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PhD Studentship in Cryptanalysis of Lightweight Symmetric-key Algorithms

The University of Edinburgh - School of Informatics

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Edinburgh
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £15,009
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 2nd September 2019
Closes: 20th December 2019

Overview of the Project

Lightweight cryptography (LC) studies the analysis and design of cryptographic algorithms for systems with constrained resources. Such systems find applications in sensor networks, the automotive industry, healthcare and in the exploding area of the Internet of Things (IoT) in general.

The limited computational resources of lightweight devices, coupled with the abundance of device architectures and usage scenarios, raises unique challenges that can not always be solved with existing cryptographic algorithms. An evidence of the latter is the international competition for new LC standards recently announced by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

In this project the student will analyse the security of lightweight symmetric-key algorithms such as block ciphers, stream ciphers and hash functions. She/he will begin by studying standard cryptanalysis techniques such as differential and linear cryptanalysis and investigating their applicability in the context of LC. At a later stage he/she will research new methods for attacking LC algorithms.

The algorithms targeted for analysis will be selected from one or more of the following groups:

  • Candidates for standardization submitted to the NIST competition
  • LC algorithms used in existing IoT applications
  • Algorithms based on modular addition (e.g. ARX)

Candidate’s profile

  • Project specific skills: Computer science (Algorithms and Data structures, Computer security/Cryptography), Mathematics (Linear Algebra, Probability)
  • Programming skills: C/C++, Python
  • A good Bachelors degree (2.1 or above or international equivalent) or Masters degree in a relevant subject (physics, mathematics, engineering, computer science, or related subject)
  • Proficiency in English (both oral and written)
  • Candidates with experience in competitive programming (IOI, CodeForces, TopCoder) and/or Capture-the-Flag competitions ( are particularly encouraged to apply and will be considered with priority

Studentship and eligibility

The studentship starting in 2019/20 covers:

  • Full time PhD tuition fees for a student with UK/EU nationality (£4,327 per annum, subject to annual increment).
  • A tax free stipend of GBP £15,009 per year for 3.5 years.
  • Additional programme costs of £1000 per year.

Application Information

Applicants should apply via the University’s adminissions portal (EUCLID) and apply for the following programme: LFCS Security and Privacy Group ( a start date of 01 October

Applicants should state “Cryptanalysis of Lightweight Symmetric-key Algorithms” in their Research Proposal document and note the research supervisor (Dr. Vesselin Velichkov) in their application.

Applications are open and will remain so until the position is filled. The anticipated start date is 01 October 2019 but later start dates can be considered.

Applicants must submit:

  • All degree transcripts and certificates (and certified translations if applicable)
  • Evidence of English Language capability (where applicable)
  • A short research proposal (max 2 pages)
  • A full CV and cover letter describing your background, suitability for the PhD, and research interests (max 2 pages)
  • Two references (note that it the applicant’s responsibility to ensure reference letters are received before the deadline)

Only complete applications will progress forward to the academic selection stage.

For informal enquiries contact Dr. Vesselin Velichkov.


The School of Informatics is one of the largest in Europe and currently the top Informatics institute in the UK for research power, with 40% of its research outputs considered world-leading (top grade), and almost 50% considered top grade for societal impact.

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