Strategic Research Area

Information Security

Norway aims to strengthen the research and education in cyber and information security.
Information Security is a strategic research area of the Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering (IE)

NTNU announces 10 PhD positions in response to the national aim.

ITK-01: Navigation System Security in Unmanned Autonomous Marine Vessels

To ensure successful adaptation of autonomous marine vessels in the future, safety and security need to be taken into account from the beginning of the design. The focus of this research project is on making an unmanned autonomous marine vehicle resilient against malicious acts exploiting the vulnerabilities of the navigation system structure and operation.

Project description

To navigate autonomously a system has to incorporate multiple sensors that will take care of the vehicle's navigation, perception, path planning and other functions. One of the core sensors used for navigation is a GNSS receiver. Recent experience shows that GNSS is vulnerable to malicious intrusion and spoofing posing a serious threat to autonomous operations. GNSS spoofing is a rather pernicious attack as it attempts to misrepresent the user's true position/velocity/time while at the same time avoiding detection of the attack itself. Due to the rapid growth in GNSS-supported consumer applications, spoofing has become more widespread and inexpensive spoofing devices as well as partial instructions how to implement one are available online. The primary objective of this project is to make the vessel's/vehicle's navigation platform resistant to security threats such as RF and cyber spoofing.

To ensure security of the navigation solution all the segments in the signal and processing chain have to be secure. This includes the authenticity of GNSS signals and the navigation data messages received from the GNSS constellations supported (e.g. GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou), authenticity of GNSS augmentation information received (e.g. differential corrections intended for RTK or PPP processing). Additionally, we need to recognize that GNSS receivers are connected computers, often running full operating systems. As such, they potentially present a larger than initially apparent vulnerability surface area, potentially subject to a wide spectrum of cyber attacks in addition to the direct RF variety. The successful candidate will contribute to the following activities:

  • Definition of the potential threat space considering the operational environment and navigation platform structure.
  • Evaluation of the navigation sensor platforms susceptibility to spoofing attacks.
  • Design of potential detection algorithms based on receiver-based methods/GNSS measurement processing/signal authentication techniques, and identification of changes to the navigation platform required to ensure system robustness against spoofing.

The project will be associated with the Centre of Excellence on Autonomous Marine Operations and Systems (AMOS) at NTNU. The project is relevant for strategic research areas at NTNU: NTNU Energy, NTNU Health, NTNU Ocean and NTNU Sustainability.

External partner

  • James T. Curran - Radionavigation Systems & Techniques Section, ESTEC-ESA

Formal requirements

The position requires a Master of Science degree in cybernetics, communications, geomatics or electronics with specialization in navigation system development. A strong background in GNSS, integrated GNSS/INS, signal processing and software engineering, as well as interest in the development and applications of navigation and wireless location technologies are highly desirable. Knowledge of cyber security/cryptography will be considered as an advantage.

Apply for this PhD position at Jobbnorge

IDI-01: Gamification of Information Security Education and Training

The candidate will participate in the development of courses in information security taught in NTNU Gjøvik, Trondheim and Ålesund and will develop a framework for combining simulations with games as part of a cyber range, to help motivate and engage students in these courses. The games will be used in distance education and will be part of the output from the PhD work. The theoretical analysis of the use of games will be used to improve the development and application of games as part of cyber security.

Project description

The thesis will be part of a multi-campus consortium of professors and doctoral students for educational research in Cyber Security system development and design, focused on improving the quality and breadth of education in security and secure software development by using games and gamified activities to engage students and the wider public. The focus of this thesis is on using games to transferring knowledge that is being created about cyber threats and countermeasures.

The PhD student will research state of the art use of games as part of training and education. They will develop a framework for developing serious games for cyber security, and use this framework to develop at least two different games. These games will be used to evaluate the framework and evaluated for their own educational and training value. The research will contribute to understanding how to use games as part of the value chain of cyber security.

The four main motivators for this approach are: 1) the knowledge gap between research activities in cyber security and the understanding of the general public; 2) the global labour shortage of skilled cybersecurity workers; 3) the need to improve the security awareness across the entire software development industry; and 4) the need to raise awareness in the general public of cyber security threats.

The PhD students will focus on creating ways of operationalizing theories about security into games and simulations. These will allow developers and the public to experiment with, and learn about security in an engaging context both within courses at university level, and in everyday life. The thesis will include a discussion of behaviour change theories, focusing on the how to encourage specific type of activities, including: secure software development, cyber intrusion awareness, safe practices, and situation response.

The research of the project is part of the activities of NTNU Centre for Cyber and Information Security (CCIS) and is connected to COINS Research School of Computer and Information Security. The PhD students will be members of the COINS network. This connection also provides a wealth of excellent research, which is ripe for transferring into material that can be used in bachelor and masters courses, and packaged into engaging activities for the general public.

Formal requirements

The position requires a Master of Science degree in information security, computer science, game development or similar field. Applicants must have an interest in computer games, and a desire to educate in the area of cyber security. It would be beneficial for an applicant to have experience in the information security and cybersecurity industry, or have worked in education.

Apply for this PhD position at Jobbnorge

IDI-02: Cybersecurity, Safety, and Resilience of Smart cities

One key challenge of smart city is cybersecurity. The objectives of this project are to develop: 1) models reflecting interdependencies of hardware, software, critical infrastructure, human factors, and environmental factors in smart city applications; 2) methodologies to link security, safety, and resilience analyses; 3) elucidation of the effects of cybersecurity on safety and resilience of smart city; and 4) guidance for analysing security, safety, resilience of a single smart city application and integrations of several smart city applications.

Project description

A smart city is a complex system, where everything is interconnected, including the public water system, traffic control, public transportation, and critical infrastructure. Every subsystem of smart city has its own vulnerabilities. The interconnected nature of smart cities means a single vulnerability could greatly affect citizens’ security. Due to many vulnerabilities, the increase in attacks and the lacking of cyber attack emergency plans and lacking of computer emergency response teams, cyber attacks on critical application and infrastructure of smart city may severely harm humans, critical functions and environment of smart cities.

The PhD student is expected to focus on the following tasks:

  • Literature review of integrated cybersecurity, safety, and resilience analysis on smart cities. Case studies of critical infrastructure or other smart utilities safety issues due to cyber attack. The subject smart utilities area(s) can be selected fitting the background of the PhD fellow
  • Proposing an integrated method for cybersecurity, safety, and resilience analysis of smart city applications
  • Evaluating applicability and cost-effectiveness of the method proposed using case studies
  • Disseminating research results in journals and conferences where cybersecurity, safety, and resilience play key roles. Organizing or attending seminars/workshops with smart city focuses to present the results

The project is relevant for strategic research areas at NTNU: NTNU Energy, NTNU Health, NTNU Ocean and NTNU Sustainability.

Formal requirements

The position requires a Master of Science degree in computer science, software engineering, information security, or equivalent. A solid knowledge of RAMS (Reliability, Availability, Maintainability, and Safety) is valued. A research-oriented master thesis or relevant working experience within one of these or related areas is expected.

Apply for this PhD position at Jobbnorge

IIK-01: Cryptography

There is an urgent need to develop public key cryptographic systems that can resist attacks that use quantum computers. Relevant activities of this project will include: 1) Better understanding of parameter choices and security margins. 2) Improved implementation, which is mostly an engineering problem but also includes mathematical analysis. 3) Improved analysis of the impact of schemes on the wider crypto-ecosystem, which is important for the wider impacts to the society in general.

Project description

The US National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced plans for systematic development of cryptographic standards that will be resistant to attacks by quantum computers by organizing international cryptographic post-quantum project. It can be expected that the NIST post-quantum crypto project will generate a rich source of new ideas and novel algorithms. Relevant activities of this project will include:

  1. Better understanding of parameter choices and security margins. We will try to improve the existing analysis relating the security of the candidates to well-defined and well- studied mathematical problems. We will also examine ways to adapt and improve existing attacks.
  2. Improved implementation. Improving the implementations is mostly an engineering problem, but this work can also benefit from an improved mathematical analysis.

Wider crypto-ecosystem. Improving the analysis of the impact of schemes on the wider crypto-ecosystem is important for the wider impacts to the society in general.

Formal requirements

The position requires a Master of Science degree in telematics, computer science or mathematics. The PhD candidate needs to have very strong mathematical background in algebra, combinatorics, graph theory, algorithms and data structures. Knowledge of at least one programming language is also a prerequisite for successful implementation of the new theoretical concepts that will be developed in the research.

Apply for this PhD position at Jobbnorge

IIK-02: Chatroom security

Determine, based on behavioural information, general information about a user in a chatroom, e.g. gender and age. This can be used to protect users of a chatroom, for example by removing adults from chatrooms for children or men from chatrooms for women only.

Project description

Protection of weak members of society need to be arranged through organizational and technical means, against those that want to take advantage of others. One particular group of weak members is children, who might fall victim to child predators. An online arena where they can meet is in chatrooms.

To provide safety for vulnerable users in online chatrooms, we want to determine if a chatter is allowed inside a chatroom or not. Unfortunately, there are many examples in the news of misuse of children by adults that started in chatrooms where the adults used a false identity, posing as a youngster. Famous is the case of the Canadian teenager Amanda Todd who committed suicide after being blackmailed by a 35-year old adult she met online. A recent court case in the Netherlands handles a case where a 41-year old adult pretended to be a 14-year old boy to arrange a physical meeting with a 13-year old girl.

Based on online behaviour (e.g. typing patterns and stylometry) we want to detect if a chatter fits the profile for a chatroom or not.  Typical behaviour includes information on semantics, correction of errors (or lack thereof), use of abbreviations and emoticons, as well as biometric keystroke dynamics. Initial research has shown that password typing can, up to some level, reveal gender and age of a person, and that semantics can also provide gender, age and social class information of a person. In this project we aim to combine data from biometrics and semantic sources to extend our data source as well as to gain analytically from cross-classification.

Formal requirements

The position requires a Master of Science degree in computer science, mathematics, electrical engineering or other relevant discipline. The candidate must have a solid background in machine learning and signal processing, and have experience with programming.

Apply for this PhD position at Jobbnorge

IIK-03: Modelling and Analyzing Attack-Defence Scenarios for Cyber Ranges

The main tasks of this position are to investigate and develop a framework for specifying, modelling and analysing attack-defence scenarios.  Of particular interest is the analysis of the measurements and metrics required for the different types of testbeds and how they affect awareness, assurance, scoring and learning outputs. Experiments will be performed on two case studies, one related to system assessment and the other is related to red-blue team exercise training. These case studies will be utilized and used in two different courses being taught at NTNU.

Project description

Cyber ranges and assurance testbeds can be used to perform a comprehensive security testing and assessment of (software) systems as well as to provide a virtual or physical environment to conduct cyber exercises of different types. Such testbeds require the definition of attack-defence scenarios, which are composed of various components, such as network topology, attack vectors, defence controls, network and user behaviour simulations, and mission objectives and story. Scoring and monitoring functions are required to keep track on the execution of the test and measure the effectiveness and assurance of the system or user. 

Formal requirements

The position requires a Master of Science degree in information security, computer science, communication technology or similar field. A successful candidate will have strong skills in software and system security, particular in vulnerability analysis, exploitation, and countermeasures, and security metrics. It would be beneficial for an applicant to have experience in software engineering and penetration testing, or have worked in education.

Apply for this PhD position at Jobbnorge

IIK-04: Security of the Cyber-enabled Ship

The overall objective of the project is to analyse the cyber security risks of the cyber-enabled remotely-operated ship and to propose effective and efficient risk management strategies. Security, safety and resilience must be examined together, as they constitute attributes of the cyber-enabled ship thought of as a system of systems, specifically cyber physical systems. Furthermore, effective cyber security risk management strategies should come as the result of a holistic approach, encompassing technology, people and processes.

Project description

The project will study the security of a cyber-enabled, remotely operated ship, with capability to act autonomously in adverse situations, e.g. should the communication with shore is broken.  The cyber-enabled ship interacts heavily with its environment and with humans as well, which demands a holistic approach. Moreover, the strategies to be developed must be realistic and usable, in addition to adhering to existing and expected international regulation. Then, the detailed objectives of the project are to:

  • Develop and apply, in a system engineering approach, combined safety, security and resilience risk management methods to assess and manage risks that the cyber-enabled ship faces.
  • Demonstrate the validity of the risk management proposals by means of simulation of real-world scenarios.

The PhD student is expected to focus on the following tasks:

  • Identify promising existing risk management methods able to jointly analyse security and safety risks, assess their applicability in the specific context of cyber-enabled ships and select, possibly modify and apply the most appropriate one(s) to a generic ICT architectural model of the remote ship;
  • Develop proposals for risk management strategies that will reconcile cyber security, safety and resilience;
  • Develop cyber-attack scenarios using a systematic method, validate such scenarios by means of consultation with experts in the shipping and ship automation industry and simulate these scenarios by using simulators available in NTNU i Ålesund;
  • Assess human operator behaviour in crises, induced by cyber attacks.

The research of this project is part of the activities of NTNU Centre for Cyber and Information Security (CCIS) and is connected to COINS Research School of Computer and Information Security. The PhD candidate will be a member of the Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience (CISR) Group. The CISR group supports the private and public sector in their preparedness for and response to security incidents that involve Norway’s critical infrastructures, at the regional and national level, by means of knowledge and capacity building through research, education, and training.

The project is relevant for strategic research areas at NTNU: NTNU Energy, NTNU Health, NTNU Ocean and NTNU Sustainability.

Formal requirements

The position requires a Master of Science degree in information security or computer science. The successful candidate will have knowledge of and experience with information security/cyber security risk assessment and management methodologies, good understanding of cyber-physical systems security and general understanding of system safety and resilience.

Apply for this PhD position at Jobbnorge

IIK-05: Information Security Economics

The main tasks for this position are modelling of information security, business operations and deterrents in complex ICT ecosystem. We will in particular focus on the complex interaction between various stakeholders and actors in the information security business domain. In order to model and better understand the information security ecosystem, we rely on quantitative modelling techniques such as stochastic modelling, discrete event simulations and game theory. Of particular interest is to gain increased understanding on how various security threats and measures influence business operations in the digital ecosystem.

Project description

The thesis will be part of a multi-campus consortium of professors and doctoral students for educational research in Cyber Security system development and design, focused on improving the quality and breadth of education in security and secure software development by using games and gamified activities to engage students and the wider public. The focus of this thesis is on using games to transferring knowledge that is being created about cyber threats and countermeasures.

The PhD student will research state of the art use of games as part of training and education. They will develop a framework for developing serious games for cyber security, and use this framework to develop at least two different games. These games will be used to evaluate the framework and evaluated for their own educational and training value. The research will contribute to understanding how to use games as part of the value chain of cyber security.

The four main motivators for this approach are: 1) the knowledge gap between research activities in cyber security and the understanding of the general public; 2) the global labour shortage of skilled cybersecurity workers; 3) the need to improve the security awareness across the entire software development industry; and 4) the need to raise awareness in the general public of cyber security threats.

The PhD students will focus on creating ways of operationalizing theories about security into games and simulations. These will allow developers and the public to experiment with, and learn about security in an engaging context both within courses at university level, and in everyday life. The thesis will include a discussion of behaviour change theories, focusing on the how to encourage specific type of activities, including: secure software development, cyber intrusion awareness, safe practices, and situation response.

The research of this project is part of the activities of NTNU Centre for Cyber and Information Security (CCIS) and is connected to COINS Research School of Computer and Information Security. The PhD students in this project will be members of the COINS network. This connection also provides a wealth of excellent research, which is ripe for transferring into material that can be used in bachelor and masters courses, and packaged into engaging activities for the general public.

Formal requirements

The position requires a Master of Science degree in information security, computer science, communication technology or similar field. A successful candidate will have strong analytical skills, particular in stochastic modelling, discrete event simulations or game theory.

Apply for this PhD position at Jobbnorge

IDI-03: Blockchain analytics and transactions tracking

This project will look at the forensics implications of autonomous, distributed socio-technical systems in the context of financial and governmental institutions. We will model and simulate interactions between various stakeholders in the systems that are truly autonomous and decentralised, and investigate emerging behaviours and phenomena based on the underlying incentive models and technologies use, such that the understanding of inner-workings of those systems can be used by the law enforcement agencies in tracking and preventing criminal activities.

Project description

The project will utilize analysis and digital forensics from the technology perspective, investigating the security and penetration aspects of the contemporary large socio-technical peer-to-peer systems. This will be done both, on the network layer and the connectivity topology, as well as on the actual transaction flow within the system. The project will look into the current and future crypto currency systems, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dash, Monero, Lightning network and others, currently in use for legitimate as well as illegal purposes. The project will investigate the future of forensic investigations in the world based on trusted, anonymous, and inherently tamper-proof electronic value transfer systems.

The successful candidate will work on prototyping, deploying, and experimenting with existing and novel peer-to-peer blockchain-like systems. Strong programming skills, understanding of mobile and network programming, as well as interest and understanding of peer-to-peer systems will be required during the course of the study.

The research of this project is part of the activities of NTNU Centre for Cyber and Information Security (CCIS). The project will be conducted in close collaboration with forensic experts in NTNU and cybercrime unit of Europol.

Formal requirements

The position requires a Master of Science degree in computer science. The candidate should have experience with existing blockchain technologies, should understand challenges and limitations of mobile application development, as well as security and crypto primitives. General understanding of contemporary peer-to-peer systems is also required.

Apply for this PhD position at Jobbnorge

IIK-06: Understanding Resilience of Software-Defined Industrial Control Networks

The project is to address the threats to reliability, resilience, and security that may arise from moving from a well-understood, simple network environment to a dynamic and virtualised software-defined network (SDN) for industrial control networks that are substantially more sensitive to performance and quality of service compared to regular information networks.

Project description

The overall objective of the project is to develop models of resilience and automated means of discovering efficiency bounds for attacks against the SDN control plane, particularly for cases where attackers will know or can learn about ICN protocols entering critical operations or transactions and of resilience mechanisms such as fail-over protocols used by defenders.

The research of the project is part of the activities of NTNU Centre for Cyber and Information Security (CCIS). It also links to related projects in the security of control systems networks at Department of Information Security and Communication Technology (IIK), particularly targeting the energy sector (and thereby addressing the NTNU strategic research area NTNU Energy).

The project is also relevant for other strategic research areas at NTNU:

  • NTNU Health
  • NTNU Ocean
  • NTNU Sustainability

Formal requirements

The position requires a Master of Science degree in computer science, mathematics, physics, or electrical engineering. Successful candidates should have in-depth knowledge and skills in at least one area of computer and communication networks, particularly software-defined networks, design and analysis of algorithms, combinatorial and graph algorithms, or control systems theory.

Apply for this PhD position at Jobbnorge