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Marie O'Neill


Secure Architectures of Future Emerging Cryptography

What is SAFEcrypto?

The first major H2020 project co-ordinated in Northern Ireland is SAFEcrypto (Secure Architectures of Future Emerging Cryptography), the brain child of Professor Maire O’Neill from the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT). The project will run for 4 years and has a total budget of €3.8M.

Professor O’Neill said, “CSIT was the first centre 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, and is made up of exceptional cryptographers and engineers drawn from Germany, France, Switzerland, the UK and Ireland.”

Why SAFEcrypto?

Professor O’Neill, a celebrated academic 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), leads the team in the development of what they plan to be the next generation of cryptographic primitives that will displace the existing public-key algorithms and provide a robust, long-term solution capable of withstanding attack from quantum computers.

She explains, “Enterprises 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 breed of very powerful quantum computers over the next decade.  The SAFEcrypto project will investigate new cryptographic techniques that are resistant to attack from quantum computers and we hope to demonstrate practical solutions to a broad range of real life case studies.” 

Who is involved?

The SAFEcrypto industrial partners provided three case studies:

Thales UK suggested a case study in satellite communications systems.  Dr Adrian Waller, Chief Technical Consultant, Thales Research and Technology explains, “Due to the longevity of satellites and associated infrastructure, any public key solution needs to be secure for a long period of time. It is an ideal case study for the use of quantum safe cryptographic solutions“.

Dr David Lund, Head of Research and Development at HW Communications Ltd is a specialist in public safety communications systems.  He explains, “We anticipate an increasing use of commercial-off-the-shelf devices in the first responder communications networks i.e. the radio networks used by police, fire brigade and ambulance services.  These devices require low-powered implementations of strong cryptographic security and we aim to fully validate the research outputs from the SAFEcrypto team in our case study”.

The third case study involves preserving the privacy of data collected by city councils and municipal authorities.  Dr Robert Griffin, Chief Security Architect at RSA, the Security Division of EMC explains,“Significant benefits are possible through collaborative analysis of large government-owned data sets by academics, SMEs and other government departments.  However this needs appropriate management of the accessibility and privacy of the information. In SAFEcrypto we will apply advanced cryptographic techniques, such as ABE (Attribute Based Encryption) to improve the protection and controlled access to public databases”.

The SAFEcrypto project will enable CSIT to collaborate with leading researchers in Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany), Università Della Svizzera Italiana (Switzerland), and INRIA (France)

More information is available on the SAFEcrypto website: