Say Hello to Cyber Edinburgh


botWe’re on a bit of a high just now with our research, commercialisation and teaching, and everything just seems to be coming off. We have lots of research and commercialisation projects on-going or moving into funding, and have just become an academic partner of the IISP, along with getting GCHQ certification for our MSc. With computer security and digital forensics it has been a long journey up to now, and it’s one that has required a good deal of innovation, and dedication, but we’ve had a belief that we can build an amazing academic infrastructure for our students. So in this blog I would like to say thank you to our students, the staff involved, the university for its support, and to this great city for allowing it to happen, and setting us up for a great future.

Thanks to our students

You can obviously create an amazing academic material, and provide a great environment, but the result will be poor if the students are weak. But, for us, we’ve managed to attract some pretty amazing students, who have thrived on the material that we have given them.This is reflected by the continual request, and re-requests, for our students from local companies. In fact, we’ve already booked a whole lots of visits for next years, and are already full-up with requests from companies to me graduates for Semester 1 (typically these visits include senior staff and associated HR teams).

As part of the GHCQ certification, the panel did a fairly extensive review of the course assessments, the MSc dissertations, and the overall quality of our students. All of these have reflected well for us, as we have managed to keep standards high (with a high input requirement), and because our students have also thrived at working at this level. To highlight this, here’s an example of a paper that resulted from an MSc dissertation:

In fact, this year was one of the most enjoyable that I’ve ever had in terms of teaching, as our students seemed to take on everything that we gave them, and seemed to respect that the material that we were giving them was as good as they could get anyway in the world (but don’t quote me on this, of course).

The Building and Re-building of our Cloud

One thing that academia should never do, especially higher education, is to stand-still and forget to take a few risks in innovating. Our dream of building a virtualized infrastructure for computer security and digital has been something that we have been pushing for, and it has been a difficult time for us, but we’ve kept at it. A few years ago we started to build our Cloud here, and it kinda crashed a few times … mainly due to power outages on the Merchiston Campus, and we had to pull the plug on it, and lick our wounds and rebuild. This year, though, we finally learnt from all our challenges, and build something with the best RAID you can get and with UPS and lots of redundancy, and it has worked like clockwork. Here’s an example of us setting up a firewall, with the associated networks, in the cloud:

In this way we have created real-life environments, which are already setup, and where students can learn how to build a complex infrastructures, and where they can make mistakes, and, obviously, learn as they go along. A great success has been in group working, where students can work in teams to build their own part of the infrastructure, and then connect to others. One choice that we made early on, what that we didn’t want to build it somewhere else, as you learn very little in how to create complex system if you do, and you are always reliant on others for even the smallest of changes. When the Cloud crashed, we rushed to the server room, and fixed it.

And to Edinburgh … thank you!

So, finally, I say thank you to this great city, which is thriving just now. It’s educated, and cultured, and, of course, beautiful. But it is also a place where innovation and enterprise is moving forward, with extensive collaborations that would struggle to happen in any other city in the World. Within Cyber/ Computer Security, there is so much going on, and the mixture for success is there. With companies such as Skyscanner, Zonefox and miiCard, we can start to see world-leading technologies, and which are supported right in the heart of the city.

Overall it is a city that inspires me every single day, and it is one that has contributed to everything that we do. It is also a city that is building its industry around the Information Age. Without the city, we may have struggled to attract the best students, or interface so well with law enforcement, or not having direct connections with great computer security companies (Dell Secureworks, NCC Group, ECS, and so on), or interface with end customers for computer security (Standard Life, Lloyds, RBS, and so on). All of these connections have allowed us to listen carefully about the requirements for our research and teaching, and to carefully craft our work to meet these demands. In Edinburgh, things happen like this, where the city can attract people from around the World, and is a place which inspires people to make their contribution to this great city. In fact, Edinburgh has an amazing eco-system for computer security, having a strong academic basis, excellent access to law enforcement, a strong finance sector, and a strong SME culture, with great support from Scottish Enterprise. The collaboration across different sectors seems to be working so well, especially around the finance and health care sectors.

I came here over 25 years ago, and I have not regretted one second of living in this amazing place. We’re moving house quite soon, and I’m moving to a village which is still in the city … how good is that? The increasing confidence that this city has shown over the last few years has amazed me, and it grows ever day. I have a deep belief that the city has entered into a new enlightenment, in the way it did over 200 years ago.

So with all your culture, your beauty, and enterprise … say hello to Cyber Edinburgh … the building of a new virtual infrastructure which has no boundaries, and which provides education to every single person, without any barriers! For us, it’s just the start of the journey, which we hope to help, in any way possible, in putting Edinburgh on the map on a world stage in terms of building the Information Age.

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