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PhD Opportunities

Connecting Privacy and Security Regulations with Software Engineering – Requirements, Specifications and Applications

School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science | PHD
Funding
Funded
Reference Number
EEECS/2022/OO3
Application Deadline
28 February 2022
Start Date
1 October 2022

Overview

Privacy and security regulations are a major challenge for engineering privacy and security in software systems. This is because the directives are often specified abstractly to a wider audience, therefore difficult to measure information disclosure risk more intuitively. From a software engineering perspective, these regulations can sometimes be ambiguous and open to multiple interpretations. Sometimes, these regulations are not developed with software engineering in mind. This makes it difficult for system engineers to translate privacy requirements from legal texts into concrete and verifiable software requirements. This makes legal compliance and monitoring systems for compliance a challenge in software engineering[1,2]. If software engineers are saddled with the ultimate responsibility of privacy-preserving design, then there should be techniques and solutions that act as a middleman for interpreting privacy regulations of end-users into systematic and analytic lines of action to achieve such privacy. In an era where privacy regulatory compliance is key, such middleman technology is required by organisations to mitigate risks to a violation. This research deals with the challenge of connecting privacy and security regulations with software engineering, with a vision for assisting privacy engineers in designing secured and privacy-preserving systems that are regulation-compliant and adjustable to measurement metrics such as consistency, completeness, utility, and evolution in privacy legislation.

Different tools, techniques and methods have been provided to help technology-based organizations and software engineers to minimise risk related to regulatory compliance through
privacy and security-by-design. The goal of such tools and techniques is to provide models,
patterns, frameworks to elicit and manage privacy and security requirements from laws and regulations. The common denominator amongst the approaches is the recognition of the challenge that concepts and terminologies used in requirements engineering are different from those used in legal texts. One of the core activities in systems software requirement engineering is eliciting requirements[3]. Eliciting legally compliant requirements for developing privacy-aware and privacy-preserving systems is a necessary task. Different methods and tools have been provided for eliciting requirements for legally compliant software based on the relevant data protection laws and legislation. However, the completeness, consistency, robustness to the evolution of privacy legislation and utility of the proposed approaches is a challenging research problem. This project aims to propose and verify techniques for interoperable standards for eliciting software requirements from legal texts.

The research questions that drive the objectives of this project are:
RQ1: What are the required metrics for addressing legal requirements in requirements engineering?
RQ2: How can the privacy requirement of end-users be translated into concrete and verifiable evidence
technology using privacy regulations?
RQ3: Given a legal text relevant to information security for analysis, to what extent can the elicited software
requirements specification be operationalized such that it is consistent, complete, robust to evolving
legislation and verifiable?
RQ4: What are the criteria for measuring requirements satisfaction, understanding requirement violations and
the usability of specification languages.

This project will span across Artificial Intelligence, Software Engineering and Security. In this PhD project, a tool will be built to demonstrate how the frameworks processes and output assists software architects in engineering privacy-preserving software systems and regulatory compliance by using different privacy laws as input.

REFERENCES:
1.Otto, P.N., Anton, A.I., 2007. Addressing legal requirements in requirements engineering, in: 15th IEEE
international requirements engineering conference (RE 2007), IEEE. pp. 5–14.
2. Robinson, W.N., 2005. Implementing rule-based monitors within a framework for continuous
requirements monitoring, in: Proceedings of the 38th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System
Sciences, IEEE. pp. 188a–188a.
3.Nuseibeh, B., Easterbrook, S., 2000. Requirements engineering: a roadmap, in: Proceedings of the
Conference on the Future of Software Engineering, pp. 35–46.
4.Kalloniatis, C., Kavakli, E., Gritzalis, S., 2008. Addressing privacy requirements in system design: the
pris method. Requirements Engineering 13, 241–255.
5.Pattakou, A., Mavroeidi, A.G., Diamantopoulou, V., Kalloniatis, C.,Gritzalis, S., 2018. Towards the design
of usable privacy by design methodologies, in: 2018 IEEE 5th International Workshop on Evolving
Security & Privacy Requirements Engineering (ESPRE), IEEE. pp. 1–8.
6.Breaux, T., Anton, A., 2008. Analyzing regulatory rules for privacy and security requirements. IEEE
transactions on software engineering 34, 5–20.
7.Young, J.D., 2011. Commitment analysis to operationalize software requirements from privacy policies.
Requirements Engineering 16, 33–46.

Funding Information

A minimum 2.1 honours degree or equivalent in Computer Science or Electrical and Electronic Engineering or relevant degree is required.

This three year studentship, for full-time PhD study, is potentially funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE) and commences on 1 October 2022. For UK domiciled students the value of an award includes the cost of approved tuition fees as well as maintenance support (Fees £4,500 pa and Stipend rate £15,609 pa - 2022-23 rates to be confirmed). To be considered eligible for a full DfE studentship award you must have been ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom for the full three year period before the first day of the first academic year of the course. The candidate must be ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland on the first day of the first academic year of the course, normally 1 October. For further information about eligibility criteria please refer to the DfE Postgraduate Studentship Terms and Conditions 2021-22 at https://go.qub.ac.uk/dfeterms

Applicants should apply electronically through the Queen’s online application portal at: https://dap.qub.ac.uk/portal/

Project Summary
Supervisor
Dr Oluwafemi Olukoya
Mode of Study

Full-time: 3 years


Funding Body
DfE (tbc)
Apply now Register your interest

Computer Science overview

The School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EEECS) aims to enhance the way we use technology in communication, data science, computing systems, cyber security, power electronics, intelligent control, and many related areas.

You’ll be part of a dynamic doctoral research environment and will study alongside students from over 40 countries world wide; we supervise students undertaking research in key areas of computer science, including: computing systems, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. As part of a lively community of over 100 full-time and part-time research students you’ll have the opportunity to develop your research potential in a vibrant research community that prioritises the cross-fertilisation of ideas and innovation in the advancement of knowledge.

Many PhD studentships attract scholarships and top-up supplements. PhD programmes provide our students with the opportunity to acquire an extensive training in research techniques.

Within the School we have a number of specialist research centres including a Global Research Institute, the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) specialising in Cyber Security, Wireless Innovation and Data Science and scalable computing.

Computer Science Highlights
Industry Links
  • Queen’s researchers have strong links with the local industry, which boasts a rich mix of local startups and multi-nationals. Belfast is the second fastest growing region in the UK in terms of Knowledge Economy activity (Northern Ireland Economy Report, 2018).
World Class Facilities
  • The state-of-the-art £14m Computer Science Building and the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology offer bespoke research environments.
Internationally Renowned Experts
  • You will be working under the supervision of leading international academic experts.
Key Facts

Research students are encouraged to play a full and active role in relation to the wide range of research activities undertaken within the School and there are many resources available including:

  • A wide range of personal development and specialist training courses offered through the Personal Development Programme
  • Access to the Queen's University Postgraduate Researcher Development Programme
  • Office accommodation with access to computing facilities and support to attend conferences for full-time PhD students

Course content

Research Information

Associated Research
Research within the School is organised into research themes combining strengths by working together on major projects, in many cases in collaboration with key technology companies.
ECIT brings together internationally recognised research groups specialising in key areas of advanced digital and communications technology.

PhD Opportunities
PhD Opportunities are available in a wide range of computer science subjects, aligned to the specific expertise of our PhD supervisors.

Research Impact
Queen’s is a leader in commercial impact and one of the five highest performing universities in the UK for intellectual property commercialisation. We have created over 80 spin-out companies. Three of these -
Kainos, Andor Technology and Fusion Antibodies - have been publicly listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Research Projects
Queen’s has strong collaborative links with industry in Northern Ireland, and internationally. It has a strong funding track record with EPSRC and the EC H2020 programme.

Research Success
The research profile produced by the 2014 UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) graded 80 per cent of our research activity as 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent', confirming the School's reputation as an internationally-leading department.

Career Prospects

Introduction
For further information on career opportunities at PhD level please contact the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences Student Recruitment Team on askEPS@qub.ac.uk. Our advisors - in consultation with the School - will be happy to provide further information on your research area, possible career prospects and your research application.

People teaching you




Learning Outcomes

Course structure

There is no specific course content as such. You are expected to take research training modules that are supported by the School which focus on quantitative and qualitative research methods. You are also expected to carry out your research under the guidance of your supervisor.

Over the course of study you can attend postgraduate skills training organised by the Graduate School.

You will normally register, in the first instance, as an ‘undifferentiated PhD student’ which means that you have satisfied staff that you are capable of undertaking a research degree. The decision as to whether you should undertake a PhD is delayed until you have completed ‘differentiation’.

Differentiation takes place about 8-9 months after registration for full time students and about 16-18 months for part time students: You are normally asked to submit work to a panel of up two academics and this is followed up with a formal meeting with the ‘Differentiation Panel’. The Panel then make a judgement about your capacity to continue with your study. Sometimes students are advised to revise their research objectives or to consider submitting their work for an MPhil qualification rather than a doctoral qualification.

To complete with a doctoral qualification you will be required to submit a thesis of approx 80,000 words and you will be required to attend a viva voce [oral examination] with an external and internal examiner to defend your thesis.

A PhD programme runs for 3-4 years full-time or 6-8 years part-time. Students can apply for a writing up year should it be required.

The PhD is open to both full and part time candidates and is often a useful preparation for a career within academia or consultancy.

Full time students are often attracted to research degree programmes because they offer an opportunity to pursue in some depth an area of academic interest.

The part time research degree is an exciting option for professionals already working in the education field who are seeking to extend their knowledge on an issue of professional interest. Often part time candidates choose to research an area that is related to their professional responsibilities.

If you meet the Entry Requirements, the next step is to check whether we can supervise research in your chosen area. We only take students to whom we can offer expert research supervision from one of our academic staff. Therefore, your research question needs to engage with the research interests of one of our staff.

Assessment

- Assessment processes for the Research Degree differ from taught degrees. Students will be expected to present write up their work at regular intervals to their supervisor who will provide written and oral feedback; a formal assessment process takes place annually.

This Annual Progress Review requires students to present their work in writing and orally to a panel of academics from within the School. Successful completion of this process will allow students to register for the next academic year.

The final assessment of the doctoral degree is both oral and written. Students will submit their thesis to an internal and external examining team who will review the written thesis before inviting the student to orally defend their work at a Viva Voce.

Feedback

- Supervisors will offer feedback on the research work at regular intervals throughout the period of registration on the degree.

Facilities

Full time PhD students will have access to a shared office space and access to a desk with personal computer and internet access.

Entrance requirements

Graduate
The minimum academic requirement for admission to a research degree programme is normally an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University. Further information can be obtained by contacting the School.

International Students

For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.

English Language Requirements

Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.0, with not less than 5.5 in any component or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required (*taken within the last 2 years).

International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see: www.qub.ac.uk/EnglishLanguageReqs.

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

Tuition Fees

Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £TBC
Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £TBC
England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £TBC
EU Other 3 £22,700
International £22,700

1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled or pre-settled status, are expected to be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly Student Fees Regulations. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB are expected to be charged the GB fee, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

2 It is expected that EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI will be eligible for NI tuition fees, in line with the Common Travel Agreement arrangements. The tuition fee set out above is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2021-22, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

Computer Science costs

There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

Additional course costs

All Students

Depending on the programme of study, there may also be other extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies . Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £100 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges. Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen. There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, and library fines. In undertaking a research project students may incur costs associated with transport and/or materials, and there will also be additional costs for printing and binding the thesis. There may also be individually tailored research project expenses and students should consult directly with the School for further information.

How do I fund my study?
1.PhD Opportunities

Find PhD opportunities and funded studentships by subject area.

2.Funded Doctoral Training Programmes

We offer numerous opportunities for funded doctoral study in a world-class research environment. Our centres and partnerships, aim to seek out and nurture outstanding postgraduate research students, and provide targeted training and skills development.

3.PhD loans

The Government offers doctoral loans of up to £26,445 for PhDs and equivalent postgraduate research programmes for English- or Welsh-resident UK and EU students.

4.International Scholarships

Information on Postgraduate Research scholarships for international students.

Funding and Scholarships

The Funding & Scholarship Finder helps prospective and current students find funding to help cover costs towards a whole range of study related expenses.

How to Apply

Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal go.qub.ac.uk/pgapply and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

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To find a potential supervisor aligned with your area of interest, or if you are unsure of who to contact, look through the staff profiles linked here.

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