New Research Project - The Botnet Phenomenon
Dr Lorenzo Cavallaro of Royal Holloway's Information Security Group (ISG) has been awarded £680,000 from the EPSRC to fight the ever-increasing security threat of botnets.
Malicious code (or malware) has become one of the most pressing security problems on the internet. In particular, this is true for bots, a type of malware that is written with the intent of taking over a large number of (end-user) hosts on the Internet. Once infected with a bot, the victim host joins a botnet---a network of compromised machines that are under the control of a malicious entity (typically referred to as the botmaster). Botnets are the primary means for cyber-criminals to carry out criminal tasks, such as sending spam mail, launching denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, or stealing personal data such as mail accounts or bank credentials. This reflects the shift from an environment in which malware was developed for fun, to the current situation, where malware is spread for financial profit. Given the importance of the problem, significant research effort has been invested to gain a better understanding of the botnets phenomenon.
The project "Mining the Network Behaviour of Bots" aims to understand, analyse, and detect bot-infected computing devices from a networking perspective. The project builds on the promising results of the team's previous work and expertise, to explore machine-learning techniques to make the state-of-the-art more accurate and robust against evasions of advanced malware. Exploring the possibilities of advanced malware (and thus bots) to enable the development of novel (or a clever rethinking of existing) mathematical techniques to address such threats is not a mere academic exercise. On the contrary, it is of paramount importance to build robust and hard-to-elude analysis and detection techniques---something we are currently lacking, as acknowledged by the research community at large.
The project team, led by Dr Cavallaro, also consists of Royal Holloway’s academic staff Professor Gammerman, Dr Luo, Dr Shanahan, and Professor Vovk, and two postdoctoral researchers Dr Nouretdinov and Dr Wang. Between them, the project team has a combined expertise in machine learning, network analysis, bioinformatics, network and systems security, and malware analysis detection. The project is also engaging with external organisations, including Nominet, McAfee Labs UK, and HP Labs Bristol, which will provide real-world data.
SEARG - South East Asia Research Group
Six major oil companies including GDF Suez, Inpex, Murphy, Repsol, Statoil and Shell have signed up for the new three-year programme of the Royal Holloway South East Asia Research Group (SEARG).
SEARG is the pre-eminent geological research group in SE Asia and known internationally for its field-based studies aimed at understanding the geological development and history of the region.
Support for this academic research comes mainly from oil companies in a series of three-year consortia and the group has been led by Professor Robert Hall at Royal Holloway since 1995. Much of the work is carried out in collaboration with partners in the UK, Europe, SE Asia and Australia. Successful collaborations with SE Asian universities and government institutions particularly in Malaysia and Indonesia, which include training of MSc and PhD students at Royal Holloway, have been important.The research programme at Royal Holloway currently includes:
sedimentary provenance studies
a variety of thermochronological projects
U-Pb dating of zircons
structural geological work on faults and active fold and thrust belts
geochemistry of modern volcanoes
interpretations of mantle structure
An important product has been tectonic and palaeogeographic reconstructions of the SE Asian and SW Pacific region and computer animations, that are comprehensible to almost anyone and help to explain the implications of geological change for issues such as sediment supply, magmatism and mineralisation, ocean circulation, global climate, and distribution of plants and animals. They are widely cited and used by geoscientists and life scientists, but are also used by museums, in teaching at all levels and many countries, and by the media, commonly after major geological events that capture international attention such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. They are freely available from the SEARG web site.
The current programme has a budget of over £2 million pounds. Company members value the programme and meetings where they discuss results with the team for example: “Projects have involved commitments of several hundreds of millions of dollars in exploration since 2008, so the work of SEARG in providing good solid geological information in this region has been vital to this effort”.
SeedAdapt - Pioneering Plant Science Research
The European Union has awarded €1.9 million to Royal Holloway’s School of Biological Sciences for carrying out a beyond state-of-the-art plant science project.
The collaborative research project, called SeedAdapt, was one of 14 successful projects to receive funding, seeing off competition from over 100 applications. The EU competition ERA-CAPS (www.eracaps.org) was part of a €21 million investment in European plant science research over the coming three years.
SeedAdapt will look at the molecular mechanisms of seeds, seedlings and fruits underlying their adaptation to environmental stresses such as heat and drought. Seeds are the time capsules of life and the beginning or end of most food supply chains. Despite their importance, little is known about the molecular mechanisms that seeds use to adapt to environmental change. The SeedAdapt project will investigate seed development, germination and sprouting into a seedling in response to stressful environmental cues, such as hot temperatures. The project will explore the genetic, hormonal, epigenetic, transcriptional and biomechanical control mechanisms involved.
Results from the project have the potential to be utilised in seed industry, crop breeding, and weed management; something of a high importance to food security and sustainable agriculture. Food security refers to the availability and quality of food and is a global challenge. This project therefore addresses this issue of providing the world's growing population with healthy food in the context of climate change.
Professor Gerhard Leubner is co-ordinating the SeedAdapt consortium project. This is a transnational project with research divided between several European partners, including the University of Osnabrück, Germany; Gregor Mendel Institute, Austria; University of Marburg, Germany; Wageningen University, the Netherlands; and the University of Jena, Germany.
Professor Gerhard Leubner said: "The scientific knowledge which we will obtain in SeedAdapt goes far beyond known mechanisms. The collaborative research depends on integrating novel and interdisciplinary technologies together with partners of complementary expertise. Reproduction, germination and seedling growth are vulnerable phases of the plant life cycle. Diverse seed dormancy mechanisms evolved as adaption to abiotic stresses and changing environments. They are decisive for fitness and survival of a species, and they are highly relevant for crop resilience, weed management, and the production of high-quality seeds in the seed industry."
The project starts in May 2014 with a kick off meeting at RHUL.
For more information about the ERA-CAPS funding competition please click here. To find out more about Royal Holloway’s research go to the Plant Molecular Science group.
Memories of Books in our Life Experience
Dr Graham Smith of Royal Holloway’s Department of History has been awarded an AHRC grant to look at how the experience of reading shapes our recollections in our everyday lives. The research will be in collaboration with Dr Shelley Trower of Roehampton University and the combined grant is nearly £300,000.
The project, ‘Memories of Fiction: An Oral History of Readers’ Life Stories’ will explore what parts of fictional material are remembered and why, as well as how memories of fiction might shape the way we remember and narrate our lives.
“Oral history’s resurgence in the twentieth century began with a radical idea: that oral history is a means by which the voices of those who have been traditionally hidden from history will be heard. We have since then an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the processes of remembering and forgetting. These insights into subjectivity, memory and narrative have also been matched by a growth in the collection and archiving of oral testimonies,“ Dr Smith.
In this project, researchers will compare the experience of individual readers and those from reading groups, and will also consider how we associate memories of books with our life experiences and emotions. Scholars of book history and literacy will gather information from written archives and from oral materials which have recorded information about reading texts. The project will challenge the assumption that reading is merely a private, solitary experience, and provide an insight into how communicating what we read can shape our understandings of others and ourselves.