To simplify our daily routines, devices designed for the “Internet of Things (IoT)” are usually equipped with cameras that can record images and videos, and transmit these to other devices. Subhan Ullah’s research focuses on increasing the security of these systems, which often have limited processing capacities. He has recently completed his doctoral thesis.
A scientific career demands great dedication and the willingness to demonstrate total commitment. Subhan Ullah, a graduate of the doctoral programme “Interactive and Cognitive Environments” (ICE), has provided impressive proof of both over the past few years. Upon completion of his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at his home university, the University of Malakand, he attended the International Islamic University in Islamabad, where he completed his Master’s degree. As the recipient of a European Union scholarship, he spent one year at Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences, Germany. Next, Subhan Ullah applied for a place on the ICE doctoral programme, which was funded by the European Erasmus Mundus programme. A large part of his doctoral studies was spent conducting research in Klagenfurt, with one year at the University of Genoa in Italy. At the end of April he successfully concluded his doctoral degree with a viva examination.
Subhan Ullah’s research focus places him firmly on the pulse of time. After all, his work concentrates on improving the security of camera applications related to the “Internet of Things (IoT)”. For instance, if an elderly person has a technical support system in order to be able to continue to reside in a smart home for longer, numerous cameras are required. These transmit specifically selected information to monitoring terminal devices, for example they record when someone falls and does not stand up again. The problem is this: These smart devices have limited processing capacities, and this poses a big challenge as far as the encryption technologies are concerned. As Subhan Ullah explains, in terms of cyber security, camera systems must reliably safeguard four factors: confidentiality, which means that the data must be accessible to authorised persons only; authentication, which means that the data must actually come from a specific camera; integrity, which means that nobody should be able to interpose themselves between the camera and monitoring device, and finally, freshness, which means that the images must truly be recent. For his doctoral thesis, Subhan Ullah modified existing applications and harnessed their usefulness for the particular needs of multi-camera networks. The challenge he faced was this: In a system where several cameras transmit data, this information needs to be aggregated at a certain point, and then forwarded to a terminal device. These systems have a significantly greater number of node points, opening up additional security holes, which need to be closed.
Cyber security, especially the light-weight kind of security technology required for resource-restricted smart devices in IoT applications, represents Subhan Ullah’s central scientific concern. He now hopes to advance his expertise in the academic world; one option would be a research-related job in industry. He tells us about one of his hopes at the very end of the interview: A family man with five children living in Pakistan, Subhan Ullah finally wants to live together with his family, especially while the children are growing up. For now, the place where the family will be reunited has not yet been determined: Always keen to travel, the researcher is currently applying for opportunities around the world from his base in Klagenfurt. In the meantime, Subhan Ullah, who is a passionate cyclist, intends to make a few more bike trips around Lake Wörthersee.