world of data protection rights, cryptocurrency, and blockchain technology thrust into the media limelight over the last couple of years, and the world’s increasing reliance on technology driving many aspects of our personal and professional lives, the University of Wollongong’s Institute of Cybersecurity and Cryptology has never been in higher demand. 

In the past when we only had one laptop and one computer, the risk was much lower. The biggest threat that people would worry about was if their laptop was stolen or lost. But now when we all have mobile devices- things have changed. Data is everywhere, and is increasing as we introduce IoT (internet of things) devices into our infrastructure” says institute Director Professor Willy Susilo

Big data is big business worldwide with the undeniable benefits of capturing customers purchasing behaviours to understand saleability potential and optimise marketing efforts at a minimum is understandable. Industry is trying to capture as much consumer information as possible. But what happens to the masses of collected data? Who owns it? Who is keeping it safe? Who is guarding our privacy?

With the potential for every keystroke we make, to our every physical movement to be captured and stored, data is ripe for the picking for those inclined to want it, for positive or negative purposes.

Australian companies suffered more than 800 data breaches in 2018, according to official figures from the Office of the Information Commissioner (OAIC), with health and financial services companies worst hit.

The bulk of the breaches were caused by malicious attacks, with cyber criminals responsible for 64 per cent of the breaches, while human error accounted for 33 per cent.

With the introduction of privacy protection policies such as the GDPR (General Data Protection Rights), the need for businesses to understand and protect consumer data from cyberattack and potential misuse has become paramount.

The University of Wollongong’s Institute of Cybersecurity and Cryptology (iC2), formerly known as Centre for Computer and Information Security Research has been working at training the next generation of technology security professionals for the past thirty years. Demand for their skill set increases year on year, as they work towards building and securing some of tomorrow’s technological solutions, such as blockchain and post quantum computing applications, and the associated data management and security implications.

Founded by Emeratus Professor Jennifer Serberry, the Institute, now led by Professor Willy Susilo, currently employs 18 full time staff members and 30 PhD students, as well as offering subjects to undergraduate students to PhD studying cybersecurity and cryptology related research.

The institute is separated in to two major research divisions. The first is digital systems security which is centrally focused on cryptology- the construction and analysis of code and protocols in various aspects of information security such as data confidentiality, data integrity, authentication, and non-repudiation.

The other is cybersecurity, which is the state or process of protecting and recovering networks, devices, and programs from any type of cyber attack- such as social engineering, advanced persistent threats and Malware or malicious software attacks.

The Institute has been instrumental in contributing to world standards for encryption used within securing wireless technology and is the initiator of the prestigious Annual International Conference on the Theory and Application of Cryptology and Information Security (Asiacrypt).

Other accomplishments of the institute include continuous funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) as well as collaborations with governmental and industry bodies, such as Australian Signal Defence, DSTO, DATA61, and insurance and banking sectors.

In the last round of ERA (the national Excellence in Research for Australia evaluation framework), the group was rated at 5 in data format (ERA 0804), the only university in Australia, in its field to be rated so highly.

The institute was also recently awarded with an esteemed grant from the US National Institute Standards and Technology (NIST) to conduct research in the area of post-quantum cryptography.

It is predicted that within the next 10 to 15 years quantum computing will come in to existence. In theory a single quantum computer processor would be more powerful than all the supercomputers on the planet combined.

It is thought that once it is created it will be able to quickly solve complex problems that we haven’t previously been able to solve. If this is true, this will have a high impact on the security of all existing systems, including applications currently being built on blockchain, as existing algorithms will no longer be secure," say Professor Susilo.

The group’s efforts are working towards developing sustainable blockchain technologies for various applications, while securing future technologies for post quantum computing. The group will also continue to work with UOW’s SMART infrastructure facility to help guide security within the Internet of Things network, while working within UOW’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences to ensure ethical and societal implications of future technologies are considered.

Professor Susilo believes that as a group one of the most important things iC2 can do is work on research that can be applied to the real world, and that can make a positive difference to our way of life. He believes this can only be achieved through industry, government and community collaboration.

“The most important thing about research is that is has to be able to be applied to the purpose of what industry needs. Research by itself is useless if we are just developing paper after paper. It needs to be applied in practice. There is a lot of work developed that looks very cool on paper- but when tested it cannot be used at all in practice.”

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